New York Yankees (91-71)
Additions: Giancarlo Stanton, Brandon Drury, Neil Walker
Subtractions: Todd Frazier, Jaime Garcia, Matt Holliday. Starlin Castro
After a surprising postseason run in 2017, the Yankees continued their reload in dramatic fashion this winter, capitalizing on the Marlins’ clearance sale and grabbing last year’s NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees, who led the league in home runs last season, now have Stanton and his 59 home runs joining Aaron Judge and the rest of the Baby Bombers who had the Yanks within one game of the World Series last October.
With Stanton now lingering in the middle of the order, the Yankees boast one of the most feared lineups in baseball to help build a lead for one of the best bullpens in baseball. Brian Cashman hasn’t made a flurry of moves this winter, but easily made the biggest splash with Stanton. In short, the Yanks are ready to win now, with the Astros standing in the way as their toughest competition.
Armed with an offensive core of Stanton, Judge, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird, the Yankees will be a fun team to watch in 2018. Runs will come in bunches, and balls will be flying out of Yankee Stadium. The only questions in terms of position players will be at second and third base, which could be occupied by a pair of rookies at some point. Miguel Andujar enjoyed a brilliant spring training, but he was optioned to Triple-A, leaving newcomer Brandon Drury to take over the hot corner spot. Prized prospect Gleyber Torres will also be in Triple-A to start the year mainly due to service time and team control implications. Because of this move, the second base job will come down to fellow youngster Tyler Wade, who is having a fine spring himself, and recent free agent pickup Neil Walker.
Drury and Walker were brought on as insurance and depth precautions, so they will come in handy in April at least. Drury’s offensive numbers have never been spectacular (he posted an 89 OPS+ last season with 13 homers), but the last trade the Yankees made with the Diamondbacks for a seemingly ineffective infielder worked out fairly well so far. Didi Gregorius, anyone?
Walker was better at the plate, finishing the 2017 season with an OPS+ of 111 while hitting 14 homers in 111 games. Yankees fans may balk at the pickups of Drury and Walker due to their desire to see the next wave of Baby Bombers, but depth is always valuable, and Cashman certainly addressed that after saying goodbye to Todd Frazier and missing out on what turned out to be a joke of a contract for Mike Moustakas, who re-signed with the Royals for one year, $6.5 million. If either Drury or Walker find some added pop in the Bronx and provide serviceable infield depth, it should be considered a win. After all, the big infield prize still lingers in Baltimore, and you can bet Cashman still has his eyes set on Manny Machado for next winter.
The Yankees’ reloaded offense will be an absolute force. However, there are concerns about the pitching staff. The Yankees have a full squad in the rotation, but questions linger about health issues and how some of their younger pitchers will rebound after major innings increases in 2017. The Yankees missed out on Yu Darvish, Jake Odorizzi, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, all of whom the Yanks were rumored to have at least discussed this offseason. Unless they make an unexpected move, they will stick with what they have, and hope Masahiro Tanaka (who declined to opt out of his current contract, and based on the course of this offseason, it was a brilliant decision) carries his postseason performance over to 2018, while CC Sabathia and his new one-year deal proves to be a valuable investment.
Luis Severino earned the ace label after his Cy Young-caliber performance last season, but there are concerns about his 2017 workload, which fell just shy of 200 innings. Jordan Montgomery tossed 155 innings himself in his first big league season. Of course, plenty of young pitchers have been tossed into the fire in their rookie seasons and turned out just fine. One of them is Sonny Gray, who the Yankees will enjoy a full season of in 2018. However, should the youngsters need a rest or Sabathia begins to show his age, it would be nice to have starting pitching depth. For now, it looks like Cashman and the Yankees will take their chances, and make a move in July if need be.
At least the Yankees can relax when looking at their bullpen, which didn’t need to be touched this winter. Aroldis Chapman, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson and Chad Green highlight one of the most feared relief groups in the league. If Dellin Betances can rediscover his command as well, the starting pitching questions might not matter as much. This bullpen group will be able to shorten games like never before.
The Yanks went for quality over quantity in terms of their offseason moves. The deal for Stanton speaks for itself. The Astros will remain the favorite in the American League, but should the two teams meet again in the postseason, we could be in for another seven-game thrill ride.