The 2020 MLB season is a lot closer than we think, with pitchers and catchers reporting in about a month to their respective camps to gear up for the long 162-game journey. And Yankee fans might be counting down each day until the new season after taking a look at the roster that is absolutely stacked yet again.
Gerrit Cole might really be that one missing piece the Yankees need to make their return to the World Series. Their only omission from their starting lineup is Didi Gregorius, and his production can easily be matched by Gio Urshela if he can replicate his breakout season in 2019.
Then, there's still Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, Gary Sanchez, and more making a World Series-worthy team that many will be scared to face this season.
When you take a good look at the projected 26-man roster, it's hard to find a small crack, let alone a void in it. But like every other roster in the league, there are a few questions the Yankees still need to answer.
Nobody's perfect, so let's take a look at some things the Yankees will need to address heading into Spring Training...
1) Who will be the team's fifth starter?
The Yankees' rotation can be one of the best in baseball if everyone pitches up to his expected standard.
Cole has been one of, if not the best pitcher in the game, so that should be self explanatory. Luis Severino was also extremely solid when he returned late in the regular season, and James Paxton's second half was a great improvement to see, especially in the postseason. And Masahiro Tanaka was consistent in the middle of the rotation, and should remain that way once again.
But who is going to round out this starting group?
Domingo German will miss the first 63 games of the season, so the Yankees will have to fill that spot for about two months before he returns. Is this where Jordan Montgomery makes his comeback? J.A. Happ is also still on the roster, though the Yankees are actively shopping him around.
2) Is Kyle Higashioka the answer as backup catcher?
The Yankees saw Austin Romine, the team's solid backup catcher for the past few seasons, leave to compete for a starting role with the Tigers this offseason. And they missed out on Martin Maldonado, who re-signed with the Astros.
In turn, Higashioka is slated to back up Gary Sanchez, and that might not be the best answer considering he only has 56 games of experience over the past three seasons. Sanchez is also very injury-prone given his multiple stints on the IL over the past two seasons.
Robinson Chirinos is another former Astro still out there on the market, and he has experience catching Cole if that is what GM Brian Cashman is looking for. The 35-year-old should be cheap, too, with experts expecting about $5-8 million is needed on a one- or two-year deal to land him.
3) Giancarlo Stanton or Mike Tauchman?
OK, hear me out on this one because I know that's a question you might scowl at.
Due to his multiple injuries last season, Stanton could only see the field in 23 games, including the postseason. That is something the Yankees are praying doesn't happen again this year, as Stanton's presence and impact are apparent when he's in the lineup. And he has eight seasons still left on his contract before the Yankees could potentially buy out his final year in 2028 when he's 38 years old.
The Yankees would obviously get the best out of Stanton in those years, so to keep his workload in check, it could be an option for manager Aaron Boone to play Mike Tauchman a lot this season in left field, allowing Stanton to DH. As long as Tauchman continues his growth as a solid left-handed bat, playing him shouldn't be a large deterrent to leaving Stanton out of the field.
Of course, Stanton was a Gold Glove winner back in Miami, so he's no slouch in the field. But keeping his health in check is priority number one, so this could be an option to ensure he's able to be penciled into the lineup each night.
4) What should be done with Miguel Andujar?
The question should also be whether or not he'll be on the roster by Opening Day. At the moment, the trade talks have remained stagnant, with teams like the Rangers not pressing the Yankees for the 24-year-old at the moment.
If he does stay on the roster, should the Yankees take another chance with him at third base despite his defensive woes? While he was working his way back from his torn labrum last season, Urshela became a key cog in the Yankees' machine and proved that he could be the team's permanent third baseman. So that might be the mindset of the Yankees right now.
So where does Andujar fit in then? There's the first base experiment, but Luke Voit should be fine coming back from his surgery to repair core muscles, which ended his regular season a tad early. Andujar's bat is extremely valuable if he can play like he did in 2018, so maybe a permanent DH situation could work out, with stints in the field when other players need some rest.
There are several options for the youngster, but they wouldn't mean anything if Cashman can somehow strike a trade with an interested team. There's still time.
5) Is Voit enough at first base?
Speaking of first base, there is some question surrounding this position. Voit should be alright coming off surgery and having time to rehab before Spring Training. And if it works out that way, the position is solid given Voit's success the past season-and-a-half he's been with the Yankees.
But for insurance purposes, is Mike Ford the answer? Yes, he had a pretty good showcase when he was called up and played 50 games for the Yanks last season. But that's a very small sample size. LeMahieu used to see some time at first as well, but he will be the team's full-time second baseman now that Torres moves to shortstop in Gregorius' absence. And Greg Bird's time with the Yanks has ended, as he wouldn't take his Triple-A assignment.
Mitch Moreland might be a player who interests the Yankees for some more cushion there, but Cashman might not find it necessary and work with what he has. It's worth the thought, though.