Looking past Ohtani

Quite a lot happened over the weekend. The Yankees found themselves a new manager (listen to the podcast for more on that!), for one. If you thought that Aaron Boone becoming the Yankees’ skipper would be the most surprising thing to happen this weekend, well, Shohei Ohtani had other thoughts.

General manager Brian Cashman confirmed to reporters that the Japanese superstar will not be playing in the Bronx. All signs indicate that Ohtani prefers to play on the west coast for a smaller market team, which the Yankees are neither. It’s incredibly disappointing to lose out on a transcending talent like Ohtani, but at least he informed the Yankees of his decision early in the process. Now, Cashman can turn his focus to free agency and trades as the winter meetings approach (not that he wasn’t already working on that).

Even without Ohtani, the Yankees still have a stellar starting rotation. Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, and Sonny Gray make for an excellent first three starters. Jordan Montgomery, who had an impressive rookie season, should continue to be a fine back-end starter. Still, the staff’s depth could stand to be improved, which the Yankees are certain to tackle in the coming weeks.

If it wasn’t a formality already, CC Sabathia’s return should be more imminent. Adding him to the current cast of starters makes for a full rotation, but the Yankees might not stop there. Having too many starters is never a bad thing, especially if it means preventing someone like Luis Cessa from making a dozen starts in a season. And, even if the Yankees add another starter from outside the organization, having six bonafide major league arms is far from a problem. If everyone is healthy come April, then the team can run with a six-man rotation. If not, having the depth softens the blow.

Where can the Yankees turn from here? There are plenty of options in free agency, some pricier than others. Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta are the class of this free agent group, but are almost certainly out of the Yankees price range if they want to make other moves and remain below the luxury tax threshold. After Darvish and Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb are mid-range options. The Yankees were tied to Cobb earlier this winter, so perhaps a match could be found there. Further down the line, perhaps there’s a reunion with Jaime Garcia to be had. Making a trade is a possibility too, though speculating for whom is a fool’s errand.

To this point, I’ve focused on how the Yankees lost out on adding a starter. In losing out on Ohtani, though, the Yankees also lost out on a designated hitter option. Ohtani wasn’t going to be a panacea at DH, as there are some concerns about his long swing, but he certainly had a chance to be helpful. Plus, he could only have filled the position a two or three times a week. Now, the Yankees will have to set their sights on a full-time option at the position. I’ve pined for Carlos Santana before, and he still makes sense today.

Alas, it’s a bummer that Ohtani won’t be playing in New York in 2018 and beyond. He would have been a huge boost to a team that fell one win short of the World Series this season, but the Yankees are still well positioned to win without him. The rotation is a strength as is and the front office now has some clarity with regard to the rest of the offseason’s tasks. It just won’t be as easy as plugging in an international superstar to an already talented club.

Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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