The New York Yankees came into the offseason needing to do something to improve their lineup and re-energize their fan base, and that something is Juan Soto. The Yankees landed the three-time All-Star in a seven-player trade with the San Diego Padres at the Winter Meetings on Wednesday. Righties Michael King and Drew Thorpe are the principals going to San Diego.
Earlier in the week the Yankees added Alex Verdugo in a four-player trade with the rival Boston Red Sox. In the span of two days, the Yankees added two left-handed hitting outfielders to a team that ranked 29th in plate appearances by lefties in 2023. Upgrading the offense was an absolute must this winter and the Yankees accomplished that at the Winter Meetings.
Soto and Verdugo (and Trent Grisham) are a good start to the offseason for the Yankees but they should not be the offseason. They went 82-80 in 2023 and their run differential (minus-25) suggests their true talent level was a few wins south of that. Spring training is still more than two months away and there are more moves that can (and should) be made to further improve the roster.
With that in mind, here’s what’s next for the Yankees this offseason. These are three things they should do before Soto & Co. report to the team’s spring training complex in Tampa in February.
1. Add a starter
Truth be told, the Yankees needed a starter even before parting with King to get Soto. The Yankees start their rotation with Gerrit Cole, the unanimous AL Cy Young winner, so that puts them ahead of the game right out of the gate. The folks behind Cole come with questions, however. This is New York’s current rotation depth chart:
- RHP Gerrit Cole
- LHP Carlos Rodón (injured and ineffective in 2023)
- LHP Nestor Cortes (coming back from two rotator cuff injuries)
- RHP Clarke Schmidt (set a new career high by 66 1/3 innings in 2023)
- RHP Luis Gil (returning from Tommy John surgery)
- RHP Clayton Beeter (4.94 ERA in Triple-A in 2023)
At minimum, the Yankees need a reliable innings guy just to give them, well, innings. Really though, the Yankees should aim higher — much higher — than that. They just traded a significant package for one year of Soto, Cole turned 33 in September, and Aaron Judge turns 32 in April. If there were ever a year to go all-in, this is it, right?
Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto is the top pitching prize this offseason and he would help the Yankees in 2024, and also well into the future because he’s only 25. Yamamoto has a chance to pitch at or near the front of a rotation and pitchers this good and this young rarely become available for just money. He’s the kind of player the Yankees should always pursue.
The Yankees are said to have interest in a reunion with Jordan Montgomery, who, if nothing else, the Yankees know would have a seamless transition into the organization. A reunion with Frankie Montas on a one-year “prove yourself” contract has been floated, though Montas missed just about the entire 2023 season with shoulder surgery. He would be another question for the rotation.
Even after parting with so much young pitching to get Soto and Verdugo, the Yankees do have trade chips remaining, namely shortstop Oswald Peraza and outfield prospect Everson Pereira. Peraza is not going to unseat Anthony Volpe at shortstop and does not have a clear path to playing time otherwise. Pereira is expendable given the current outfield situation.
The top names on the trade market include Shane Bieber, Corbin Burnes, Dylan Cease, and Tyler Glasnow. All but Cease are rentals. For our purposes, the what is more important than the who, and the what is a starting pitcher. The Yankees need one after parting with King to get Soto, maybe even two. Yamamoto would be ideal, though the Yankees of course need backup plans.
2. Replenish pitching depth
To get Soto and Verdugo, and the Yankees parted with a lot — a lot — of pitching depth. Cheap young upper level pitching depth was an organizational strength and the Yankees used it to get the bats they need. Now they have to backfill their pitching reserves and make sure they have enough arms to get through the season. Here’s what the Yankees parted with to get Soto and Verdugo:
- RHP Jhony Brito: No. 5 starter/swingman candidate
- RHP Richard Fitts: Projected to begin 2024 in Triple-A and debut sometime next summer
- RHP Michael King: Potentially a very good starter, at worse a lockdown reliever
- RHP Drew Thorpe: Quick moving Double-A starter with a chance to debut next summer
- RHP Randy Vásquez: No. 5 starter/swingman candidate
- RHP Greg Weissert: Up and down depth reliever
The Yankees also lost righties Mitch Spence and Matt Sauer in Wednesday’s Rule 5 Draft. Spence led the minors in innings in 2023. Fitts was third. That’s an awful lot of upper level depth out the door in a short period of time. Fortunately, spring training is still two months away, and the Yankees have plenty of time to replenish their pitching reserves.
Cashman & Co. have five open 40-man roster spots after the Soto trade, which is a ton at this point in the offseason. That will allow them to be active on waivers and also sign non-tendered pitchers with minor league options (Dakota Hudson?) to major league contracts, and stash them in Triple-A. There are a lot of innings to cover each season. The Yankees need warm bodies to help cover them in 2024.
3. Shop Grisham
Along with Soto, the Yankees added Grisham, who is an outstanding defensive center fielder though not much of a hitter these days. The 27-year-old slashed .191/.300/.347 in over 1,000 plate appearances the last two years, in part because he is extremely passive. Grisham has some of the lowest swing rates in the game and frequently lets hittable pitches pass by.
That passivity is not a reason to see whether there’s an opportunity to flip Grisham elsewhere, however. Grisham is a left-handed hitter, like Soto and also like Verdugo. That’s fine, the Yankees need lefties, though they would have a more functional roster with a righty hitting fourth outfielder who can go get it in center and spell Verdugo against tough lefties. Someone like, say, former Yankee Harrison Bader, though Bader will surely seek more playing time as a free agent this offseason.
Point is, there’s no harm in looking around and seeing whether there’s a Grisham for a pitcher trade to be made, and then finding a righty hitting fourth outfielder for the bench. The Minnesota Twins, the San Francisco Giants, and even the AL East rival Toronto Blue Jays stand out as clubs that could use an excellent defensive center fielder like Grisham. There’s no harm in looking around. Might as well see what the market drums up for Grisham.