Aaron Boone will return to manage the New York Yankees, which means the real work begins now.
The New York Yankees made it official today and brought back manager Aaron Boone on a new three-year deal. Half of the fans are receiving medical attention after holding their collective breath for two weeks.
The other half are probably rage-crying because how dare the Yankees bring back a manager who didn’t win a World Series despite the Red Sox cheating in 2018, running head-first into a good Houston Astros team in 2019, a COVID-shortened 2020 season, and general underperformance this past season?
Whew, that was a mouthful. Anyway, this was the right decision for the New York Yankees. In four short years, Boone has overcome inexperience and is the fourth-winningest manager in team history. The players and, more importantly, front office support him, even if they recently fired two of his coaches.
All this to say at Tuesday’s press conference, whose highlights are available here, both Boone and general manager Brian Cashman addressed the future. There’s a lot to cover, but Lindsey Adler of The Athletic summed everything up best:
The short version is that roster changes are coming for the Yankees. Brian Cashman says their roster was not flexible enough to help Aaron Boone in 2021. Need a defensive shortstop, Gary's role will be evaluated, and they will seek more athleticism and contact.
— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) October 19, 2021
We’ve already discussed potential Yankees to-dos for the offseason, but this is a pretty detailed approach on Cashman’s end. Let’s explore each one and, most importantly…
CUE THE MUSIC.
A defensive shortstop…but really?
In his press conference, Cashman was very clear that Gleyber Torres would keep playing second base. This means the New York Yankees need a good shortstop after Torres proved a defensive liability there. Fortunately, the free agent market has some great options.
The biggest name who fits this mold is Carlos Correa, who posted a +21 defensive runs saved (DRS) at shortstop for the Houston Astros this year. Correa also hit .279 with 26 home runs and 104 RBI, and just turned 27 last month. He has a lengthy injury history, but otherwise fits the strong defensive shortstop mold the New York Yankees seek.
Yet, the Yankees have another intriguing option in Corey Seager. He’s a year removed from being named World Series MVP and his lefty bat would be a good addition for the righty-dominant New York Yankees. Probably most important of all, as Bob Klapisch of NJ.com told the Talkin’ Yanks podcast, owner Hal Steinbrenner has long been a fan of Seager.
Talented though Seager is, his injury issues are worse than Correa’s. He hit .306 in 2021, but played in just 95 games. That could be a problem for a team already known for having a problem keeping guys healthy. But we also know Cashman is obsessed with upside, so Seager could thus prove an easier get than Correa. Stay tuned.
Is Gary still scary?
Now, let’s talk about Gary Sanchez for the umpteenth time. The Kraken wasn’t as bad in 2021 as he was in a forgettable 2020, but wasn’t great either. Even with 23 home runs and 54 RBI, he hit just .204 in 117 games, his defense and framing remained an issue, and he was benched for Kyle Higashioka in the playoffs again. Sanchez also battled COVID-19 in August and had a rough recovery.
Complicating matters is that 2022 is Sanchez’s last year of arbitration, and he made north of $6 million in 2021. Austin Wells still needs another year or more in the minors, so odds are Sanchez will be back with New York and get a small raise.
However, if the Yankees are serious about improving at catcher, the easiest transaction might be trading for Chicago Cubs backstop Willson Contreras. I even discussed a potential deal involving the two back in May. Chicago is rebuilding and Contreras also has just one year of arbitration remaining.
One way or another, be it with Sanchez or Contreras, the New York Yankees would have a good enough stopgap catcher as Wells keeps developing.
What do athleticism and contact look like?
This is a very broad assessment that Cashman made in his presser, but all one really needs to do to understand it is watch last year’s New York Yankees. The offense was stagnant and depended on the home run a bit too much. Gone was the rhythmic offense that kept the line moving so often in 2018 and ’19.
Some of making the team more athletic and contact-oriented to help Boone will be simply transactional. In one case, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the homer-happy Luke Voit traded and the more balanced Anthony Rizzo re-signed to play first base.
On the other hand, the New York Yankees can keep most of the team intact and hope a simple coaching change fixes things. Marcus Thames and his old school mentality are out, and a more analytical mind a la pitching coach Matt Blake could be in. Blake led the Yankees’ pitching staff to a Top 10 finish last season, so imagine what a hitting version of him could do to a team that ranked 10th in the AL in runs scored.
One thing’s for certain. The 2022 New York Yankees are going to look a lot different from the 2021 squad.
It’s early yet, but it might be time to get excited.