Where Yankees stand ahead of 2022 season

March 13th, 2022

After their most recent postseason drive lasted only one evening, the Yankees enter 2022 with a tall task ahead to fulfill their “championship-caliber” expectations in a hyper-competitive American League East.

Though part of the Yankees’ optimism for ’22 rests upon bounceback years from contributors like  and , there is the possibility of a big move around the corner -- remember, we still don’t know who the Bombers’ Opening Day shortstop will be.

The Yanks were mostly quiet before the lockout. It is believed that managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner preferred to wait until the Collective Bargaining Agreement was resolved -- thus clearing up any potential Competitive Balance Tax consequences -- before making significant long-term commitments.

“We’re always trying to shore up our depth to create opportunities and make sure that we’re protected,” general manager Brian Cashman said earlier this offseason. “Our jobs are to put the best front line on the field and have people behind those people ready to go, because it’s a long season.”

What deals are already done?
The Yanks re-signed left-handed reliever  to a one-year, $2 million contract in November. Acquired from the Rangers in the midseason Joey Gallo trade, Rodríguez was 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in 21 appearances for New York down the stretch.

What is the biggest remaining need, and who might they target?
Shortstop, shortstop, shortstop. Cashman said as much at the GM Meetings in November. The Yanks ended the Torres experiment in September and intend to move back to third base, making it likely that the Opening Day shortstop is not currently in the organization.

Carlos Correa is the cream of the free-agent crop, but there is doubt that the Yanks have an appetite to top the 10-year, $325 million pact that Corey Seager landed with the Rangers. Correa also brings the stain of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, a topic on which many Yankees players have voiced strong opinions.

Trevor Story, another top free agent who remains on the board, has drawn trade interest from the Yankees in the past. However, there was buzz at last year’s Deadline that the Yanks had soured somewhat on Story.

If the Yankees do not spend big, they may look to a stopgap solution, considering they have two viable shortstops nearing the big leagues in prospects Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe. Those two could be Major League-ready as soon as 2023.

What else might the Yankees try to do?
New York showed trade interest in A’s first baseman Matt Olson earlier this offseason, though they were reluctant to meet Oakland’s request to include Peraza and/or Volpe in a deal. Though first baseman  remains under team control, just one year removed from leading the Majors in homers during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, the Yanks appear to be willing to move on. Industry insiders seem to believe that free agent Freddie Freeman will return to the Braves, but don’t bet against the Yankees swooping in.

It’s notable that the Yankees made a one-year, $25 million offer to right-hander Justin Verlander, who instead returned to the Astros. They have money to spend. A potential contract extension for Aaron Judge is also on the horizon.

Which players have moved on to new organizations?
There was a flurry of roster activity in November that relocated several members of the 2021 Yankees, including: Greg Allen (Pirates), Clint Frazier (Cubs), Chris Gittens (Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles), Tim Locastro (Red Sox), Nick Nelson (Phillies), Andrew Velazquez (Angels), Rougned Odor (Orioles), Corey Kluber (Rays) and Tyler Wade (Angels).

Might there be a reunion with any of their remaining free agents?
Yes. Anthony Rizzo has expressed a desire to return, which could help solidify the team’s outlook at first base. Outfielder Brett Gardner also informed the Yankees that he intends to play in 2022, though there had not been any negotiations with the club as of late November.

Are there any players they are looking to trade?
Voit and infielder/outfielder  are probably the most likely trade candidates on the Yanks’ 40-man roster. Voit has supplied power and clubhouse presence since joining the club in 2018, but he was limited to just 68 games last season due to injuries. Andújar has had difficulty getting back on track since an impressive 2018 campaign in which he finished second to the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani for the AL Rookie of the Year Award.

What outstanding arbitration cases are on the docket?
The biggest ticket item is Judge, who earned $10.175 million last year while leading the club in runs (89), doubles (24), homers (39), RBIs (98) and all three slash-line categories (.287/.373/.544). This is Judge’s final year of arbitration, with the slugger eligible for free agency after 2022. Discussion of a big-dollar contract extension seems likely.

Gallo, Chad Green, Jordan Montgomery, Wandy Peralta, Jameson Taillon, and Gary Sánchez are also in their third year of arbitration. Other arb-eligibles include Andújar, Domingo Germán, Kyle Higashioka, Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loáisiga, Torres and Voit.

How many open spots are there on the 40-man roster?
The Yanks’ roster is at 39 -- just enough space for a shortstop. In November, they added shortstop Oswaldo Cabrera, right-hander Ron Marinaccio, outfielder Everson Pereira, left-hander J.P. Sears, right-hander Stephen Ridings and catcher Donny Sands to the roster, thus protecting them from the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft.