It seems as if Yankees fans and the decision-making duo of Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman don’t agree on much these days.
Long-suffering Yankees fans — no World Series titles since way back in 2009! — want Cashman to come home from the winter meetings with signed deals for free agents Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Cody Bellinger and a trade with the Padres for Juan Soto.
And maybe, somehow, the Yankees can entice Shohei Ohtani to put aside his alleged preference for West Coast teams and agree to don the pinstripes.
Steinbrenner and Cashman, though, want to continue to methodically build a roster that can compete for a title in 2024. (Friday’s waiver claim of outfielder Oscar Gonzalez from Cleveland probably didn’t get Yankees fans to scramble to their computers to buy season tickets just yet.)
“The New York Yankees expect to win, which I’m proud to say and be part of an organization that’s that way,” Cashman said on Nov. 7 in his rollicking (and occasionally profane) news conference at the general managers’ meetings. “Our fan base not only deserves that type of winning, but our fan base expects that type of winning. They’re understandably [ticked] off when we don’t punch a ticket to get into the postseason and take a shot at the World Series title. Whatever we say as a franchise right now is not going to appease anybody. It’s about what we’re going to do to improve the roster and our situation going into the ’24 season.”
Said Steinbrenner, also on Nov. 7: “It was awful. We accomplished nothing [in 2023]. We didn’t win a division, didn’t make it to the playoffs. We didn’t win a series in the playoffs, much less a championship. The fans didn’t get what they deserve, but we are all very passionate about this. We are working our [tails] off. We are going to do everything we can to right the ship for 2024.”
So what can the Yankees reasonably be expected to do when MLB’s executives convene starting Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee?
Steinbrenner and Cashman know it’s unlikely that Ohtani will want to come to New York (and if he does, they know Steve Cohen and the Mets have deeper pockets).
Yamamoto is exactly what the Yankees need — a 25-year-old ace who only costs money. But the Japanese star also is exactly what nearly every other big-market club needs, including the Mets, Dodgers, Red Sox and Cubs, to name a few.
Ohtani and Yamamoto will get to pick their next employers. It’s up to them.
Bellinger is a good fit for the Yankees because he is a lefthanded hitter and can play centerfield and is just as good at first base. He was the NL Comeback Player of the Year for 2023.
But that means you have to factor in what he was coming back from — two woeful seasons in 2021-22 with the Dodgers in which he hit a combined .193 and was non-tendered by Los Angeles. Can you trust Bellinger on a long-term deal to be his best version and not his worst?
So that brings us to Soto. The lefthanded-hitting leftfielder is eminently available in a trade as San Diego wants to cut payroll and needs to replace three starting pitchers and their closer.
Early reports have the Yankees and Padres disagreeing on the players the Yankees would send to Petco Park for Soto, who has one year left before he hits free agency. But that’s just the kind of haggling you’d expect the teams to engage in before they (presumably) talk turkey in Nashville.
Most people around baseball expect Soto to be traded. The Yankees have major league-ready young pitchers in Clarke Schmidt, Michael King, Randy Vasquez and Jhony Brito plus enough prospects that a deal should be able to be struck without having to include top youngsters such as Anthony Volpe or Jasson Dominguez.
But other teams want Soto, too, with the Red Sox a particular team to watch.
If Soto is traded at the winter meetings and it’s not to the Yankees, you can expect another round of howling-mad cries from Yankees fans.
At least everyone can agree on that.