TODAY'S PAPER
55° Good Evening
55° Good Evening
SportsBaseballYankees

Five questions facing the Yankees this offseason

Hal Steinbrenner, principal owner of the Yankees, talks

Hal Steinbrenner, principal owner of the Yankees, talks with reporters during MLB owners meetings on Feb. 5 in Orlando, Fla. Credit: AP/John Raoux

So, any changes coming?

In the days of The Boss, a postseason series loss to the Rays — the team based in George Steinbrenner’s adopted home of Tampa — would have caused heads to roll. Hal Steinbrenner isn’t cut from the same mold as his father in that regard, but the word from Tampa insiders is that the current managing general partner was not pleased with his team’s earlier-than-expected postseason exit — especially with that exit coming at the hands of the Rays and coming after the owner invested $324 million in Gerrit Cole last offseason. There were plenty of organizational tweaks after last season’s ALCS loss; it would be surprising if there aren't more this offseason.

What’s Gary Sanchez’s future?

Regardless of the spin put on it, Sanchez lost his starting catcher’s job this postseason to Kyle Higashioka, who didn’t just catch Cole. In addition to starting all three of Cole’s playoff starts, Higashioka was behind the plate for starts made by Masahiro Tanaka and Jordan Montgomery. Brian Cashman has long been Sanchez’s biggest defender in the organization, and the move to Higashioka doesn’t get made without the GM’s input. Sanchez could be dealt this offseason or could be back, but if he is, he won’t enter spring training as the unquestioned No. 1 catcher, as has been the case in past years.

What about the 2021 rotation?

Cole, of course, will anchor the group, which also figures to include Montgomery and Luis Severino, who missed this season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and is expected to return at midseason in 2021. Beyond that is a question, aside from the real looks that prospects Deivi Garcia, Michael King and Clarke Schmidt will get in spring training. Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ are all free agents; only Tanaka, whose seven-year, $155 million contract is set to expire, would seem to have a decent chance of returning. But as much as the Yankees like Tanaka and vice versa, that isn’t a shoo-in, given the economic uncertainty in the game caused by COVID-19.

Has Brett Gardner played his last game in pinstripes?

It appears as if he might have. The 37-year-old is the longest-tenured Yankee, having been drafted into the organization in 2005, and one of the clubhouse’s most respected voices. But even with Gardner’s surge down the stretch, which continued during the postseason, Clint Frazier’s emergence this season could make Gardner expendable. Gardner, who has stated his desire to play next season, won’t be pricey, but with every penny likely to be closely monitored this offseason, whatever price he demands might simply be directed elsewhere, perhaps toward DJ LeMahieu, another free agent the club has designs on bringing back.

Speaking of money, how much will Steinbrenner spend this winter?

Steinbrenner didn’t enter last offseason planning to give Cole $324 million, but at some point in the owner’s mind, the ace righthander became a must-have, and he green-lighted Cashman to do what was necessary. There’s no free agent in Cole’s class in the upcoming market; even more significant, the Yankees, like every other team in this COVID-19 season, lost huge amounts of revenue in 2020. There will be roster additions because there always are, but fans shouldn’t enter the offseason dreaming of any big-ticket acquisitions that have significant money attached to them.

New York Sports