This season marked the 13th year without a 28th championship for the New York Yankees. Despite an ALCS appearance, their success is measured by whether the Yankees win the World Series, and losing to the Houston Astros for the third time in six years certainly leaves a bitter taste. With a roster that has many holes, and a series of important decisions to make - most notably re-signing Aaron Judge - it's time the Yankees build a roster with reliable long term players.
Championship teams in baseball are constructed of guys who are already, or will be foundational pieces for years to come. The Yankees once appeared to have a true core of homegrown players, and big names such as Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole were supposed to be the final piece. Even though those "final pieces" have played exceptionally well, the Yankees as a team have shifted their roster more than expected. This year's team had too many stopgap players and while it may have resulted in regular season success, it's certainly not a way to win in the postseason.
One way the Yankees have always looked to make major upgrades has come through free agency. Although Yankees are known to spend millions each year, they recently have not been as active on the market compared to previous years. If there's a good time to live up to their reputation, this offseason is the perfect time.
For this year's free agency, the Yankees have to be active and while re-signing Anthony Rizzo is a good start, bringing back Aaron Judge is their biggest priority. Fresh off an A.L. record 62 home runs along with his first MVP award, it's imperative the Yankees bring him back considering how he was their only consistent performer. Another player they should resign is left fielder Andrew Benintendi who gives them an additional lefty that's a contact hitter as well as a solid fielder.
As for acquiring players, the Yankees will have a bevy of talented shortstops who are all the primes of their career. Although there are plenty of big names, Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson should really be the top of their list. Besides the fact that both of them have gotten significantly better over the years and won a World Series, they're both in their late 20s. Signing one of them would stabilize one of the most important infield positions for years to come.
While the idea of constructing a winning roster through free agency is always appealing, the most recent teams to win the World Series have had a healthy portion of homegrown talent. But other than Aaron Judge, the Yankees' roster doesn't feature many players from their farm system. However, they have a few intriguing players worth fully investing in.
One player that deserves more playing time is Oswaldo Cabrera. He was called up in mid-August and would slowly play his way into becoming a consistent starter through his stellar play in the field. His hitting is still a work in progress but that should change once he gets more experience. Although he's capable of playing plenty of positions, Cabrera should be the third baseman given that Josh Donaldson turned out to be a major disappointment.
In addition, the Yankees have two infielders who could make an impact in Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza. Although they both play shortstop, the Yankees should give one of these guys a legitimate shot whether it's Volpe, Peraza, or both of them. They could do this by passing up on some of the shortstops on the market. But the best case scenario is to trade Gleyber Torres to make room at second for either Volpe or Peraza once the Yankees do sign a shortstop.
What allowed the Yankees to have their last dynasty is that they had a sustainable nucleus of players that led the way each year. With the perfect mix of draft picks and free agent signings, the Yankees roster was able to stay intact. If the Yankees want to replicate that success, they must make moves that will give them a foundation along with some direction.
With the Yankees' season ending in the hands of the Houston Astros yet again, all eyes will focus on Aaron Judge's looming decision in free agency. After rejecting a $213 million offer before the season, Judge significantly raised his value by hitting an A.L. record 62 home runs, while knocking in 131 runs. As for the Yankees, they looked like World Series favorites going into the all-star break, but after another postseason disappointment, re-signing Judge may not be so certain. Regardless of where he signs, and for how much, Judge is already a winner of free agency.
There is still a strong possibility of him returning to the Yankees. Although he's only been on the team for six years, Judge has easily been the best player to wear pinstripes after Derek Jeter. He is a homegrown player who has represented the organization as well as anybody could for the last six years. Since Judge's rookie year, the Yankees have never missed the playoffs. Re-signing Judge would make him a Yankee for life which is a very good honor for any ballplayer. With Judge on the roster, the Yankees will certainly be playoff contenders every year. Whether he wins a World Series or not, 99 will certainly be retired someday by the organization.
However, it's worth wondering if Judge would really want to continue playing for an organization that has constantly came up short time and time again. From the team's second half slump to their playoff collapse, Judge has every right to question whether it's worth staying with a franchise that seems to be more known for their disappointment rather than their success as of late.
In this postseason, Judge might've slumped at the worst time, but he wasn't the one who couldn't convert a potential double play in an elimination game. He didn't choose to take Gerrit Cole out of the game when he was still at 95 pitches. He also wasn't the one who assembled a roster that consisted of guys who are viewed as "stopgap" players. As for the fans, Judge has every right to question whether he wants to play for a fanbase that shockingly booed him during the playoffs.
Going elsewhere would be a fresh start, and maybe even a homecoming for Judge if he signs with the hometown San Fransisco Giants who are rumored to have interest. Whereas the Yankees always seem to be stubborn in their approach towards winning, Judge may have a better chance of winning if he signs with a team that's willing to adapt year in and year out.
I think another year without a championship definitely complicates Judge's status as a Yankee. If there's anything their front office is good at, it's resigning players in free agency. However, the Yankees have thrown Judge under the bus at times, and that could haunt them this offseason. Fans should at least prepare for possibility of seeing number 99 in new threads.