For the New York Yankees, it seems like every season has expectations that range from high to way-too-high. In 2023, those expectations were no different after another exit at the hands of the eventual champion Houston Astros in the ALCS. Instead of going crazy in free agency, the Yankees are banking on development of talent in the lineup. So far this season that isn’t paying dividends early on. The Yankees enter Wednesday at 10-7 and are coming off another upsetting loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Let’s take a look at the Yankees and whether or not it’s time to hit the panic button.
Injuries piling up for Yankees
One crutch or excuse you can use early on is that the Yankees are dealing with a ton of injuries. First, it’s worth mentioning that SP Frankie Montas may not even play this season due to a shoulder injury that needed surgery before 2023. Luis Gil is another potential rotation arm who had Tommy John surgery during 2022 and may not be back this season. So before 2023 even began, the Yankees were down rotation depth.
That depth took an even bigger hit when Carlos Rodon and Luis Severino went down this spring. Rodon was the big signing this offseason at six years and $162 million. He has yet to pitch for the Yankees due to a forearm muscle strain, and there’s been another recent setback as manager Aaron Boone said Rodon’s back had started “barking” or whatever that means. It doesn’t look like Rodon will be back soon enough to make good on the investment this season.
Severino seems to always have something going on. The last time he pitched a full season was 2018. He had a bounce-back year in 2022 with 19 starts, going 7-3 with a 3.18 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 102 innings. This time around Sevy has a lat strain — the same issue that caused him to miss time last season — and is on the injured list, yet to debut in 2023.
On to the position players. Giancarlo Stanton, similar to Severino, always has some nagging injuries during the season, whether it’s a hammy or oblique or something else. This time it’s the hamstring again, a strain that has him expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Josh Donaldson is also on the IL along with the oft-injured Harrison Bader. Stanton’s absence from the middle of the lineup is big and Bader’s presence would allow for Aaron Judge to move back to right field, which is less taxing than center.
You can look at this one of two ways: Optimistically, few of these injuries are too severe and the Yankees should eventually get healthy and things will turn around. So there isn’t a need to panic just yet. Conversely, all of the names above have an injury history as long as my arm, so it’s just as likely that the injuries never go away and the season is lost by July.
Forget injuries, the Yankees’ offense has been bad
It hasn’t been great, this is true. The Yankees rank in the bottom third (21st) in runs scored at 76 and are 23rd in batting average as a team at .232. The power is still there, ranking fourth in home runs with 26, but Stanton being out should hurt that number a bit. Other than Judge, Anthony Rizzo and Gleyber Torres, no one is really hitting. Depth in the lineup has always seemed to be an issue that the Yankees ignore, at least the past few seasons.
SS Anthony Volpe is off to a slow start in his first season in the MLB. That isn’t surprising and Volpe should eventually turn things around. Oswaldo Cabrera played well late in 2022 but isn’t offering any offense so far. When Stanton and Bader are back, things won’t be as bad. If that takes a while, though, it may be too late.
What should the Yankees do?
Looking at the rotation, you’ve got Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes at the top. That’s it for now. Rodon and Severino could return and make that rotation very solid. Clarke Schmidt will be banished to the bullpen along with either Domingo German or Jhony Brito. Other than the surprisingly slow start from Clay Holmes, the Yankees’ bullpen has been fine. So eventually the pitching should get there and be OK. Patience makes sense there.
As far as the order, you’d think Cashman is probably making calls already. It’s early, so teams may not be willing to sell off a bat in April. Once we get into May and June and close to the trade deadline, expect Cashman to be very aggressive. That could mean looking to add a third baseman or outfielder to the mix. As far as targets, the market will develop closer to the deadline. Last year the Yanks swung and missed on Montas at the deadline. Bader was a big success, however.
So is it time to panic?
Sort of. Not exactly. The bats are cold and need to start getting hot. The pitching just needs to get healthy. Cole is looking like a Cy Young is in his future. Cortes is picking up where he left off. Rodon could be the nice three-headed monster the Yankees have needed. The bullpen doesn’t need adjusting really, just better managing.
The Yankees should be worried about Volpe not turning things around and having to make a tough decision there. Sending him down could stunt his growth a bit. Letting him struggle through his first season could be too detrimental to the team.
At 10-7, things could be worse. The issue is the surrounding contenders. The Rays may run away with the AL East and the Yankees would be competing with 8-10 teams in the Wild Card. New York needs to tread water until the summer and hope health and a few depth moves gets the team to where it needs to be.