Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner
By Brendan Kuty
Steinbrenner, for the most part, hit all the same talking points we’ve heard from him and general manager Brian Cashman so far this offseason.
Let’s break down a few of the bigger points.
What Hal said: “There’s going to be competition in the starting rotation. We know that. We’ve got (Adam) Warren. We’ve got (Chad) Green, (Luis) Cessa, (Luis) Severino, (Bryan) Mitchell. We’ve got good options for two spots, right? That’s going to be fun to watch.”
Thoughts: Two spots? He’s right. Only Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia are current locks for next year’s rotation. But Steinbrenner didn’t talk about potentially addressing two remaining holes via free agency or trade. Two ways to look at that: Either Steinbrenner doesn’t believe Cashman will add pitching or he’s posturing — after all, the Yankees don’t have to add starters. They have enough. The question: Do the Yankees really want to fill the Nos. 4 and 5 spots internally? Each of the arms Steinbrenner named has promise but hasn’t proven to be a capable big-league starter. The Yankees have reached out to Rich Hill’s people and have been linked to pitchers in trade rumors.
What Hal said: He said he believes in Dellin Betances as a capable closer, but “that doesn’t mean we’re not going to strengthen the bullpen in one way or the other. We’ll see where he fits in, where he best ends up. We’re just starting that whole process.”
Thoughts: Here’s a rough translation: “Aroldis Chapman, I ❤ you.” The Yankees and Chapman have been in contact about returning the fireballer closer to the Bronx. The potential problem: Chapman reportedly could pull in a deal worth more than six figures. Six! For a guy that throws maybe 60 innings a year! Any team would be justified in not spending that much for a closer, even the Yankees, with their Grand Canyon pockets. Still, it’s clear — from Steinbrenner’s words to the team’s actions — that they would be happier with Chapman or Kenley Jansen, the market’s other elite closer, in the ninth inning with Betances setting him up.
What Hal said: “My expectations are that he’s going to be my starting right fielder next year.”
Thoughts: Don’t think it’s a lock that Aaron Judge wins the job. He’s set to spend time this offseason working with minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson to cut down his strikeouts. But the Yankees think Aaron Hicks has growing to do and won’t just hand the 24-year-old rookie — ranked the team’s sixth-best prospect by Baseball America — the keys to the position. Tyler Austin and Rob Refsnyder will also fight for 25-man roster spots and could challenge Judge there.