How Yanks will approach offseason roster moves

October 30th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Bryan Hoch’s Yankees Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The Yankees’ long-shot playoff hopes fell to zero on Sept. 24 with a defeat in the Bronx at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Though few in attendance on that raw, rainy afternoon might have predicted the visitors as the eventual National League champions, the Bombers knew they had fallen far short of their goal.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Aaron Judge said that day. “So we’ve got to hit the ground running, especially when the season ends. We’ve got a lot to work on, a lot of things to change, and a lot of stuff going on around here that needs to be fixed.”

Judge declined then to say what he had in mind, stating that those thoughts would remain “in-house” during his planned chats with managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman. However, Judge said that he considered it “a big failure” for the organization to be on the outside looking in as the postseason approached.

“We’ve got a lot of stuff to work on and improve,” Judge said, “but there’s a lot of bright spots that we’ve seen with these young guys coming up. This is the time to build on that and start building that next foundation.” 

Which players are free agents?

IF/OF Isiah Kiner-Falefa, RHP Zach McAllister, RHP Keynan Middleton, RHP Frankie Montas, LHP Wandy Peralta, RHP Luis Severino, RHP Luke Weaver.

Are any of them likely to receive qualifying offers, and what is the deadline?

No. Qualifying offers to free agents must be extended within five days of the conclusion of the World Series. They then have 10 days to decide whether or not to take it. This year’s qualifying offer is expected to be valued at approximately $20.5 million, the average of the top 125 salaries in the league.

Are any of those free agents expected to be re-signed?

Possibly. The Yankees had no incentive to activate Montas in late September unless they were considering re-signing him. Kiner-Falefa and Severino will likely be wearing new uniforms when the 2024 season begins, but Middleton and Peralta may stick around.

Which other players will the Yankees look at?

Cashman and several members of the organization traveled to Japan for a closer look at Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who rewarded the journey by tossing a Sept. 9 no-hitter. There figures to be intense bidding for the 25-year-old right-hander, who has been described as the Pedro Martinez of Japan.

Published reports have also suggested moves for the Brewers’ Corbin Burnes or the Guardians’ Shane Bieber, but pitching wasn’t the team’s most pressing issue in ’23, especially if you believe in a Carlos Rodón bounce-back. The Yankees need bats, preferably left-handed ones.

The Yankees aren’t expected to be involved in the free agency bidding for Shohei Ohtani, but they are interested in outfielder Juan Soto. SNY reported last week that there has been preliminary contact between the Padres and Yankees, though their talks have not yet reached the GM levels. Cody Bellinger also makes a ton of sense as a player who can solve their search for a left fielder; the fact that Bellinger’s dad, Clay, played for the Yanks from 1999-2001 is a fun bonus.

With Jasson Domínguez not expected to return until midseason, Kevin Kiermaier would be a fit as a division-tested veteran who can contribute Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field.

Who might they be willing to trade?

It would be easier to construct a list of who the Yanks aren’t willing to trade, a list that begins with Gerrit Cole and Judge. There has been a lot of fan discussion about a potential Giancarlo Stanton deal, but that does not seem realistic, considering the club still owes Stanton $98 million through 2027 and that Stanton has a full no-trade clause.

Gleyber Torres has been mentioned in trade rumors for more than a calendar year, dating to the 2022 Trade Deadline, when the Yanks fielded interest from the Marlins. Steinbrenner has said that he envisions Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza as the future middle infield in the Bronx, and Volpe is entrenched at shortstop, while DJ LeMahieu figures to pick up a lot of work at third base. Torres is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility before reaching free agency. 

Which players are eligible for salary arbitration?

The Yankees have a Major League-high 17 arbitration-eligible players: RHP Albert Abreu, 1B/OF Jake Bauers, RHP Matt Bowman, OF Franchy Cordero, RHP Jimmy Cordero, LHP Nestor Cortes, C Kyle Higashioka, RHP Domingo Germán, RHP Clay Holmes, RHP Jonathan Loáisiga, OF Billy McKinney, RHP Michael King, RHP Clarke Schmidt, C Jose Trevino, RHP Lou Trivino, 2B Gleyber Torres, and RHP Ryan Weber.

Jan. 12, 2024 is the deadline for teams to agree on one-year contracts with arbitration-eligible players.

Are there any non-tender or trade candidates there?

Several. Higashioka is the longest-tenured Bomber, having been drafted by the organization in 2008, but Trevino’s expected return behind the plate coupled with Austin Wells’ late-season promotion could prompt the Yanks to explore trades involving Higashioka and/or Ben Rortvedt. Bowman, both Corderos, Germán, Trivino and Weber could also be on that list.

Cortes, Holmes, King, Loáisiga, Schmidt and Torres all should be locks to receive 2024 contracts. The non-tender deadline is Nov. 17.

Don’t forget that players who ended the year on the 60-day injured list must be reinstated to the 40-man roster no five days after the conclusion of the World Series. That group includes Cortes, Trevino, Trivino, Weber, Scott Effross, Luis Gil, Domínguez and Anthony Rizzo.

Which prospects could be added to the 40-man roster?

Prospects eligible for the Rule 5 Draft must be added to the 40-man roster by Nov. 14 to avoid being exposed to other clubs. The Yankees have several players in that category, the most prominent of which is RHP Clayton Beeter, rated as the club’s No. 16 prospect by MLB Pipeline. Expect Beeter to be added, at minimum.

Others include: LHP Edgar Barclay, C Josh Breaux, 1B/3B Andrés Chaparro, OF Elijah Dunham, C Antonio Gomez, OF Brandon Lockridge, C Carlos Narvaez, C Agustin Ramirez, C Anthony Seigler, IF Jared Serna, RHP Matt Sauer, RHP Mitch Spence, and IF Alexander Vargas.

Who are the Yankees’ potential award winners, and when will those be announced?

Rizzo and Volpe are finalists for American League Gold Glove Awards, which will be announced on Nov. 5. Last season, LeMahieu and Trevino received Gold Gloves. Cole is the presumed frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award, which will be revealed on Nov. 15. Cole would be the Yanks’ first Cy Young Award winner since Roger Clemens in 2001.

What are some other important offseason dates to know?

The General Managers’ Meetings will be held Nov. 7-9 in Scottsdale, Ariz. Considering that Cashman has not held a formal news conference since August, the GM Meetings might represent the first date in which Cashman plans to shed public light upon his offseason plan. The Winter Meetings are scheduled for Dec. 3-6 in Nashville, Tenn.; there will be no Judge contract drama this year, as last winter in San Diego, but you can bank upon plenty of Yankees storylines this time too.