Wake up. Breathe in that frosty December air. Step on the solidified, chunked grass. Embrace the day. The New York Yankees didn't commit $325 million to a 5'10" pitcher who's never appeared in a Major League Baseball game.
Is this coping? Undoubtedly. But, instead of extolling Yoshinobu Yamamoto's virtues, we're now free to roam about the cabin pointing out his insane pre-25 workload, his forthcoming adjustment to the MLB ball, his slight stature and less-than-imposing frame, and his playoff struggles.
Crucially, the Yankees' plan for the 2024-25 offseason clarified itself overnight. Next season will still qualify as Aaron Judge's prime, as well as Gerrit Cole's. The 2024 team is tied to several "one-year deals" (Alex Verdugo, Gleyber Torres, Clay Holmes, Tommy Kahnle). When the season ends, money will be sprinting off the books faster than Yamamoto learning that Shohei Ohtani was heading to Los Angeles.
New York's braintrust has none -- zero, zip, nada, bubkus -- excuse NOT to extend Juan Soto. Scott Boras, who's been salivating for 35 years, just felt his mouth produce slightly more spittle. We're nearly in "blank check" mode. Soto's deal will begin with a five, possibly a six, and the Yankees must make absolutely certain the check sports their logo. It's a harsh reality of the sport, but spending into the stratosphere is now necessary to retain top talent. If Hal Steinbrenner okayed the Soto trade without okaying his next lucrative deal, he should be asked to divest immediately. But odds are he understood what he was getting into, and if Soto's one-year audition goes well, there's no reason he shouldn't be a Yankee for life.
What's next? Hmm. Have you checked the free agent pitchers available next offseason? Because there are plenty with $220-250 million pedigree, and all of them have lengthy (but not too lengthy) track records of big-league success.
Yankees Offseason Plan for 2024-25: Juan Soto plus top-tier pitcher
Corbin Burnes. Zack Wheeler. Max Fried. One of these men must be a Yankee.
If Burnes wasn't so damned costly on the trade market this winter, the Yankees could pull a Soto and attempt to "win now" while also ingratiating him into the way they do things. But the extra year isn't worth Jasson Dominguez or Spencer Jones. Yamamoto was the 2023-24 splurge. It didn't happen. There's no need to double down and burn prospects now, as long as you still intend to sign Soto when the year ends.
Next winter, Burnes will be 30. He has yet to encounter the dreaded Tommy John, and has been durable throughout his career, but for those fearing a ticking time bomb, that might be a bad thing. Fried will be 31, and after battling blister problems last October, he's one year removed from 185 sterling innings. Long fated to be a Dodger, that feels less likely after LA's billion-dollar expenditure this offseason. Wheeler will be nearly 35. He'll be the four-year "bargain" of the group.
Need pitching depth? Of course you do. If the Yankees want to flex, they can entertain Walker Buehler or Brandon Woodruff. If they want to be thriftier (they will), they could try Nick Pivetta or Yusei Kikuchi. Chase Hampton should be ready by then. There will be plenty of bites at the apple.
But, most notably, the cluster of aces next winter all have big-league bonafides, and the Yankees suddenly possess a level of financial flexibility the Dodgers do not. Our pick? Fried, who seemed to be in LA's grasp before they pivoted. Fried and Soto. That is the way.