What will the findings of the independent auditors be?
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner surprised many with his late-August declaration that he plans to have an independent firm evaluate every aspect of his organization. This scared some areas of the franchise more than others. An analytics department that controls so much of what the organization does has come under fire in a way it never has before and certainly appears most vulnerable to forced changes. But there is widespread skepticism on the inside regarding just what the audit will bring. “My question is,” one player said shortly after Steinbrenner’s comments, “who are they? Do they know baseball?” Essentially meaning, who exactly is analyzing the analysts? And, added one staffer, “Do they know what questions to ask?” Front office sources say that won’t be an issue but, as another player said after expressing his own skepticism: “We’ll see.” What ultimately comes of the audit one way or the other will influence, depending on changes made or changes not made, not only how this offseason turns out but also the direction of the organization for years to come. The outside evaluation, which has no set date for when it will be complete, is slated to begin sometime this week.
What will they do about Giancarlo Stanton?
The Yankees would like to trade Stanton, but that is highly unlikely. Stanton not only is owed about $98 million over the next four years but is coming off the worst season of his career. The Yankees could agree to eat a large portion of that $98 million in a prospective deal, but even then, Stanton has a full no-trade clause. Stanton, one of the fittest players to ever come through the clubhouse, has promised “changes” in his offseason preparation; the Yankees hope those changes will lessen his chances of suffering yet another of the lower-body injuries that have plagued him in recent years and contributed to his becoming a liability in the field and on the bases this season as he tried to prevent it from happening again. Stanton was mostly dreadful at the plate, struggling against everything but, most frustratingly for him, against high-velocity fastballs. A final word on Stanton, who will turn 34 in November: While teammates for years have marveled at his prodigious homers and otherworldly exit velocity, they don’t revere him for only those things. Their respect for him stems from observing his daily behind-the-scenes work ethic, competitiveness, baseball smarts and dedication. This isn’t a player who doesn’t care.
What to do about centerfield?
Top position prospect Jasson Dominguez wouldn’t have made his big-league debut in 2023 if the Yankees hadn't been a last-place team in late August. With Steinbrenner very much a booster, the organization decided then to begin a youth movement to evaluate not only Dominguez but also catcher Austin Wells, infielder Oswald Peraza and outfielder Everson Pereira. The 20-year-old Dominguez briefly lived up to the hype, but his big-league season ended after eight games because of a UCL tear that required Tommy John surgery that will keep him out until at least June. He was not guaranteed to be the starter in center next season but would have been given every chance in spring training to win the job. The system is not deep in centerfield options, so the Yankees will explore the market, something they likely would have done even if Dominguez had not gotten hurt. Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier, now a Blue Jay but a longtime Tampa Bay Ray and very much at the center of the heat that developed between that team and the Yankees, is a popular name and should be. Publicly he has said he’d be interested in at least talking to the Yankees and privately he has said the same to some in Toronto.
How hard will they go after Yoshinobu Yamamoto?
The 25-year-old star righthander is expected to get posted this offseason after finishing the season with a 1.21 ERA for the Orix Buffaloes of the Nippon Professional Baseball League. The Yankees, like many other clubs, had in-person eyes on him throughout the NPBL season, including those belonging to general manager Brian Cashman and adviser Omar Minaya (the pair watched Yamamoto throw a no-hitter on Sept. 9 in Chiba, Japan). Like many other teams, the Yankees like Yamamoto quite a bit, but the competition will be fierce. One Pacific Rim scout from a rival team recently said he hadn’t seen such a frenzy in tracking one player, with so many teams represented, throughout a NPBL season since the one before Shohei Ohtani was posted (in the winter of 2017).
Speaking of Ohtani, he’s a free agent and sure to be linked to them. Should Yankees fan expect him to be playing his home games in the Bronx in 2024?