Things are fairly quiet on the MLB front in New York City and around the country, as the league and its players are reportedly still far apart on negotiating a new CBA to end the current lockout.
But before the lockout was implemented by commissioner Rob Manfred, the talk around the Big Apple was all about the Mets and their shiny new toys for the 2022 season.
Steve Cohen splurged in free agency to acquire Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar and Starling Marte before signing Max Scherzer to a record contract to pair with Jacob deGrom as the top 1-2 punch of any rotation in the league. Then, GM Billy Eppler and Cohen were widely praised for naming Buck Showalter as the team’s new manager, taking another step towards changing the culture of an organization that has widely been considered a laughingstock in recent years.
Just a few short miles away in the Bronx, the Yankees had done very little before the lockout, aside from bringing back manager Aaron Boone after another early playoff exit, and signing reliever Joely Rodriguez to a one-year deal. The Yanks, often criticized for their relentless commitment to staying beneath the luxury tax threshold, are suddenly taking a back seat to the Mets in New York City, as former Yankee pitcher CC Sabathia noted in his discussion with Tiki and Tierney on Thursday afternoon.
“The tide is definitely changing in New York, with Steve Cohen over there spending all that money and being able to buy whoever he needs,” Sabathia said. “Spending $130 million for three years for Max Scherzer, that’s definitely a Yankees move from the early 2000s.
The Yankees have still made their share of splashes in recent years, trading for reigning MVP Giancarlo Stanton after coming one game short of the World Series in 2017, then signing Gerrit Cole to a record deal prior to the 2020 season. But the team is still searching to advance further than that surprising 2017 campaign, and haven’t complemented those occasional big additions with other moves to address areas of need.
“I think they’re just pretty content with their roster, and having Aaron Judge and Giancarlo and those guys,” Sabathia said. “I think we know they need to fil a spot at shortstop, but I think they feel pretty good that if they have these guys all healthy, they have a good chance of winning the East.”
The issue is, those stars haven’t always been able to stay healthy. The Yanks finally got full and healthy seasons from Judge and Stanton, who were both very productive in 2021, but Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu both took major steps back, while Luke Voit couldn’t stay healthy. There are a lot of “ifs” surrounding the Yankees’ World Series hopes each year, but Sabathia believes the Yanks aren’t giving up hope that things will eventually come together with their current roster.
“Judge played great last year, Giancarlo is turning into the guy he was in Miami,” Sabathia said. “You get [Aaron] Hicks back healthy, you get [Luis] Severino back in the mix…I think that team is good. It’s the same core of guys I played with and I know they have the desire and the talent to go out there and win the East and win a World Series. It’s up to them to put it together now.”
Sabathia agrees that the Yanks need to make some changes to take the next step and get back to a Fall Classic for the first time since he was the team’s ace in 2009, starting with their lack of speed.
“We need to get way more athletic,” Sabathia said. “We need to be able to score on a double from first base. That’s something that we can’t do. The best teams in the big leagues now, if you look at the lineups…they all have a combination of speed and power, kind of built like those A’s teams in the late 80s. I think the game is shifting back to that now…we’re kind of behind on that.”
For now, the Yankees can’t make any moves until the lockout ends, leaving the last memory of New York baseball as the Mets’ spending spree, which sent a message that they were committed to turning things around. The Mets haven’t been the king of New York since reaching the World Series in 2015, which turned out to just be a blip on the radar. So, while the status quo appears to be changing, Sabathia still warns that things can return to normal at any moment.
“We’ll have to see how it plays out,” Sabathia said. “The Mets are the Mets though, it always kind of goes wrong.”
Follow Ryan Chichester on Twitter: @ryanchichester1