The Yankees goal on the offensive side of things should be to continue to free up as much playing time as possible for the younger guys and to use that time to figure out what they have. Let’s go around the diamond.
Obviously, Gary Sanchez is the primary catcher and he needs to get a full season behind the plate.
At first Greg Bird should be the starter, but Tyler Austin should mix in here and in right.
Starlin Castro did enough at second, especially in the second half that the Yankees don’t need to go looking for a replacement. Same thing with Didi at short. Plus with Mateo and Torreyes on the horizon, no need to do anything here.
Third base is a position the Yankees can start to think ahead about. Ideally, Miguel Andujar progresses to AAA successfully and merits a late season call up. If not, perhaps one of the shortstop prospects mentioned above can slide over. For now Headley recovered enough from a bad start to earn the bulk of the playing time in 2017
While the infield is set, the outfield needs some more roster pruning. Try as they might, the Yankees are not going to get rid of Ellsbury. So they need to hope he hits and be prepared if he does not. That may mean turning him into one of the more expensive platoon players ever, but his 2016 numbers showed a serious split between his performance against righties and lefties.
That leaves Gardner as an ideal trade candidate. Again, I would much rather trade Ellsbury, but Gardner’s contract is reasonable (two more years and $26-million in guaranteed money) so he could be moved. The Yankees need to do that, because they want to free up the outfield so they can start Judge and Hicks as much as possible. Judge is obvious. Hicks is a guy who looked lost until he got regular time late in the season. The Yankees need to find out if he is the player he was until the end of July, or the guy after that. And, don’t forget that hopefully Clint Frazier will be forcing his way into the mix some time during the 2017 season.
And that leaves DH, where the Yankees can currently pencil in McCann, but if they can swing a trade, they could do a myriad of things. For instance, with Austin and Ackley able to cover multiple positions while hitting from different sides, how about a platoon? Or simply use it as a spot to rotate through different guys? For the first time in ages, the Yankees don’t have to give one guy 500 AB’s at DH, they should keep that flexibility.
Friday is the deadline for teams to make their Rule 5 protections and the Yankees have a full 4o-man roster and guys like Andujar and Mateo who must be protected. Expect a wave of DFA’s in the next 48 hours.