TAMPA, Fla. — What matters most to the vast majority of Yankees fans is the answer to this question:
Did their team do enough this offseason to catch the Red Sox?
With spring training officially starting for the Yankees on Wednesday — pitchers and catchers will report that day and workouts will begin Thursday — the answer, as you might expect, isn’t clear-cut.
Compared to the Red Sox, who captured the AL East title by eight games in 2018 and went on to win the World Series for the fourth time in 15 seasons, the Yankees had a hyperactive winter.
The Red Sox brought back postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi, but as far as transactions involving big names are concerned, that was about it.
That has caused consternation among their fan base, but a World Series title after a franchise-record 108 victories does put a different perspective on things.
Although they didn't make a run at the free-agent names atop the marquee — Bryce Harper and Manny Machado — general manager Brian Cashman had plenty going on.
Early in the offseason, he traded for lefthanded starter James Paxton. He re-signed two longtime Yankees who were clubhouse leaders, lefthanded starter CC Sabathia and outfielder Brett Gardner. He re-signed starter J.A. Happ and reliever Zack Britton, a pair of free-agent lefthanders who had been trade-deadline acquisitions, and added righthanded reliever Adam Ottavino.
Utilityman DJ LeMahieu, a two-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, came aboard to add infield depth. Five-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner Troy Tulowitzki was signed to play shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns from offseason Tommy John surgery.
“I thought [Cashman] going out and making the trade early in the winter for Paxton was a really good move and allowed us to be patient and kind of rebuilding our staff a little bit,” second-year manager Aaron Boone said last week before he was honored at the annual Thurman Munson dinner in Manhattan. “I really love the depth that we’ve been able to add, and we feel like in a lot of ways we’re a complete team right now and we have a chance to go out and do something special, which we get to start next week.”
Speaking last week at the owners’ meetings in Orlando, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said he is “excited” about this season’s prospective roster.
“I think we’ve definitely got a better club Opening Day than we did Opening Day last year, particularly in pitching, which was my biggest area of concern,” Steinbrenner said.
On paper, the group looks solid to very good, with Luis Severino anchoring a unit that includes Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, Happ and Sabathia.
But with the average big-league team needing in the range of 10 starters during the course of a season, pitching coach Larry Rothschild knows what looks good on paper has to be approached with caution.
“It’s good but, again, it’s going to be the health,” Rothschild said. “It’s not always the best pitching staff. A lot of times it’s the staff that can stay the healthiest.”
The rotation held its own last year and appears upgraded this season, having added Happ and Paxton as full-time members and subtracted the underperforming Sonny Gray, who was dealt to the Reds.
Still, hovering over it all is Boston.
Asked specifically if adding Harper or Machado (who remain unsigned) would give the Yankees an even better chance to pass the Red Sox, Boone said: “That’s a question for Brian. You never say never on anyone. But I would also say we’re anticipating we have a great team right now and feel like we have a complete team that’s ready to go compete for a championship.”