We're three months into the 2023 season, and New York Yankees fans can already say, "Well, here comes another all-important offseason for a team that shouldn't be faced with this many." When the Yankees clear the salaries of Josh Donaldson, Luis Severino, Frankie Montas, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Wandy Peralta, the city will rejoice.
But other problems exist. Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu, if their poor play plummets further, will continue to weigh down the payroll. Unless Harrison Bader is extended, this team won't have a center fielder.
More moves beyond simply letting guys go must be made. And this year's free agent class features the league's most prized target in history: Shohei Ohtani.
Ohtani spurned the Yankees back in 2017 when he signed with the Angels after coming over from Japan, but the circumstances were different. Hal Steinbrenner couldn't present hm with a blank check, which really changes the complexion of Ohtani's true free agency this time around. And with Ohtani's MLB career just beginning, it made sense why he maybe wanted to avoid the harsh New York media. Fans are still bitter, but they can at least understand the choice, to an extent.
But will the Yankees be interested this time around? Ohtani will cost at least $500 million and Brian Cashman would have to figure out a way to get rid of Stanton, since that'd immediately become Ohtani's spot in the lineup.
Yankees Rumors: Shohei Ohtani probably isn't a target for New York
As you can imagine, with three $300 million contracts on the books, plus Rodón's $162 million deal, plus LeMahieu's $90 million deal, it's really hard to see why Steinbrenner would be interested in going over the top with a contract in excess of $500 million come November. He's notoriously tread lightly, despite the spending appearing a lot more onerous than it really is,
Here's what Chris Kirschner of The Athletic (subscription required) wrote in response to a fan's question about a possible Yankees pursuit of Ohtani:
"But adding Ohtani to the payroll would create problems that I’m not sure Steinbrenner wants. He’s said on numerous occasions that a team doesn’t need to spend over $300 million per season to win a World Series. If the Yankees signed Ohtani, the payroll would almost certainly exceed $300 million. Just Ohtani, Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole alone would be more than $100 million. So the Yankees would have to shed significant salary for it to work, and there aren’t many avenues for them to do that."- Chris Kirshner, The Athletic
The Yankees don't operate like the Yankees used to. Cashman doesn't operate like a big-market GM should. The team chooses to live with its problems in hopes of them magically turning around rather than getting ahead of them or using their resources to solve them in an expedited fashion.
It's possible Steinbrenner does a 180 and throws caution to the wind to make this team exponentially better, but so far only the ill-advised trade for Stanton and the Rodón signing are the only two cases since 2015 that are even remotely close to supporting that stance. Makes it easy to see why the future Ohtani race is most likely between the Dodgers and Mets.