NEW YORK -- Thirteen years to the day since the Yankees’ most recent World Series celebration, general manager Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone outlined their priorities for the offseason ahead, reiterating their beliefs that their roster will remain on the short list of teams capable of being the last team standing.
Cashman and Boone are hopeful the franchise can retain outfielder Aaron Judge, who is set to test free agency, but the Yankees’ ouster in an American League Championship Series sweep provided considerable evidence of a gap to be closed with the Astros.
Here are five important takeaways from Cashman and Boone’s interview session:
1) All Rise
Judge and Boone had a brief conversation after the Yankees’ loss in ALCS Game 4; though they shook hands and hugged, Boone remains hopeful that it was more of a "goodbye for now." Judge can begin speaking with the 29 other clubs five days after the end of the World Series.
“I hope he’s back and that he’s a Yankee forever,” Boone said.
No discussions are known to have transpired between Judge and the Yankees since April, when Judge turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million contract extension. Cashman declined to say if there had been any talks since the end of the season.
“I’ll just restate what has been stated by me, ownership, Aaron Boone and anybody related to the Yankees,” Cashman said. “We’d love to be able to bring Aaron Judge back and have him maintain being a member of this franchise and the career paths he’s currently on. It’s Hall of Fame-like. There’d be nothing better than to have him continue to man right field for us.”
Though Judge was said to be upset when the club announced the extension figures on Opening Day, Cashman said that he does not believe the episode will impact the Yankees’ chances of retaining Judge.
“My interactions with him right out of the gate thereafter [were] no different than before, and I didn’t get any call from [agent] Page Odle asking me why we did that,” Cashman said. “He knew we were doing that. It sounds like there’s some sort of underground current that I’m unaware of because it keeps coming up.”
2) Running it back
Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner recently said that he considers Boone “a very good manager” and does not see reason for a change. According to Cashman, Steinbrenner has also expressed interest in extending Cashman’s contract, which expired on Oct. 31. Cashman will continue as GM, a role he has held since February 1998, on a handshake agreement until a deal is reached.
“Of course, I’d like to stay, but we have not had any further discussions on that,” Cashman said. “I’m dealing with a lot of other employment stuff with other people. All in due time. We’ll see how that plays out.”
Asked about Boone’s performance this past season, Cashman said that Boone “did a great job,” lauding his demeanor and rapport with players. Boone steered the Yanks to a 99-63 record in 2022 and is 427-281 (.603) in his five years at the helm, though he has been unable to win a pennant. The ALCS sweep was disappointing after the club won 61 of its first 84 games.
“Ultimately, I want to win a championship,” Boone said. “I don’t think there’s a better place to come and try to realize that because that is the mindset and the focus each and every year. I’m grateful to be a part of that.”
3) Twins trade revisited
Cashman shook up the left side of the infield in March by acquiring shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and third baseman Josh Donaldson from the Twins, along with catcher Ben Rortvedt, in exchange for catcher Gary Sánchez and third baseman Gio Urshela.
Though the Yankees continue to point to internal metrics that show Kiner-Falefa as one of the game’s top defensive shortstops and believe Donaldson should have been a Gold Glove finalist, neither player contributed much during the postseason run.
Kiner-Falefa was benched during the ALDS, and Donaldson was a target of fans’ jeers. Boone has said that Donaldson “absolutely” remains in line to be the third baseman in 2023, while Kiner-Falefa could compete against rookie Oswald Peraza and top prospect Anthony Volpe to win a starting role.
“I think Kiner[-Falefa] was along the lines of what we expected, and in Josh’s case, he’s both an elite defender and a typically high-end offensive player,” Cashman said. “His offense this year struggled, for whatever reason. That was the acknowledgment there, that his offense wasn’t as good as it normally is. It doesn’t mean it can’t return.”
4) Organizational wish list
As the Yankees conduct their pro scouting meetings, first reviewing their players internally and then expanding to the free agent and trade markets, one important call has already been made. Cashman confirmed Friday that the Yankees will exercise their $15 million option on right-hander Luis Severino, with the GM calling it “an easy decision.”
First baseman Anthony Rizzo can opt out of a $16 million paycheck for next season to test free agency; Cashman said the Yankees would like to retain Rizzo and will remain engaged. The Yanks also plan to engage with outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who is set to wade into free agency after a hand injury kept him out of the playoffs.
5) Houston problems
Cashman said that he’d considered the Yankees to be an underdog going into the ALCS against the Astros, and he wasn’t alone, considering New York finished its season with a 38-40 record after July 9 and needed five games to dispatch the Guardians in a tougher-than-expected AL Division Series.
Yet unlike the 2017 and ’19 ALCS losses to Houston (stinging defeats of seven and six games, respectively), this year’s showdown never felt particularly close. Cashman wonders how different the series might have been if DJ LeMahieu, Matt Carpenter and Benintendi were healthy, but the Astros are clearly where the Yankees aspire to be.
“Back to the drawing board,” Cashman said. “Even though we have fallen short against Houston, it’s obviously any of the [teams] that are standing in our way between us and winning a World Series. We’ve got to improve ourselves and give ourselves the best shot.”