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Can the Yankees Improve in 2022?

2022 is set to be another disrupted season, though this time for something less unprecedented than a global pandemic. The ongoing dispute over the CBA means a lockout and a degree of uncertainty about when MLB will actually start. But assuming that the issues are eventually resolved, this year the Yankees will be desperate to improve on a disappointing 2021.

Last year they didn’t even make the Divisional Series, going out in a wild card game against the Red Sox. While they will once again be expected to make the postseason, and some sports betting sites are making them the third favorites behind the Dodgers and the Astros to win it all, there is a lot of work to be done if they are to reclaim the World Series title they last won in 2009.

Who is Out?

Andrew Heaney, who was a trade acquisition at the deadline, had one or two good performances but he turned out to be no better as an option than the players that were already on the rotation. Following his last start in September, he was sent to the minors and ultimately opted for free agency, going on to sign a one-year deal worth $8 million with the Dodgers.

One player that the Yankees will certainly miss is Corey Kluber. He threw a no-hitter last year and put up solid numbers before getting injured in April and missing most of the regular season until the final month. He was a consistent piece on the rotation and will be missed, particularly as he’s now with Tampa Bay.

The other big miss will be Rougned Odor. He gave the roster depth during a season that saw Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela spend long periods on the injury list. That depth has gone with Odor moving to the Orioles where he will stay for at least the remaining year of his contract.

Who is In?

There were no big moves into the free-agent pool before the lockout, although some free-agent minor league players like Joely Rodriguez and Jose Peraza were given new contracts. The lack of activity came as a surprise as the Yankees had been linked with some big names including Trevor Story, Carlos Correa and Anthony Rizzo, who was on the Yankees roster last season.

The Yankees did not make a big splash in the free-agent signing pool pre-lockout. They made up for that lack of activity, however, in the international pool. They picked up the window’s top player in Roderick Aria, as well as six further players, including Luis Suarez and catchers Diomedes Hernandez and Ricardo Rodriguez.

What can we expect from the 2022 Yankees?

Last season confirmed that the Yankees and the Red Sox are pretty closely matched behind Tampa Bay, so much could depend on what happens when the lockout is over. The Yankees are certain to look for additional bullpen depth, and could yet go for some big-name acquisitions.

Of the players we know will be on the roster, it will be very interesting to see whether Aaron Judge can match the consistency offensively that he displayed in 2021. He is the key and the foundation of the Yankees lineup, so if he can have another good year, it will provide a strong platform for the rest of the team.

Still, they will need significant contributions from elsewhere. Adding Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo at the trade deadline did not help the franchise to create the offensive system that they were hoping to build, so they will likely be looking for those big free agents who are still available. That may even include Rizzo, whose return to the Yankees is uncertain at this stage.

Another thing to keep an eye on in New York is a potential catcher battle. Kyle Higashioka took over playing time from Gary Sanchéz in 2021 and was able to produce comparable offensive statistics while also improving his defensive stats significantly in contrast to Sanchéz’s poor performance. Higashioka effectively turned into Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher later in the season, signalling that his playing time will surely only rise next season and that he isn’t going away anytime soon.

Overall, once the lockout is over, the Yankees’ success in 2022 may be primarily determined by their free-agent acquisitions. With a burgeoning farm system and great players, they should still be competitive, but the whole club must strive for consistency in both offense and pitching if they are to fulfill their objective of reaching the World Series.

 

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