Yankees Post-Lockout Preview
As the MLB lockout continues, Yankees fans continue to speculate about what moves Cashman and the front office might make. With many of the top free agents signing massive deals elsewhere, there remains a limited pool of players for the Yankees to go after. Yankees fans remain hopeful that the organization will partake in the inevitable massive frenzy that will occur after the lockout is over. So, here are 5 players the Yankees could possibly target.
Honorable mention: Matt Olson (27 Years Old, First Baseman, OAK)
Matt Olson enters this list as an honorable mention only because he is not a free agent this offseason. The Athletics have suggested that they are willing to trade him, along with many other players on their roster.
The A’s have been known to part ways with excellent players for whom they don’t want to pay. Most recently they decided not to re-sign Marcus Semien last offseason, who had an AL MVP candidate-worthy season with the Blue Jays, and posted the best hitting numbers by a second baseman in MLB history. He was paid handsomely by the Rangers this offseason, along with the former Dodger superstar shortstop Corey Seager.
Matt Olson had the best statistical season of his career in 2021, posting a slash line of .271/.371/.540 to go along with his 39 homers and 111 RBIs. Olson is also widely regarded as one of, if not the best, defensive first basemen in baseball, as he won back-to-back gold gloves in 2018 and 2019.
All the signs point to a massive deal ahead in Olson’s future, one which the Athletics will most likely not be willing to make. Rumors have suggested that the Yankees have engaged in trade talks with the A’s about Olson, and the Yanks certainly have the prospects to make a trade happen.
Olson’s sweet lefty swing would be perfect for the short porch at Yankee Stadium. In his 9 games played there, he has a .368 batting average and a 1.205 ops. He also would provide far more defensive value than Luke Voit. Adding Olson would make the Yankees lineup much more balanced, and add some firepower to a very inconsistent infield.
His current contract has 1 year remaining, where he will be paid $12 million. You can expect that number to be much larger when he signs his next deal.
5. Andrew Chafin (31 Years Old, Left-Handed Reliever, OAK/CHC)
The Yankees bullpen last year gave fans quite a few scares and was far more inconsistent than some of their stellar relieving corps in the past. There were a few standouts in Loaisiga, Holmes, and Luetge, but the inconsistency from guys like Chapman, Green, and pretty much the rest of their bullpen led to many games being blown. As it stands right now, the Yankees could use another strong lefty arm.
Andrew Chafin is a free agent this offseason after playing for the Cubs and the Athletics in 2021. In 71 games, he had a 1.83 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP. His stuff was effective against both righties and lefties, which would make him a flexible option for Boone to utilize. Chafin is also only 31 years old, which is considerably younger than many of the relievers available on the market.
Chafin would provide a consistent and versatile option for the Yankees and could be a big piece in solving their previous problems with relievers. He would likely step in the 7th or 8th inning spot and could face righties or lefties from an opposing lineup.
Seeing as relievers like Kendall Graveman, Corey Knebel, and Aaron Loup signed contracts in the $8-10 million range, Chafin will likely look for a similar deal.
4. Carlos Rodon (28 Years Old, Left-Handed Starting Pitcher, CHW)
With pitchers Kevin Gausman, Robbie Ray, Justin Verlander, and others being taken off the free agent market, the pool of starters for the Yankees to potentially target is diminishing. Out of the remaining starters available, Rodon had the best performance in 2021. He finished 5th in the AL Cy Young vote with a 2.37 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. He also threw a no-hitter in just his second start of the season.
There are some concerns with Rodon though. He struggled immensely in 2019 and 2020 throwing a combined 42.1 innings and posting 5.19 and 8.22 ERAs respectively. This is largely due to multiple injuries that have weighed him down during his career. If Rodon can stay healthy and produce consistent results like he did last year, he will be a valuable piece to any rotation.
There is a lot of uncertainty as to how the Yankees will organize their starters in 2022, so Rodon could possibly fit anywhere from 2-4 in their rotation. With Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino, Domingo German, and perhaps Clarke Schmidt all vying for spots, all that is certain is Gerrit Cole will be at the top. Regardless, Rodon is an asset worth making an effort to sign, as Matt Blake proved successful with their previous Jameson Taillon and Corey Kluber experiments.
Due to his injury-riddled past and inconsistencies, Rodon will most likely receive a short-term deal. Seeing less successful starters like Jon Gray and Eduardo Rodriguez signing deals for around $15 million, Rodon may ask for even more money. It will be interesting to see just how much he signs for, and whether or not the Yankees will be willing to pay him.
