Yankees face quite a few decisions as spring training winds down
TAMPA, Fla. — On Sunday night, a relaxed Aaron Boone sat on a stage at the Tampa “Innings Festival” music concert and played his greatest hits.
Boone wasn’t singing or playing an instrument. He was being interviewed at this celebration of music and baseball (headlining act: Dave Matthews Band) about his time in the game.
Boone’s greatest hits: Talking about his fear that Aaron Judge wasn’t going to re-sign with the Yankees, about his and his family’s love of baseball, and about his famous extra-inning, walk-off home run for the Yankees against the Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.
What Boone wasn’t asked much about: the final construction of the 2023 Yankees’ Opening Day roster.
On Monday, Boone had what looked like another day to relax as the Yankees were off.
But while there was no spring training game or practice, Yankees brass (including Boone) were expected to begin huddling at Steinbrenner Field — a baseball’s throw down Dale Mabry Highway from where the “Innings Festival” was held — to discuss the many decisions the club has to make before Gerrit Cole throws the first pitch of the season to the Giants on March 30 at Yankee Stadium.
You know the biggest one: shortstop. But the Yankees have a bunch of calls to make with one week left in the Florida portion of spring training. Here’s a breakdown:
Who's at short?
With Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Oswaldo Cabrera looking like super-utilitymen, either Oswald Peraza or Anthony Volpe will be at shortstop on March 30.
The rookies have been battling throughout spring training, with Peraza showing elite-level defensive skills and Volpe showing maturity beyond his top-level playing experience (22 games at Triple-A).
“There’s no bad choice,” Cole said on Sunday.
Welcome back, Gleyber . . . for now?
Gleyber Torres should be back in camp on Tuesday after his stint with the Venezuela team in the WBC.
Torres isn’t fighting for his job, but he’s also the Yankees’ most tradeable commodity if they want to deal with their middle-infield glut. Trading Torres could net the Yankees a starting outfielder or some starting pitching depth, which they need with injuries to Carlos Rodon, Frankie Montas and Nestor Cortes.
Trading Torres also would allow the Yankees to keep both Peraza and Volpe, with one of them playing second (most likely Volpe). Would they dare?
What about Donaldson?
Josh Donaldson, who has $29.75 million in salary and a 2024 buyout coming to him, is the Yankees’ most untradeable commodity, especially given that he has shown no signs of a rebirth.
Donaldson is batting .179 in Grapefruit League play. It seems as if the Yankees, who are publicly sticking with him, are stuck with him unless they want to eat the money.
Who joins Judge in the outfield?
With Harrison Bader set to begin the season on the injured list, there is no clear favorite to start the opener in two of three outfield spots. Candidates include Cabrera, Aaron Hicks, Estevan Florial, Rafael Ortega and even Kiner-Falefa, who started a game in centerfield last week.
Florial is out of options but is batting .182 in spring training. Ortega, a non-roster invitee and lefthanded batter, got off to a hot start in exhibition play, but a slump has him down to .154.
The Yankees could use both Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield in the early going, which would allow them to DH Torres or DJ LeMahieu (.400 average in spring training). But how would Stanton hold up physically?
Pen writing a new story
Injuries have created three openings behind the top five of Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta, Jonathan Loaisiga, Ron Marinaccio and Michael King. Righthanders Albert Abreu, Greg Weissert and Jimmy Cordero and lefthander Matt Krook are all on the 40-man roster, which aids their chances. The Yankees also like non-roster righthander Ian Hamilton and non-roster lefthander Nick Ramirez.
Boone said the decisions may go right up until the Yankees have to submit a 26-man roster to MLB the morning of March 30.