General Partner of the New York Yankees Hal Steinbrenner speaking...

General Partner of the New York Yankees Hal Steinbrenner speaking to reporters in Florida on March 16, 2022.

TAMPA, Fla. — Much of his fan base — at least based on real-time social media reaction — did not seem to agree.

But after Sunday night’s trade that sent Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela to the Twins in exchange for third baseman Josh Donaldson, shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and catcher Ben Rortvedt and then Tuesday night’s yet-to-be-official far more predictable move that brought back first baseman Anthony Rizzo, Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner on Wednesday was comfortable making this statement about the 2022 Yankees:

"This is a championship-caliber team," Steinbrenner said.

He continued: "I think the trade that Cash [general manager Brian Cashman] made was a great trade. We're going to miss the guys that moved on, but I think we addressed one or two of the needs that we had. But look, this team's got a lot of experience, it's a veteran team, it’s got a lot of heart. And I think we're going to see great things this year."

That, of course, remains to be seen.

Three teams from the AL East made the playoffs last season and a fourth, the Blue Jays, narrowly missed after going 91-71 (the Yankees and Red Sox both went 92-70 while the Rays ran away with the division at 100-62).

While the Yankees have undoubtedly improved defensively, it remains a question just how much better their roster is compared with the one last year that, after an up-and-down regular season like few others the franchise has experienced in recent memory, lost the AL wild-card game at Boston.

The Blue Jays, meanwhile, have been busy adding pieces to a roster that already was among the youngest and most athletic in the sport. As for the Rays, whom the Yankees have an almost unhealthy obsession with when it comes to how they use analytics in their decision making, they don’t appear to have gotten worse.

The Rizzo deal put an end to the Yankees’ mostly tepid pursuit of Freddie Freeman, the biggest first-base option on the free-agent market, a player the club never really seriously progressed with given the likely cost involved both in years and dollars.

Interestingly, the Rays, as of late Wednesday afternoon, were after Freeman, though it wasn’t clear just how fervently. If somehow the Rays landed Freeman — which would be very much against their DNA to sign a big-money free agent — it might send an already angry Yankees fan base over the edge.

As for Rizzo, who agreed to a two-year deal worth $32 million Tuesday night (the contract has an opt-out after this season), the signing was not yet official as of early Wednesday evening as it was pending his physical.

That left manager Aaron Boone to speak in generalities about the 32-year-old who, after the Yankees dealt for him before last year’s trade deadline, gave his new club an instant upgrade defensively and a spark offensively with his lefthanded bat, which was much needed in a righty-dominant lineup. Rizzo, who quickly fit into the clubhouse, hit .249 with eight homers and a .768 OPS in 49 games.

"Look, he’s a great player," Boone said. "I think he established himself as a great leader. He checks a lot of boxes of things you like about a ballplayer, so we’ll see. Obviously, not only a decorated great player but definitely somebody that brings the intangibles to the table, especially in the room [clubhouse]."

That move, when it does become official, will all but certainly bring an end to Luke Voit’s time in pinstripes. The Yankees, who according to one rival executive have been looking for "top dollar" when it comes to trading Voit, have been trying to deal the 31-year-old righthanded hitter, who led the majors in homers (22) during the COVID-shortened season of 2020 but struggled through injuries last season and underperformed when he was on the field.

"I’ve enjoyed myself since I’ve been here in '18 and I really enjoyed New York," Voit said. "It’s the best place to play baseball and who knows? Maybe I’ll still be here. We’ll see what happens."

More Yankees headlines


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months