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2020 vision: How Yanks' OD roster could look

@BryanHoch
January 15, 2020

When Gerrit Cole’s signature swirled across a historic contract that guaranteed the right-handed ace a staggering $324 million over the next nine years, the Yankees’ expectations for the life of that agreement were instantly defined. It is World Series or bust for the Bombers, a proclamation that managing general partner

When Gerrit Cole’s signature swirled across a historic contract that guaranteed the right-handed ace a staggering $324 million over the next nine years, the Yankees’ expectations for the life of that agreement were instantly defined.

It is World Series or bust for the Bombers, a proclamation that managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner acknowledged by stating that he expects to celebrate multiple World Series championships as a result of the landmark deal.

After the Yanks saw their season end in the American League Championship Series twice over the past three years, manager Aaron Boone believes that Cole’s addition puts the franchise over the top in their mission to roll through the Canyon of Heroes.

“We certainly hope so,” Boone said. “We feel like we've been incredibly close now for the last few years, and we've added one of the best players in the game to the mix. So that'll certainly be the goal and that'll be the expectation. We welcome that expectation.”

Here’s an updated look at what the Yankees’ roster could look like come Opening Day, keeping in mind that rosters will expand from 25 to 26 players this year.

Catcher
Lock: Gary Sánchez
Possibilities: Kyle Higashioka, Chris Iannetta, Erik Kratz

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has repeatedly pushed his chips in on Sánchez, proclaiming that “Gary is part of the solution” while lauding his offensive capability and defensive game-calling. Sánchez was slowed by left calf and left groin injuries last season. Backup duties appear likely to be credited to Higashioka, who turns 30 in April and is out of Minor League options, though the Yanks have signed veteran challengers in Iannetta and Kratz.

First base
Lock: Luke Voit
Possibilities: Mike Ford, DJ LeMahieu

The Yankees are counting on Voit to return to his pre-injury form following offseason surgery to correct a sports hernia. From Opening Day through Voit’s June 29 injury during the London Series, he compiled a .901 OPS with 17 homers and 50 RBIs in 78 games. After that date, Voit posted a .715 OPS with four homers and 12 RBIs in 40 games, then did not play in the postseason. Ford’s left-handed power bat provides an enticing option for a lineup that is decidedly heavy on righties.

Second base
Lock: LeMahieu
Possibilities:
Thairo Estrada, Tyler Wade

Anointed as the Yankees’ 2019 MVP by Boone and others, LeMahieu appears primed to handle everyday duty at second base, where he was a three-time National League Gold Glove Award winner (2014, ’17, ’18) with the Rockies. The Yanks utilized LeMahieu at three positions last season, including 75 games (66 starts) at second base. Estrada and Wade each provide versatile infield backups.

Shortstop
Lock: Gleyber Torres
Possibilities: Estrada, Wade, free agent/trade

The Yankees did not make much of an effort to retain Didi Gregorius, who signed instead with Joe Girardi’s Phillies. Now they appear primed to bank on Torres, who advanced through the Minors as a shortstop and played the position extensively in the first half of last season. Torres’ glovework and range will be areas of focus during the spring, but his impact bat promises to be a difference-maker.

Third base
Lock: Gio Urshela
Possibilities: Miguel Andújar, Estrada, LeMahieu

Urshela was arguably the best investment made by any team last season, having been purchased from the Blue Jays for approximately $25,000. The Yanks envisioned him as an above-average defender who could swing the bat a bit; Urshela proved to be much more, and Cashman has said that the job is his to lose. Andújar will enter the spring looking for at-bats at third base, first base and possibly left field.

Outfield
Locks: Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton
Possibilities: Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, Wade

With Aaron Hicks’ recovery from Tommy John surgery expected to delay his season debut until at least June, Gardner will begin the year as the starting center fielder, with Judge entrenched in right field. Stanton should start on at least a semi-regular basis in left field, though Tauchman’s ability to play all three positions offers flexibility. If Frazier is not traded, he projects to report to Spring Training competing for reps in the outfield corners, and he could open the year at Triple-A.

Starting pitchers
Locks: Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, Luis Severino
Possibilities: Deivi Garcia, J.A. Happ, Michael King, Jonathan Loaisiga, Jordan Montgomery, Nick Nelson, free agent/trade

Cole’s addition provides a formidable top four in the rotation, with the makings of an entertaining competition for the No. 5 spot. Happ was being shopped during the Winter Meetings, though his $17 million salary provides a stumbling block for a trade. It’s possible that Happ could hang around into the spring and perhaps even the regular season. If not, a younger group of hurlers would figure to get looks. Further down the line, Domingo Germán is scheduled to return from suspension in the first week of June.

Relievers
Locks: Zack Britton, Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino
Possibilities: Albert Abreu, Luis Cessa, Ben Heller, Jonathan Holder, Brooks Kriske, Loaisiga, free agent/trade

New York’s power bullpen was viewed as one of its greatest strengths last season, a quality that the Yankees believe they’ll maintain with AL Reliever of the Year Chapman forgoing his opt-out and adding another year to his contract. Even without a significant addition (there was rumored interest in the Brewers’ Josh Hader, though that chatter has quieted), Boone figures to have a clear road map from the middle innings to the ninth.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.