The New York Yankees have had a fantastic offseason, but there’s more they could do to make it even better.
The New York Yankees caught their white whale when they signed Gerrit Cole, who had his press conference late Wednesday morning in the Bronx. They now have what’s quite possibly the best rotation in baseball.
If they don’t make another move, this offseason would still be considered massively successful. Having said that, there will always be room for improvement in baseball.
Here are more moves the Yankees should make prior to the start of the 2020 season that will put them even more over the edge:
1. Trade J.A. Happ
It has become clear that the Yankees are seeking to trade starting pitcher J.A. Happ. The 37-year-old is coming off a dreadful 2019 season and is expendable now that the Yankees have signed Cole.
Happ was an All-Star for the first time in his career in 2018. The Toronto Blue Jays traded him to the Yankees that same year.
Overall, he was quite good upon being traded, having posted a 2.69 ERA, 7-0 record, and 1.052 WHIP through 63.2 innings pitched. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t last.
Happ’s issues really began with his last regular start of the 2018 season where he allowed four earned runs in six innings pitched. Things only went downhill from there. He made one dreadful playoff start that October, allowing five earned runs in just 2.0 innings pitched.
Happ was then one of the worst starting pitchers in the majors in 2019. He finished the year with a 4.91 ERA, a 1.295 WHIP, an unimpressive ERA+ of 90, and a horrific FIP of 5.22 through 161.1 innings pitched. He was so bad that the Bombers left him out of the rotation in both the ALDS and ALCS.
Due to Happ’s age and the fact that he hadn’t been great in years, it was clear to many that re-signing him wasn’t a good move, especially to a two-year, $17 million deal.
At this point, it would be surprising to see Happ in pinstripes next season. But, because of his age and very poor performance in 2019, there’s not much incentive for teams to trade for him. As a result, the Yankees will most likely have to eat a good chunk of his salary in 2020.
Even if that’s the case, so be it. There’s no place for Happ on this team and the Yankees should really prioritize cutting costs where they can, especially with players like Happ.
2. Re-Sign Dellin Betances
Unfortunately for Yankees fans, it doesn’t seem like the Yankees will be re-signing relief pitcher Dellin Betances, especially because of the Cole signing. But when an elite talent like Betances is available, it’s definitely hard to say no.
The 31-year-old, who’s spent his entire career with the Yankees, is a four-time All-Star with incredible career numbers. He’s combined for a 2.36 ERA, 1.043 WHIP, 14.6 SO/9, 177 ERA+, and 2.31 FIP. It’s a bit of a stretch to make this claim at the moment, but Betances’ numbers could eventually send him to Cooperstown.
So why is a dominant pitcher such as Betances still available? The answer is simple: injuries.
The veteran started the 2019 season on the injured list with shoulder discomfort. The team then moved him to the 60-day IL later on after he was diagnosed with a bone spur. He made his season debut against the Blue Jays on Sept. 15, but only threw eight pitches before tearing his Achilles.
Betances has been disappointed by the market and, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, is now seeking a one-year deal of around $10 million. The Yankees’ reluctance is somewhat understandable, but they can easily make this work.
Such a price tag on one of the best relievers in the game is a steal, and it’s only for one year. If he can’t stay healthy or simply struggles, the Yankees can easily part ways with him in 2021.
When Betances is healthy and right, there are few who are better. Re-signing him would allow the Yankees to potentially have both the best starting rotation and bullpen in baseball.
3. Sign Martin Maldonado
Back-up catcher Austin Romine is gone. Therefore, the Yankees are going to need to find a replacement. This need is exacerbated by the fact that their other option, Kyle Higashioka, provides no offensive production, even though he’s a good defensive catcher.
The biggest attraction that comes with Martin Maldonado is his relationship with Cole. It can be said that Maldonado was Cole’s personal catcher while both were with the Houston Astros.
Maldonado caught Cole 10 times, and, in those games, the right-hander had an ERA of 1.57. This number is significantly lower than the 2.82 ERA he posted with the other Houston catchers.
Maldonado is definitely not known for his offense. He has an underwhelming career slash line of .219/.289/.355. His defense is spectacular though, especially in comparison to recent Yankees catchers.
He won a Gold Glove Award in 2017 and his defensive numbers are consistently well above-average. Gary Sanchez is one of the worst defensive catchers in baseball, so it would be nice to have a wizard behind the plate on days that Sanchez needs rest.
Cole has spoken very highly of Maldonado and the Yankees need another catcher, so why not go for it?
With the Cole signing, the Yankees are looking like the best team in baseball. From their rotation to their bullpen and their lineup, they seem to be superior to everyone else.
Even so, teams can never stop improving. Making these three moves will guarantee even more success to the Bronx Bombers, especially by October 2020.