The days just before the baseball season ended will be remembered for so many things. Oct. 2 marked the opening of baseball’s postseason, and the Yankees played one of their best series of the season to knock off the Rays. Oct. 4 helped wake up the sports fan in every New Yorker, as the Giants won the Super Bowl. But what else happened?
Pitching – Both Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia have been slumping since the end of August, and it seems likely both will be moved this off-season to enable the team to reduce its payroll.
A-Rod seems like the most likely to be moved. After ending an astounding streak of playing for 16 straight years without retiring, the 40-year-old is weighing multiple offers, including from the Yankees, and it would not be surprising if the new team allows him to move sooner rather than later.
Sabathia will have three years remaining on his contract with the Yankees. Before signing a five-year, $161 million deal in 2011, the Cubs told him that if he left, they would sign someone who would spend less money and get about the same amount of innings.
New York is in position to replace him. They have good depth at the position, particularly with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray. Chris Sale, one of the top free-agent pitchers, would be an upgrade on any of them. Sale is scheduled to have a conversation with the team this week. That decision will be a critical one for the Yankees.
The Dynasty Potential Averaging 126 victories from 2009 to 2014, the Yankees won five division titles and a World Series title during that period. One team played in the AL wild-card game (the Astros) during that stretch. The other, the Red Sox, took home the division title. For much of the time, New York’s postseason matchup with the Red Sox was almost always the bigger “deal” at the beginning of the season. But the Yankees’ regular-season dominance will come back to haunt them if they can’t face the Red Sox with another championship. AL Wild Card winner: Astros AL Division winner: Red Sox NL Wild Card winner: Dodgers NL Division winner: Cubs AL Division winner: Indians NL Division winner: Cardinals OR THE FUTURE
The Yankees ranked 10th in saves with 57 this season, giving up a lot of hits. Luke Gregerson, who was acquired from the Astros for Jaime Garcia this year, was a cornerstone of the New York’s bullpen before blowing four of 16 save opportunities. Jon Heyman reported last week that the Yankees are interested in Carlos Frias, who has posted a 2.13 ERA over the last three seasons, and that the team also has interest in Jim Johnson, a free agent who has proven that he can get people out.
Despite continuing to play fine defense, Gary Sanchez is at age 23 almost always being accused of throwing his weight around. Neither he nor former Yankees catcher Russell Martin, another free agent who could be a good fit for New York, have performed up to expectations. As the Yankees probably remove one catcher, the likely candidate to replace him is Austin Romine, who has been a player that fans have consistently come to cheer for in recent years.
The Yankees used Matt Holliday as their first baseman through most of 2018, but are considering moving him out to play designated hitter. Encino native Gleyber Torres could get a chance, and Brett Gardner was a solid first baseman in his days at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Anthony Rizzo, though, is a free agent this winter, and might be a good fit in right field. If that happens, however, Torres’ early ascension on the national scene could cool down.
Aaron Hicks’ season was awful. He hit .220 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs. Signing and playing a platoon with Clint Frazier in center was not a good idea, and manager Aaron Boone is likely to make a change. If Torres emerges, the team could return to testing his speed.
When Didi Gregorius was acquired from the Tigers, the Yankees were confident that he could fix an anemic shortstop position. Now, it looks like they might start anew. James Loney, who has never made an All-Star team in seven big-league seasons, would seem to be an ideal placeholder.