Yankees fans are angry. Hal Steinbrenner admitted that himself. However, for those looking for drastic changes to be made to this current lineup, there are not many places to go up from what Brian Cashman already had.
The Bombers have a flawed roster with aging players and lineup inconsistency after their stack of Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton. Realistically, a bottom-up retooling of the entire lineup is not a project that can be accomplished in a single offseason. Instead, the Yankees will need to focus on holding things together long enough for backup to arrive through the farm system.
In many cases, the Yankees’ best bets are their own free agents or are already under contract. Rizzo has already been re-signed to man first base and was indisputably the best first basemen on the market. Andrew Benintendi and Judge both remain free agents and sit as easy fits for the Bombers.
In Benintendi’s case, the other available options to play left field for Aaron Boone’s club are Brandon Nimmo — who appears to command a larger payday than originally anticipated — and Japanese star Masataka Yoshida who is an unknown which is something the Yanks don’t need.
Benintendi flashed the lefty-contact bat that the Bombers had so desperately needed during their “Baby Bombers” era. The 27-year-old slashed .304/.373/.399 as a first-time All-Star in 2022.
The weakest link all of last season for the Bombers and the most obvious areas in need of an upgrade was the left side of the infield — in other words, the Minnesota Twins trade.
Josh Donaldson never found his stroke in pinstripes as he slashed .222/.308/.374 with 15 homers and 62 RBI. The 36-year-old’s .682 OPS was the lowest of his 12-year career.
Peeking at the available third basemen for a potential upgrade, 38-year-old Justin Turner figures to be the top free agent. The Yankees don’t need any more retirement-home-eligible players with the belief that they can squeeze the last ounce of baseball they have in them.
The best option to play third base for the Yanks next season seems to be DJ LeMahieu. The 34-year-old’s once-stellar season has become somewhat forgotten. LeMahieu was posting a slash line of .292/.394/.431 with 11 homers through 95 games on Aug. 2.
Then, the utility man slashed .167/.238/.211 over the final 30 games with a toe injury that ended his season — and led to an inescapable position of running out Donaldson at the hot corner and in the middle of the lineup on a nightly basis.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa was the other part of that Twins trade and was the subject of shortstop controversy all of last season. The 27-year-old posted a line of .261/.314/.327 and was benched periodically in the postseason for his defensive struggles. The Yanks were reluctant to shy away from Kiner-Falefa all year citing his ‘league-best defense’ only to put him on the pine because of his defense in the most important games of the season.
There are plenty of star free-agent shortstops to go around this offseason. Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson and Xander Bogaerts are on the market and are due for huge paydays.
However, that check will likely not be coming from the Yankees. The Bombers punted on last year’s free-agent shortstop class because two of their top prospects played the same position. Kiner-Falefa was acquired to be a stopgap and that’s exactly what was provided.
Anthony Volpe (MLB Pipeline’s No. 5 overall prospect) and Oswald Peraza are one step closer to being everyday MLB players. Peraza —.306/.404/.429 in 18 games in the big leagues last season — even got a start in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Astros.
Oswaldo Cabrera also played shortstop in the postseason — most notably in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Cleveland Guardians — however, he figures to be more of someone who will play everywhere as opposed to just one set position as he manned left field in Benintendi and Aaron Hicks’ absence against the Astros.
Steinbrenner and Cashman both reiterated it is their intent to see one of Peraza or Volpe next season at shortstop. This brings us back to the point of how much further can the Yanks go up from what they already have.
All of the best available plans of attack point directly back to what they already have internally and virtually the same planned lineup from last season. While we did not get to see the intended roster Cashman put together mainly due to two impactful injuries with LeMahieu and Benintendi missing the entire postseason, it’s looking like we will get to see it in 2023 as the Bombers do not have many options.©2022 New York Daily News. Visit nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.