There is no “white whale” for the Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman to pursue this offseason that is similar to their signing of Gerrit Cole to a nine-year, $324 million deal nearly a year ago.
And with the Yankees likely looking to stay under next year’s $210 luxury-tax threshold, they might not have much money to throw around in free agency — which begins Monday, when players can sign with new teams.
But that doesn’t mean the Yankees don’t have plenty of holes to fill after another disappointing finish in the playoffs, when they lost to the Rays in the ALDS.
The impact of an abbreviated season that saw no fans in the stands until the playoffs will no doubt have an enormous impact on the entire sport — especially for the Yankees. How it affects the free-agent market will be among the major storylines of the Hot Stove season.
Owner Hal Steinbrenner said the Yankees lost more money than any team in baseball this year, when they had an MLB-high payroll of $109 million for the 60-game schedule.
Even before getting to free agency, the Yankees have $117.5 million tied up in seven players (Cole, Giancarlo Stanton, Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Aaron Hicks, Luis Severino and Adam Ottavino). They already have shown a willingness to spend — picking up Britton’s $14 million option for 2022, which will also pay him $13 million next season.
The next step will be to decide what to do with their own free agents, particularly DJ LeMahieu.
The second baseman is coming off two superb seasons after the Yankees signed him on a two-year, $24 million deal.
The 32-year-old LeMahieu will cost more — and for more years — this time around, but can the Yankees afford to lose him? They figure to give LeMahieu a qualifying offer of $18.9 million, which he’ll surely reject, but that would ensure the Yankees get a draft pick if he signs elsewhere.
They’ll also have to decide what to do with Gleyber Torres after his subpar defensive performance in his first year as a full-time shortstop in the majors. If they shift him back to second and keep LeMahieu, that would likely force LeMahieu to first base, where Luke Voit is coming off a breakout season.
If the Yankees look to add a shortstop, there are several available, including Didi Gregorius — who had a bounceback season with the Phillies after the Yankees let him go last offseason — to defensive standout Andrelton Simmons, who has battled left ankle sprains each of the past two seasons. The Indians may make Francisco Lindor available in a trade, but he’s due a raise from $17.5 million.
The rotation will also need to be addressed, since after Cole, there’s not much to bank on.
Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ are all headed to free agency, leaving some combination of Jordan Montgomery, Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt and Mike King, among others, as well as possibly Domingo German.
Tanaka could be brought back at significantly less than the $23 million he made last season. The right-hander is coming off another solid season, but his stellar postseason reputation took a hit with a pair of disappointing outings during the last playoffs and Tanaka, who turned 32 Sunday, has a partially torn ligament in his right elbow.
Trevor Bauer is the top starting pitcher available, but he might be looking for more than the Yankees are willing to spend. Corey Kluber, Kevin Gausman or Charlie Morton may be more realistic options.
Another concern is catching, a position the Yankees hoped they’d be set on for the foreseeable future not that long ago. But Gary Sanchez’s regression has forced the team to reconsider whether he will remain the starter. And though Kyle Higashioka is a solid backup, he hasn’t proven he can take on the everyday role. J.T. Realmuto seems too expensive, but perhaps can’t be ruled out if teams don’t spend.