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The Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman have been quiet during free agency, instead focusing on bringing guys back.
Cashman did just that on Tuesday, notably tendering the contracts of outfielders Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo, third baseman Gio Urshela, catcher Gary Sanchez and first baseman Luke Voit. With that, the core of the Yankees’ 92-70 team that was eliminated in the Wild Card game by the Red Sox remains intact.
The Gary Sanchez issue
Most surprising of the tendered contracts are the latter names on the list. Sanchez, 28, has become an enigma in New York. While his defense has never been his calling card, his offense has dipped in recent years. The last two seasons saw Sanchez hit a combined .187 at the dish with 33 HRs and 78 RBIs. His OBP dipped below .300, with his OPS sitting at .698.
However, Cashman still gave Sanchez a raise. After making $6.35 million in 2021, Sanchez will make $8 million in 2022 to be behind the plate. Heading into the offseason, Cashman had said he would evaluate the free agent market at catcher before deciding to bring Sanchez back. He apparently didn’t find an upgrade, meaning Sanchez returns.
Other teams have upgraded at catcher via trade in the past few days. The Marlins acquired Jacob Stallings from the Pirates, one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. The Padres, meanwhile, traded cash considerations or a player to be named later to the Marlins for Jorge Alfaro.
Sanchez often played second fiddle to backup catcher Kyle Higashioka in big games. Higashioka is favored by ace Gerrit Cole, as such was the case in the Wild Card loss.
Luke Voit returns
Voit, meanwhile, is an interesting case for the Yankees. Acquired in 2018 from the Cardinals, Voit shined down the stretch of that season. In a 39-game sample, Voit hit 14 HRs with 33 RBIs while hitting .333. Voit earned the starting job for the 2019 season, but was at his best in the COVID-shortened 60-game season.
Voit, 30, paced the MLB with 22 homers, driving in 52 runs. Heading into the 2021 season, Voit was expected to blossom into one of the best first basemen in the game. Then, the injury bug hit. Voit underwent knee surgery before the season began and was out until May. He returned but was nothing like the player that broke out in previous years. His season came to an end when he developed left knee discomfort.
His batting average dropped from .277 to .239, while his .OPS plummeted from .948 to .764. With New York’s season slipping away, Cashman made a splash. At the MLB trade deadline in July, Cashman traded two prospects to the Cubs for first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo had stretches of success in pinstripes, hitting eight HRs in 49 games.
Rizzo, now a free agent, remains available for a return. Will the Yankees go with a platoon at first base? They likely would have to if both return, as Giancarlo Stanton will see most of his time as the designated hitter.
Will the Yankees sign a shortstop?
It’s no secret the Yankees are in the market for a shortstop. Good thing for them, the free agent class of shortstops is loaded. Or was.
The big fish was Corey Seager. The 2020 World Series MVP with the Dodgers was rumored to be in play for the Yankees, but he looked elsewhere. Seager, 27, signed a massive 10-year, $325 million contract with the Rangers on Monday, taking him off the market.
Javier Baez then signed a six-year, $140 million contract with the Tigers on Tuesday. With a lockout looming at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, the clock is ticking on the Yankees. Free agents are not allowed to sign deals with teams until a new CBA is signed. New York could wait till after, but two big names remain: Carlos Correa and Trevor Story.
Correa, the former Astro, is looking for a deal that’s comparable to Seager’s and the Mets’ Francisco Lindor. Correa, 27, had a career season in 2021 during the last year of his contract with the Astros. He hit a career high 26 homers while making his second All-Star team.
Story, on the other hand, saw his numbers drop in 2021 with the Rockies. Story, 29, had his lowest BA, OBP, SLG and OPS since 2017. Both would represent upgrades over Gleyber Torres, who struggled all season long at shortstop. Torres, 24, hit 38 HRs in his last full season in 2019. In 2021, he hit just nine. Defensively, Torres recorded 18 errors, sixth most in the MLB.
While the Yankees remain quiet, the teams around them continue to upgrade. The Blue Jays made a splash with the signing of RHP Kevin Gausman, while the Mariners got better with the addition of the 2021 AL Cy Young, LHP Robbie Ray.
Both teams finished just shy of the postseason in favor of the Yankees but have sent clear signs that they’re ready to pass them.