3. Michael Conforto (28 Years Old, Outfielder, NYM)
Michael Conforto had an incredible 2020 season. His slashline was .322/.412/.515 which produced an outstanding OPS+ of 154. However, his 2021 season was a huge step back. He saw dramatic decreases in every percentage-based statistical category and only hit 5 more home runs than 2020, even though he played in 71 more games. Mets fans were more than disappointed with his performance, and the team has since moved on by signing Starling Marte and Mark Canha.
While Conforto primarily played right field for the Mets, he could potentially fit into the Yankees' 2022 outfield. This would likely mean moving Judge or Gallo to center, but both are more than capable defensively to make that transition. It would be a huge risk to sign Conforto, but he has shown flashes in his career that suggest it could be worth it. Despite his struggles last year, he is still a career 124 OPS+ hitter and could add valuable lefty power to the Yankee lineup. He doesn’t add much more defensively than an average outfielder, so the contract would likely be focused on the value his bat could provide.
Since Mark Canha signed a contract in his replacement for around $13 million, it seems likely that he will ask for a short term deal at a lower price. A one year prove-it-or-lose-it deal could be well worth it for the Yankees, and would likely come pretty cheap.
2. Carlos Correa (27 Years Old, Shortstop, HOU)
Introducing public enemy number 1, Carlos Correa. He was at the center of the Astros cheating scandal, and Yankees fans have resented him ever since. He has minced words with fans and players alike, and has been perhaps the most defensive of any Astros player about their garbage-banging antics. If the Yankees were to sign Correa, it would certainly be one of the most interesting stories of the season. Many Yankees fans and players have not forgotten about their playoff losses to the Astros because of their cheating, and the locker room would probably have a lot of issues at the start. However, the Yankees could use a shortstop and Correa is the market’s premier option.
The numbers don’t lie either. Correa was an all-star in his first full season since the scandal and finished 5th in the AL MVP race. His slash line was .279/.366/.485 and he had an OPS+ of 131. He was also elite defensively with 20 BIS defensive runs saved above average, leading him to his first gold glove award. He may be one of the most hated figures in New York, but he can sure play baseball.
Correa is likely seeking offers similar to or larger than Corey Seager and Marcus Semien’s, who are both making upwards of $25 million per year with the Rangers. At 27 years old, he will also probably look for deals at least 6 or 7 years long, and could push towards double digits.
Correa signing with the Yankees would probably move D.J. to second and force the Yankees to get rid of Gleyber Torres. A deal would stir up New York even more than when they signed Gerrit Cole. However, from a baseball perspective, the move makes a lot of sense for the Yanks.
1. Seiya Suzuki (27 Years Old, Outfielder, Japan)
Seiya Suzuki is the next exciting prospect from Japan to enter the MLB free agent market. While he won’t have the impact that Shohei Ohtani has had for the Angels, Suzuki will add a well-rounded profile to whichever team he signs with.
His hitting numbers in Japan have been phenomenal, with a slash line of .317/.433/.617. Yep, that’s right, he slugged .617 last year, and hit 38 home runs. He also struck out just 1 more time than he walked last year, suggesting his plate discipline is excellent as well. Defensively, Suzuki is great as he has won Japan's version of the gold-glove award 3 times. He is going to provide huge offense backed by solid defense for whichever team he signs with.
The Yankees struck out years ago trying to sign Shohei Ohtani, but Suzuki could be a huge immediate addition to the Yankees' offense. Once again, signing an outfielder would probably force either Judge or Gallo to move to center, but his value as a hitter would make him more than worth it.
Suzuki is only 27 years old, so he will likely look for a longer deal, perhaps around 5 years. He has been projected to be paid around the same amount as Mark Canha, roughly in the $10-15 million range.
Suzuki has been compared to the former Yankees world series MVP, Hideki Matsui, and could perhaps be a huge step in pushing towards a championship once again.
Many Yankees fans have been upset with Brian Cashman’s inaction so far this offseason. However, once the lockout ends, he will have a chance to make a few moves that could change the course of the Yankees’ 2022 season. Hopefully the Yankees’ front office can respond to the aggressive moves made in their division and around the league by signing a few players of their own. One thing is for sure though; once the lockout ends, the free agent market is going to be full of action. Yankees fans are just hoping to be a part of it.