Baseball world waiting for a Yankees splash

November 30th, 2021

Yankees fans keep waiting for the Yanks to do a Yankee thing, at least one this offseason, at least before a potential labor pause with the CBA set to expire Wednesday. Because for now, fans of the team look at everything happening in free agency and believe that somehow Yankee Stadium has been tipped over on its side. Or maybe the whole baseball universe.

The Mets made four free-agent signings over the past week, the first being a reported four-year deal for Starling Marte, someone the Yankees could have used. And then the big one for Max Scherzer on Monday, the deal that rocked everybody’s world as owner Steve Cohen reportedly laid out $130 million over the next three years.

In the Yankees’ own division, the Rays, who won the American League East by eight games last season, signed their star kid Wander Franco to a record-breaking extension. The Rays also reportedly signed Corey Kluber, who only pitched 16 games for the Yankees last season, but managed to pitch a no-hitter when he was healthy. The Blue Jays, who didn’t miss out on the playoffs until the last day of the regular season, reportedly went and got Kevin Gausman, who was such a star for a 2021 Giants team that won 107 regular-season games and held off the Dodgers in the NL West. Toronto also locked up righty José Berríos -- who the club acquired from the Twins at 2021 Trade Deadline -- with a long-term deal.

The only significant move the Yankees had made by Tuesday morning, the day after the Mets went for Scherzer, was to sign former Mets utility man Jose Peraza, according to sources. Everybody knows they need a shortstop, but they elected not to spend on Corey Seager the way the Rangers did: signing Seager for a reported 10 years and $325 million. The Yankees passed on Marcus Semien, who could have played shortstop at the Stadium, but will stay at second base for the Rangers.

The Red Sox haven’t made any notable signings, either. By now, though, nobody expects that from chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, even if he did go for Kyle Schwarber -- who turned out to be such an important piece for the Sox in September and October -- at the last Trade Deadline. But up on 161st St. in the Bronx, it’s suddenly like the old line from westerns:

“It’s quiet out there ... too quiet.”

It is clear, unless the Yankees shock the world by going after Carlos Correa, that this isn’t going to be the kind of big-splash December Yanks general manager Brian Cashman gave his fans the year before last, when he put Cole -- as in Gerrit -- under the Christmas tree with a contract for $324 million, the largest deal (by average annual value) for any starting pitcher until Scherzer beat it this week, and still the largest by total value.

For now, the real noise in New York is being made by the Mets, and by other teams in their own division. It doesn’t mean that the Yankees don’t at least have to make some ripples with a flawed roster, as they try not to get passed by the Blue Jays the way they have been passed by the Rays in the past couple of years.

It doesn’t mean they should have gone all in fan for Seager, as much as they need a shortstop. I asked a really smart Yankees fan I know how he felt about Seager getting all those years and all that money from the Rangers.

“The Rangers did what they thought they had to do, and good for them,” my friend said. “But it would have been baseball malpractice for my team to give Seager that kind of deal.”

It actually would have been, with a kid shortstop like Anthony Volpe, the Yankee's No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, not all that far from the big leagues.

The Yankees still have needs they have to address if they don’t want to finish fourth in the East next season.

1. They need another tough out in the batting order, and one who can catch the ball in the field -- infield or outfield. It’s why I keep thinking Chris Taylor would be a great fit with them.

2. They need a legitimate No. 2 starter behind Cole, because they’re kidding themselves if they think they have one right now.

3. They need a better receiver behind the plate than Gary Sánchez, no matter how many home runs he’s capable of hitting, and somebody who can at least give them a batting average not near the Mendoza Line.

4. And, yeah, they still need a shortstop. Maybe in the end they’ll still spend the kind of money on Correa that the Rangers did on Seager, and make their big splash after all, and make a Yankees play out of the past. But they spent $300 million on Cole to be a difference-maker. Do they honestly believe that they need to spend that kind of money on a shortstop, with a decision to be made on a long-term deal for Aaron Judge, who happens to be the face of the franchise and a free agent next winter?

It's quiet out there for the Yankees right now. Too quiet. Other teams spending all the money, and making all the noise. Mets making the headlines. What’s wrong with this picture?

If Cashman ends up making all the right moves this time without breaking the bank, maybe nothing.