Status: Chasing down Boston
The Yankees won 100 games last season, despite injuries and poor form effecting key players. A busy offseason puts them in a great position to push the Red Sox for the American League East title in 2019.
Zack Britton, J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia were all free agents too. The trio re-signed with the Yankees. Sabathia will retire at season’s end, but his presence is crucial at the backend of the rotation along with Happ.
James Paxton arrived in a deal with the Mariners early in the offseason. Justus Sheffield, who was another contender for a rotation spot, was sent to the west coast along with Erik Swanson and Dom Thompson-Williams.
With Didi Gregorius out injured for the first few months of the season, infield reinforcements were a necessity. Brian Cashman landed Troy Tulowitzki on league minimum after he was released by the Blue Jays. DJ LeMahieu was given a two-year contract and is expected to play around the infield.
Cashman was open about wanting to move Sonny Gray this offseason. The saga rumbled on for months before he was traded to the Reds with Reiver Sanmartin for Shed Long. Long needed to be on the 40-man roster, so Cashman sent the second base prospect to Seattle for outfielder Josh Stowers.
What to watch
Gleyber Torres shone in 2018, finishing third in American League Rookie of the Year. There’s a good chance he’s even better this year. Torres was MLB Pipeline’s best non-Ohtani prospect in 2017, his combination of plate discipline, contact, power and smooth glovework making him a future MVP-level middle infielder. The Yankees line-up will be even scarier if Torres takes another step in 2019.
Rotation reinforcements have put the Yankees in a better spot. Their two premier starters have immense stuff but have issues with health and consistency. At the time of writing, it’s unlikely that Luis Severino will be available on Opening Day. James Paxton has never started 30 games in his career. Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German and Luis Cessa might be required more than Cashman would like.
Most ‘things’ in this section are about a trend or a concern. The Yankees bullpen doesn’t come under either of those, but it’s certainly must-watch. The relief group is historically good, containing more than a handful of guys who could be the number one or two bullpen arm on other teams. Britton’s sinker, Aroldis Chapman’s fastball, Ottavino’s slider and Dellin Betances’ slurve-ish thing might be the four nastiest pitches in baseball.
The Yankees could – perhaps should – be even better in 2019 than they were in 2018. A full season of Aaron Judge will make a big difference, Gary Sanchez might be an offensive asset again, and the rotation will be more reliable.
Cashman has compiled a deep, flexible roster. It’s a good job, really, seeing as the farm is unlikely to produce any difference makers and mid-season trades will be tricky.
Reaching the high-nineties in the win column seems like the minimum. It would not be a surprise to see the Yankees go comfortably past the 100-mark.