A loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park in Tuesday’s American League wild-card game sent the Yankees home for the winter far sooner — yet again — than the franchise hoped or expected.
Their most recent World Series championship came in 2009, which continues to be their only appearance in the Series since 2003 and their only title since 2000.
Where do the Yankees go from here after a 92-70 season in which "roller coaster," while accurate, still seems an inadequate characterization?
There will be changes, as there almost always are in professional sports year-to-year. Among the first decisions for the franchise is making a call on manager Aaron Boone, 328-218 in four seasons in the dugout, whose contract is up (the case for pretty much all of the coaching staff as well).
As far as the players go, what follows is an overview of some of the significant calls to be made this offseason:
About to be free agents: Corey Kluber, Andrew Heaney, Anthony Rizzo, Darren O’Day (mutual option), Brett Gardner (mutual option), Joely Rodriguez (team option)
The Yankees’ uncertainty at first base makes Rizzo, 32, the most intriguing name on this list, but coming off the nine-year, $75 million deal he signed with the Cubs nearly a decade ago, he could be deemed too expensive. Early indications are managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner would prefer to stay under the luxury tax threshold, if there is one under the new collective bargaining agreement (the current one expires Dec. 1).
Kluber, 35, signed to a one-year, $11 million deal last offseason, went 5-3 with a 3.83 ERA, a performance that included a no-hitter against the Rangers on May 19 in Arlington, Texas. His return can’t be ruled out, but given that he missed a large swatch of time with a right shoulder strain, that likely would have to be at a significant discount.
Given some of the question marks in the outfield, the 38-year-old Gardner coming back for a 15th season can’t be dismissed as a possibility.
No one on this list is considered a candidate to receive the qualifying offer, which this offseason is roughly $20 million.
Among those arbitration-eligible: Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, Joey Gallo, Jonathan Loaisiga, Jordan Montgomery, Domingo German, Wandy Peralta, Miguel Andujar, Kyle Higashioka, Jameson Taillon, Clint Frazier, Chad Green, Luke Voit, Tyler Wade.
This is an extensive list, though not 100% complete, but many of the names jump out and contribute to what will be the most fascinating part of this offseason (after, of course, what the Yankees decide to do with Boone).
It starts with Judge, 29, who made just over $10 million last season and is due another big pay bump in 2022 after his MVP-caliber 2021 season. The Yankees could hold talks to extend Judge this offseason — something the outfielder has indicated he would like to see happen — but they could hold off bestowing a big contract on him because of his injury history (he played 148 games this year, the most since he appeared in 155 games in 2017, his rookie season). Judge, who is the face of the franchise and is adored by the fan base, holds the PR hammer on this however it plays out.
Sanchez will be just as fascinating for different reasons. The polarizing catcher, eligible to become a free agent after 2022, made $6.35 million this season and would be due another raise. While many Yankees fans want to move on from Sanchez — who still has his backers inside the organization but who has lost some support there the last couple of seasons — the options for the next everyday catcher are not great. Kyle Higashioka is respected in the game as a solid and at times terrific backup but is not seen as everyday material. It’s not a strong class of free-agent catchers, and while the Yankees' farm system does have several highly regarded catching prospects (Austin Wells and Josh Breaux, to name two), they are not considered big league-ready.
Gallo presents another fascinating (there’s that word again) case. The Yankees have to decide what to do with an outfielder who made $6.2 million this season and will be a free agent after 2022. Though his athleticism and ability with the glove provided an instant outfield upgrade defensively, Gallo was the same boom-or-bust player at the plate with the Yankees that he was with the Rangers starting in his rookie season of 2015. He struck out 88 times in 188 at-bats as a Yankee and 213 times overall but also finished with 38 home runs, 13 after being acquired from Texas.