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Muscle Sport Magazine

If They Spend, The 2019 Yankees Could Be Historic

Courtesy of Total Marketing

Baseball’s offseason has turned out to be a strange one as far as free agency is concerned. Two players who are considered to be generational talents, and who are only just entering their primes – Bryce Harper and Manny Machado – have remained unsigned far longer than expected, prompting questions as to why they’re still free agents. It’s a bizarre situation, and one that appears to be leading to a conclusion in which both players sign for less than what was once assumed. This also begs the question, however, of whether the Yankees might be lurking in search of a bargain, and whether – if they decide to open their checkbook – they could be historically good in 2019.

To be clear, this is not a report of any news, or even any rumor. All indications have been that the Yankees are out on Harper, and have had only vague interest in Machado. Multiple teams that aren’t the New York Yankees have been considered the leaders for the two free agent sluggers. The suggestion here though is that if this goes on much longer, and Harper and Machado wind up signing smaller deals than expected, the yankees may be in position to give them those deals. 

While the Yankees community online has voiced frustration about the lack of a major offseason splash, it appears that New York has made some meaningful improvements in the past few months:

The bullpen has improved, having already been a major strength. The Yankees re-signed Zach Britton (who projects better than the once-dominant David Robertson, who departed New York), and brought in Adam Ottavino. Those two join Chad Green, Dellin Betances, and closer Aroldis Chapman to form what should be the best bullpen in the MLB by a fair bit.

The starting rotation has improved as well. While the Yankees need to bolster their starting pitching depth, they managed to re-sign J.A. Happ (who was terrific for them after he was acquired late in 2018), hang on to CC Sabathia (who’s declining but still effective), and trade young assets for the Mariners’ James Paxton – a Cy Young-caliber pitcher when healthy. This means a rotation of Luis Severino, Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, Happ, and Sabathia, which is undeniably better than what the Yankees entered the 2018 season with. It’s a bit simplistic to say, but even betting guides to the MLB point out that the best pitching can often neutralize the best hitting, and the Yankees are better positioned to take advantage of this idea in the coming season.

The lineup is as good or better. The Yankees enter the season with more options at first base than a season ago thanks to the addition of Luke Voit, who was tremendous down the stretch. They’ve secured one-time National League batting champion DJ LeMahieu to start in place of the injured Didi Gregorius. Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres will return for their second season with some experience under their belts. And an outfield of Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and potentially Clint Frazier – one of the team’s top prospects who dealt with concussions throughout 2018 – should be terrific.

Regression to the norm could be a good thing. Sure, it might mean Voit cools off, or that Andujar can’t quite live up to his Rookie of the Year season at the plate. However, slugging catcher Gary Sanchez almost can’t be worse than he was in 2018, and the Yankees expect DH and part-time outfielder Giancarlo Stanton to take a big step forward following his first year in pinstripes. Prior to that season, he was the National League MVP.

Add all of this up, and there’s good reason to believe that a team that won 100 games in 2018 has gotten measurably better already.

Now imagine the additions of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado on – relative to expectations – bargain deals. Not only would this bolster an already ridiculous lineup with two of the game’s best hitters, but it would free up two young players – Andujar and Frazier – as potential pieces in a blockbuster trade for a high-end starting pitcher. Say, the Indians’ Corey Kluber, for instance?

I realize it’s easy to say that a team could spend some $500 million on two marquee free agents and improve. But when it’s the Yankees it seems realistic, and in this bizarre offseason, the bargain deals Harper and Machado could be headed for could be too good to pass on (at one point Harper himself was rumored to be in line for a $500 million deal). In theory, a team that is reasonably young and won 100 games could add Harper, Machado, and a pitcher like Kluber – on top of Paxton and an improved bullpen – without any meaningful losses. Projections for a team like that might just start around 120 wins.

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