The Yankees’ offseason to-do list as of Thursday — when Major League Baseball owners were expected to lock out the players after the sides failed to come to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement by Wednesday’s 11:59 p.m. deadline — looks pretty much the same as it did when the Bombers’ winter started sooner than they would have liked after a loss to the Red Sox in the American League wild-card game Oct. 3 at Fenway Park.
Meaning, whenever the two sides come to an agreement — and MLB fans should brace themselves for a prolonged battle before that happens — the Yankees will need to hit the ground running.
What exactly that will entail, of course, remains to be seen.
As teams like the Rangers, Tigers, Mets and even the Mariners beat the deadline by giving out mega-deals to free agents, the Yankees further enraged an already enraged fan base. For the most part, the Yankees did little in that time other than coming to terms with arbitration eligible players Gio Urshela, Domingo German and Lucas Luetge, and tendering contracts to all other players on their roster.
Included in the latter group was catcher Gary Sanchez, seemingly equally liked and decidedly disliked by the fan base.
"Hope we get going soon," one Yankees staffer said this week, reacting to the flurry of activity across the sport. "Seems like we’re kind of late to the party."
Indeed, organizationally there is plenty of questioning of exactly what the offseason strategy is, with many of those questions revolving around the budget managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner is giving Brian Cashman to work with.
And Cashman has a lot on his plate, including, the "urgent" need to add a shortstop (a stopgap like veteran Andrelton Simmons is appearing more and more likely) heads the list, but there are also needs in the rotation, centerfield, first base and perhaps the bullpen.
Though the Yankees were peripherally involved with Corey Seager, who signed a 10-year, $325-million contract with the Rangers, and offered Justin Verlander in excess of $20 million for one year (the veteran righty re-signed with the Astros for one-year and $25-million with a player option for a second year), indications from the start of the winter were Steinbrenner was going to wait until a new CBA before giving Cashman a concrete budget.
The Yankees, who got their payroll under the luxury tax threshold in 2021 — a mandate of Steinbrenner’s — already have a projected payroll of over $200 million for 2022. And it remains a bit of a mystery, including to Cashman to an extent, how much more he’ll be able to pile on top of that.
It is important to recognize, even with their involvement with Verlander and Seager, none of those signing deals so far were considered primary Yankee targets (how many should have been is another topic).
The market, both free agent and trade, remain flush with players who can significantly help the Yankees next season.
But the futures of those players and, by extension, every team in the sport, as of Thursday were anticipated to be in a holding pattern. For how long is anyone’s guess.