If we are to see a different version of the New York Yankees in 2024, the puzzle pieces will begin to fall in place this week and next. Everyone in the Yankee Universe seems to be on edge, most notably general manager Brian Cashman, who’s been uncharacteristically explosive recently, choosing for some reason to speak his true feelings about Giancarlo Stanton just days before entering into negotiations with a franchise-changing player who happens to share the same agent as Stanton. It’s one way to go, I guess.
Anyway, in the coming days and weeks, a few things will become clear…
Will the Yankees be able to sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto?
The best pitcher in Japanese baseball officially posted on Monday, meaning that negotiations will open on Tuesday and close after 45 days on January 4th. The usual suspects will all be in on this, with the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox reportedly leading the way. I know the Yankees need a left-fielder, preferably one who swings from the left side of the plate, but signing Yamamoto has to be a priority. Slotting him in as the number two starter behind Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole would make a lot of other things possible. Including…
Will the Yankees trade for Juan Soto?
If it’s at all possible, the Yankees MUST make this trade. I hope that Jasson Dominguez is off the table, but everyone else should be in the discussion. I’m not as down on Anthony Volpe as many are, but if he (or maybe Clarke Schmidt) can be packaged with a couple other minor leaguers, I’d be thrilled. There’s a Bryce-Harper-shaped hole in this lineup, and Soto would fill it for the next ten years (assuming the Yankees sign him to a long-term deal) while hitting 400 home runs or so. Sign me up.
Will the Yankees sign Cody Bellinger?
If you look deep into Bellinger’s numbers there is cause for concern. The statheads will tell you that his hard-hit percentage last year didn’t match his actual production, which means he might regress. It was only four years ago that Bellinger won a Gold Glove and an MVP, but in the years since he’s been a bit of a mystery. In 2021 he hit .165 with an OPS+ of 44. (The league average is set at 100.) He rebounded a bit in 2022, but suddenly hit .305 with the second highest OB% of his career and an OPS+ of 133. It’s a shame that he had his peak year in his age 23 season, but he fits a need for the Yankees. He can play centerfield until Dominguez is ready to take over, then he can finish his contract out at first base after Rizzo is gone. There’s risk involved with any signing, and there’s probably a bit more risk here, but he won’t make this team worse. It’s too obvious for Cashman to pass on this.
Will the Yankees do something crazy?
Well, probably not. But there’s a possibility that Stanton would waive his no-trade clause to go back home to California, so if the Yankees want to eat the majority of his contract and include him in a deal for Soto, that would also open up the possibility of pursuing Shohei Ohtani, especially if what we’re hearing is true and Ohtani would be open to a shorter-term deal. The only downside is that if the Yankees had a lineup with Judge, Soto, Bellinger, and Ohtani, Major League Baseball might decided to cancel the season and just send the trophy to New York.
I keep thinking about the winter of 2008. After missing the playoffs in the final year of the old Yankee Stadium, Cashman responded by rebuilding the Death Star by signing CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. All of that spending translated into the 27th (and last) World Series championship. Here’s hoping all this brings number 28.