By: Michael Porter
Part 1: New York Yankees
While the New York Mets and Yankees are coming off of very different seasons, both of these ball clubs have some serious questions to answer before the start of the 2020 season.
The Yankees, while dominant, battled the injured list all season long as injuries derailed the seasons of staff ace Luis Severino as well as outfielders Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks. Additionally, star catcher Gary Sanchez missed time with various injuries as did shortstop and pending free agent Didi Gregorious. With the core of their lineup on the shelf, the Yankees’ 2019 season did not look too promising, however major contributions from secondary players like Luke Voit, Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman and 2019 free agent signee DJ Lemahieu carried this resilient club to a whopping 103 regular season wins.
Longtime workhorse and potential Hall of Famer CC Sabathia retired following the Yankees 4-2 series loss to Houston in the ALCS, and 2019 breakout starter Domingo German is under serious investigation for domestic violence claims that may cost him some, or all of his 2020 season. Those two hurlers combined to make 46 starts and throw just over 250 innings in 2019 and their departure leaves the Yankees with a serious hole to fill in their rotation.
This offseason’s free agent class features a flurry of starting pitchers that the Yankees have been connected to in the past in some capacity. Potential CY Young award recipient Gerrit Cole is widely expected to set a new record for money given to a pitcher, and history shows that the Yankees are not afraid to pony up the dough. If the Bronx Bombers miss out on Cole, World Series MVP Steven Strasburgh recently opted out of the remainder of his contract with Washington in favor of free agency, and he is expected to land a guarantee of at least $175 million.
If those options prove to be outside of their price range, New York can shop in the second tier of free agent pitching. Many of these pitchers are categorized as “second tier” because of age or injury history, however most of these arms have deep track records and a lot of innings left in them. 2019 MLB ERA leader Hyun-Jin-Ryu is coming off of back to back elite seasons however he dealt with injuries in each of those campaigns and will turn 33 before the start of the 2020 season. Ryu, like many of the following pitchers, is expected to land a deal in the 3 year range with an average annual value of $17-22 million a season. He is joined on the market by former Met Zack Wheeler, whose age, velocity and strikeout numbers are appealing to many clubs. Longtime Giants staff ace Madison Bumgarner is also on the market for the first time in his career. Bumgarner has a postseason resume that not many pitchers in the history of the sport can compare to, as his career 2.11 ERA in over 100 postseason innings has almost directly lead to each of his three championship rings.
Outside of the starting staff, the Yankees lineup is already going to look a lot stronger in the event that everyone is healthy come opening day. They have already re-upped star closer Aroldis Chapman by adding an additional year to his current contract, and they are reportedly engaged in negotiations with the longest tenured member of their club, reliable outfielder Brett Gardner. Other then the aforementioned starting pitching needs, it’s hard to identify any other glaring holes on this Yankees roster. But as always, don’t be surprised if the Yanks decide to splurge on a surprise free agent or pull off a blockbuster trade because that is, and always has been the Yankee way.
Part 2: New York Mets
On the other side of town, a dreadfully slow start to the 2019 season ultimately wrote off any chances of the New York Mets participating in playoff baseball despite a very strong second half showing.
The troubles of this team began before the season even started, as pricey outfielder Yoenis Cespedes was injured on his cattle ranch and ended up missing the entire season. Additionally, agent turned general manager Brodie Van Wagenen made headlines with some questionable acquisitions that inevitably wound up hurting the team more than helping them in 2019. Van Wagenen agreed to acquire all-star closer Edwin Diaz in a blockbuster trade with the Seattle Mariners before the start of the season which initially looked like a great move, however attached to Diaz came expensive second baseman Robinson Cano who despite his impeccable track record, was entering his age 36 season. Diaz struggled mightily in 2019 and Cano battled poor performance and injuries all season long. To make matters worse, the Mets also watched the prospects they traded away flourish in the Seattle farm system.
All fans of this team would love to chalk it up as a bad trade and move on to this offseason, but Diaz is still very young and appears to be a big factor in the Mets’ bullpen in 2020, and Cano is still under contract (at a hefty price) for the next several seasons. Van Wagenen’s rookie offseason also featured the expensive and detrimental multi-season signings of infiedler Jed Lowrie, who took just 7 at-bats for New York in 2019, and reliever Jeurys Familia whose unsightly 5.70 ERA made him more of a liability than an asset.
While Van Wagenen surely looks to distant his team from the previous harmful offseason, he has already limited his spending capabilities for this year because of contractual obligations made to the aforementioned players. The Mets have to shop smart this winter, and possibly trade from their younger, expandible core in order to attach bad contracts and free up some spending money. If they are able to do so, the Mets will likely target some pitching depth. While their starting pitchers have all experienced individual excellence, the group is seemingly never able to do so at the same time.
The Amazins are also set to watch Zack Wheeler depart via free agency which will already leave them with a gaping hole in their starting rotation. Even without Wheeler in the starting staff, New York still needs to focus on bolstering their bullpen as it was among the weakest units in the majors in 2019. Relievers Will Smith and Will Harris are at the top of this winter’s free agent class and are set to receive hefty guarantees, but for a Mets team that will likely aim for bargains this offseason, there are several less expensive relievers on the market Former Yankee relief ace Dellin Betances would have been in line for a considerable contract this winter had he not missed all of 2019, but due to his lost season he will likely have to settle for a one-year, bounce back type of deal which could put him on the Mets’ radar. Longtime Cub Pedro Strop stands out as another potential target, as Strop too has an extensive history of effectiveness.
Outside of pitching needs, the Mets may look to add a player with some defensive versatility as the organization has stated their desire to improve their defense all around the diamond in 2020. Multi-position players such as Eric Sogard, Brock Holt and postseason hero Howie Kendrick may hold appeal for the Mets as each of the three has experience playing multiple infield and outfield positions. Of course the Mets already have a “swiss army knife” type of player of their own in 2019 All-Star Jeff Mcniel, but the organization has relayed a desire to keep Mcneil at one position in 2020.
The offseason is young, but the Mets have already made headlines by showing former manager Mickey Callaway the door. Callaway was swiftly replaced with former icon Carlos Beltran who has already stated that he “can not wait to rewrite our (the Mets’) story.” With Beltran on board, Van Wagenen and his staff have to act smart, otherwise the 2020 season will be a continuation of an underwhelming story for the New York Mets.