Heading into the offseason, the Yankees knew they had to close the gap between the rival Red Sox in the AL East. After all, the Red Sox won 108 games and a World Series championship and beat the Yankees in four games in the ALDS. Many envisioned that a signing of Manny Machado would need to take place for that gap to close, but that’s no longer the case. Due to some smart additions, the Yankees have clearly upgraded a team that won 100 games last season, while the Red Sox have only gotten worse. Not only has the gap closed with Boston, but the Yankees may now be the best team in all of baseball, and I’m not sure it’s even close.
So far this offseason, the Yankees have made five key additions/re-signings: starting pitchers James Paxton (Trade SEA) and JA Happ (Resigned), relievers Zach Britton (Resigned) and Adam Ottavino (FA), and second baseman DJ LeMahieu. The Wins Above Replacement (WAR) between those five played was 12.6, and that was with Britton pitching a half a season. Subtract the 5.2 WAR being lost by Gregarious’ injury and reliever David Robertson leaving via free agency, and that’s 7.4 wins added by New York this offseason. Considering they lost the division to Boston by eight games, that’s huge. Plus, the upside with those five players is tremendous. Paxton has the stuff of an ace, Ottavino and Britton have closer upside, and LeMahieu could be a twenty home run/gold glove second baseman for the Yankees. With these additions, New York has replaced Gregarious, shored up the rotation, and established a lethal bullpen. It’s very hard to see a weakness in this team, and that’s thanks to what has been a very productive offseason for the Bronx Bombers and general manager Brian Cashman.
It’s not just what the Yankees have added that makes them so dangerous, it’s what they already have. New York already had an impressive lineup led by superstar Aaron Judge, a front-line starter in Luis Severino, and three outstanding relievers in Chad Green, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman. Judge played in just 112 games after suffering a broken wrist, while catcher Gary Sanchez and starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka missed a significant amount of time due to injuries as well. Despite this, they won 100 games, which is unheard of. Even more concerning for the rest of baseball is the possibility of a Sanchez bounce-back season. The 26-year-old had an OPS of just .697, and if his batting average balls in play of just .197 goes back to where it should be, that OPS should be closer to what it was in 2017 (.876). Let’s rephrase that. The Yankees won 100 games last season, have gotten better, will have their star player healthy, and their catcher will likely regain his All Star form? That’s simply outrageous, and the other 29 teams, especially the Red Sox need to be on notice immediately.
Let’s start with their lineup, which will look something like this:
Brett Gardner LF
Aaron Judge RF
Aaron Hicks CF
Giancarlo Stanton DH
Gary Sanchez C
Luke Voit 1B
Gleyber Torres SS
Miguel Andujar 3B
DJ LeMahieu 2B
Is there something I’m missing here, or does New York clearly have one of the best lineups in baseball? They’ll out-slug you, and every hitter #1-9 is a threat. That puts an incredible amount of pressure on opposing pitchers, especially in games at the hitters friendly Yankee Stadium, and when that happens, game over.
Now let’s look at their rotation, considered a weakness last season:
All five of these pitchers posted ERAs below 4.00, and the top four can be counted on to do so again. There’s always concern for Sabathia, considering he is 38-years-old, but he’s an excellent option as a #5 starter. This “weakness” now looks to be a top ten, maybe top five rotation in all of baseball.
Finally, let’s look at the back-end of their bullpen, which opposing hitters will soon have nightmares about.
Outside of Britton, who posted a 3.10 ERA in half a season, all five of these relievers posted ERAs under 3.00. Furthermore, all five of these relievers could be closers for opposing clubs, including the Red Sox, and to have that many dominant options out of the bullpen is unheard of. Green can now be utilized in a multi-inning role, and starters really only need to go 5 innings maximum to put their team in an excellent position to win, especially in the postseason. That takes the pressure off of what is an outstanding rotation, and better results will come as a direct result. This bullpen has a legitimate chance to be the greatest of all times, and as the Royals proved in 2015, having so many quality relievers could be the key towards a World Series championship.
As the Yankees have added, the rest of the American League has gotten worse. The Red Sox will likely let closer Craig Kimbrel leave via free agency due to salary issues, and will likely call upon Matt Barnes or Ryan Brasier to pitch the 9th inning, which is not ideal to say the least. Meanwhile, the Astros look to have lost starter Dallas Keuchel via free agency and already lost Charlie Morton, meaning they don’t have any proven starters after Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. At this point, the Indians aren’t even close to being a threat after trading Yan Gomes and letting Andrew Miller and Cody Allen leave via free agency. As things stand, they currently have arguably the league’s worst outfield, catching duos, and one of the league’s worst bullpen. Heck, they may not even win their own division. The A’s, who played New York in the wildcard game last season, currently have a rotation led by Mike Fiers, while the Rays still have several issues in the bullpen and lack power in their lineup after missing out on Nelson Cruz. All of these teams have glaring weaknesses, while the Yankees don’t even have one. It’s not even close, they’re the best team in the American League.
In the National League, the reigning NL champion Dodgers have done little to upgrade their team while shipping Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Reds and losing catcher Yasmani Grandal to the Brewers, who still don’t have enough of a rotation to once again be a legitimate World Series contender. The Cubs, strapped with financial issues, have a weak bullpen and holes in their lineup, while the Cardinals are faced with uncertainty in the bullpen and back-end of their lineup. In the NL East, the Nationals have made some impressive moves, but could lose Bryce Harper in free agency and have a glaring hole in their bullpen. Meanwhile, the Braves have an unproven pitching staff, the Phillies still haven’t made enough moves to contend, and the Mets are without a doubt little brother in New York despite general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s efforts. It’s closer than in the American League, but I don’t see a team close to the Yankees right now in the National League, and that makes them easily the best team in baseball.
The Yankees won 100 games last season, have fixed all their glaring holes this offseason, will get Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez for a full season, while other competitors have stayed put or gotten worse. Even if moves are made to respond to New York’s moves, none can be made that can take away the Yankees’ title as the most talented team in baseball. So while the Red Sox will continue to celebrate their World Series championship, the Yankees likely will turn that celebration into reflection very soon. Look at baseball, the Bronx Bombers are not only back, but they should be considered the easy World Series favorite at the moment.