MLB Season Preview: New York Yankees

Last season Recap:

Going into the 2017 season, the Yankees had modest expectations for the first time in a long time. Fresh off a 2016 where they dumped most of their to contenders in an effort that created one of the best farm systems in baseball, the Bronx Bombers were not expected contend for anything.

However, someone forgot to tell that to the actual team who put together a postseason run that fell just one win short of a World Series appearance and a comeback from being down 2-0 in the ALDS.

Once the front office realized that this Yankees team was ready to win now, the team shifted from rebuilding to contending and has made the moves over the offseason to prepare New York to be competitors in 2018.

Offseason Changes:

The Yankees started off the 2017-18 offseason with a bang by firing Joe Girardi, the manager of the team since 2008.

Many people saw this as the Yankees trying to get a new voice in the clubhouse as after ten years, a coach’s message can become repetitive. However after Girardi reached the ALCS with a team that was expected to miss the playoffs it was certainly a surprising move.

Although perhaps the even more surprising move was Aaron Boone, a one time hero for the Yankees with no previous managing experience, was hired to replace Girardi.

After changing skippers, the Yankees continued to shock the baseball world by acquiring reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton. The outfielder was dealt to the Yankees for infielders Starlin Castro, Jose Devers and pitcher Jorge Guzman.

After these big splashes, New York had a relatively quiet offseason before the addition of infielder Brandon Drury at the start of Spring Training.

The former Diamondback  was acquired in a three team deal that had the Yankees give up pitcher Taylor Widener (to the Diamondbacks) and infielder Nick Solak (to the Rays).

2018 Outlook:

These moves, along with keeping much of the 2017 team together heading into the new season bodes well for the Yankees who will be counting on their big bats to win many ball games.

The Yankees can also count on their farm system bringing up more impact players, as Miguel Andujar and Billy McKinney have been red hot this spring, are forcing their way into the 25 man roster conversation.

One thing the Yankees must be wary of is the strikeout as Judge, Stanton and Sanchez combined for 484 punchouts last season.

While the pure power from these hitters could leave pitchers in a daze, a slump from even just two of the three sluggers could have very negative effects on New York’s offense.

In 2017, the Yankees had a top five bullpen in the MLB over the regular season with a 3.34 ERA ranking third among all teams.

The bullpen has become a strength over recent years, under the tutelage of pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who has elected to stay with the team despite the manager change from Joe Girardi.

Look for the Yankees to use their bullpen, as they have in previous years, to cover up for their less than stellar starting staff.

Prediction:

On paper the Yankees are a top five, arguably top three, team in baseball as many of their players are expected to produce either the same or better numbers than the year prior.

However there is a reason why they play the games and many things but there aren’t too many variables, outside a complete collapse or awful luck with the injury bug, that will keep the Yankees out of the playoffs this year.

In the end the Yankees will fight tooth and nail with the Red Sox for the division crown and in the end, win the AL East by one or two games.

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When in the postseason, New York will again make it to the ALCS but this time win the pennant and represent the American League in the World Series.

Once there, the Yankees have all the tools the win and barring slumps from Sanchez, Judge and Stanton, they will win title number 28.

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Diamondbacks acquire Steven Souza Jr. in three-team trade

The Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays pulled off a big three-team trade Tuesday afternoon. FanRag Sports’ Robert Murray first reported a trade between the Rays and Yankees, and FRS’ Jon Heyman later reported the Diamondbacks were also a part of the deal.

The Rays acquired left-handed pitcher Anthony Banda from Arizona and second-base prospect Nick Solak from New York. Arizona landed Steven Souza Jr. from Tampa Bay and the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury from the Diamondbacks.

The trade is the latest in a theme of Florida fire sales, as it seems the Rays are following in the footsteps of the Miami Marlins.

Anthony Banda, Arizona’s No. 4 overall prospect last season according to MLB Pipeline, struggled in the time he spent in the minor and major leagues last year. With Triple-A Reno, he recorded a 8-7 record with a 5.39 ERA in 22 games. He struck out 116 batters and had a WHIP of 1.40. During his abbreviated stint with the Diamondbacks, Banda appeared in eight games, starting four, and had a 2-3 record with a 5.96 ERA. He will try to improve upon those numbers in Tampa Bay next season as he will join a rotation under the leadership of ace right-handed pitcher Chris Archer.

The acquisition of Souza Jr. appears to be the Diamondbacks’ backup plan after free-agent slugger J.D. Martinez signed a five-year/$110 million contract with the Boston Red Sox. Last season, he slashed .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs and 78 RBIs. He will be a cheaper option for the Diamondbacks than Martinez, and Arizona can expect the same production from Souza Jr. as well. Martinez had a 4.1 WAR last season, compared to Souza Jr.’s 4.2.

Brandon Drury, just 24 years old, had a solid season in the desert last year. He slashed .267/.317/.447 with 13 home runs and 63 RBIs. He had a park-adjusted OPS+ of 89, below league average, and posted a 1.6 WAR. After the departure of Chase Headley and Todd Frazier, the trade gives the Yankees more flexibility and control at third base, as well as the middle of their infield. This move also means that Ketel Marte will likely assume a full-time position at second base in Drury’s absence.

Nick Solak, the Yankees’ No. 8 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, will give the Rays more infield depth after franchise cornerstone third baseman Evan Longoria signed with the San Francisco Giants earlier this offseason. Solak, a career second baseman, split the 2017 season in Class-A Advanced Tampa and Double-A Trenton. He hit .297/.384/.452 with 12 home runs and 53 RBIs in his second professional season.

Look for the Rays to continue their teardown throughout the rest of the offseason and into the start of spring training, as they still have valuable trade chips in center fielder Kevin Keirmeier and starting pitcher Chris Archer.