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2017 MLB Offseason Preview: New York Yankees

The 2017 Yankees defied expectations, so how will they build on that going forward?

MLB: AL Wildcard-Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees (91-71), 2nd in AL East

Free Agents: Todd Frazier, Jaime Garcia, Matt Holliday, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia

The New York Yankees entered 2017 beginning the first year of the newfound youth movement that GM Brian Cashman kickstarted at the 2016 trade deadline when he traded Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, and Carlos Beltran. With an emphasis on fielding a younger roster and stockpiling the talent in the farm system, many people in baseball wrote the Yankees off this season. However, the Yankees defied expectations all season long as they picked up 91 wins and came just one game short of the World Series, where they were defeated in game seven of the ALCS by the world champion Houston Astros.

The Yankees rode an MVP-caliber season from Aaron Judge, and they also received significant offensive contribution from Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius. With this season’s output, the Yankees could look to extend Gregorius, who has become a star in the middle of the infield.

As for the pitching staff, Luis Severino began realizing his potential en route to a season that will probably plant him in the top-three in Cy Young voting. Masahiro Tanaka was wildly inconsistent, but his strong September showing and dominant postseason allowed him to finish the season on a positive note. He also elected to opt into the remaining three years of his contract, so along with Sonny Gray, the Yankees will have a three-headed monster at the top of the rotation for the next few years if they are all pitching well. The Yankees also feature a dominant bullpen with the emergence of Chad Green along with the established arms of Chapman and Dellin Betances.

The Yankees made a number of trades at the deadline in acquiring Gray as well as David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Todd Frazier at the deadline. Aside from Frazier, all these players came with at least one extra year of control, so the Yankees will rely on them to contribute heavily in 2018.

Despite all their success this season, the Yankees decided to not renew the contract of Joe Girardi, as it appears that the team will look for new leadership as they continue transitioning into becoming a contender. There are a number of candidates for the position ranging from in house as well as out of house candidates, and that will be one of the Yankees most important offseason moves.

Another huge storyline for the Yankees this offseason is how they will factor into the Shohei Otani sweepstakes. Otani, often referred to as the “Japanese Babe Ruth” is restricted in how much money he can earn under the new CBA, and the Yankees can offer the second highest signing bonus in the MLB at $3.25-million, just behind the Texas Rangers. It is early, but the Yankees will be viewed as one of the favorites to signing the 23-year-old Japanese two-way phenom.

Aside from Otani, the Yankees are not expected to make any notable splashes in free agency. The team will likely make some small deals, including looking to resign Sabathia, who has indicated that he would like to come back to the Bronx. Like Sabathia, the Yankees may also consider brining Frazier back on a one-year deal. To do that, the Yankees may explore some options on the trade market such as trading Chase Headley, who will be entering the final year of his contract next season.

The Yankees are also expected explore options on dealing with the albatross contract of Jacoby Ellsbury, who is under contract for three more years where he is owed over $60-million plus a 2021 team option. The Bombers will field a crowded outfield next year comprised of Judge, Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner along with youngsters Clint Frazier, Jake Cave, Tyler Austin, and Tyler Wade in the mix. To accommodate for the youth movement, the Yankees hand may be forced in making some kind of move to ship Ellsbury out.

Overall, the Yankees will now carry lofty expectations into 2018. Once the team decides who will manage the young roster, Cashman will be faced with some tough decisions regarding the roster in order to continue the youth movement while competing year in and year out.