Home Sports Adding Francisco Lindor and Gerrit Cole would put Yankees over the top – New York Post

Adding Francisco Lindor and Gerrit Cole would put Yankees over the top – New York Post

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Deep breath. This is the hard time to take one. For two-thirds of teams the season ends in late September with usually a long runway to prepare for it. But if it ends in October, suddenly, after such laser focus on every pitch, the pain, the anger, the reflex to want to blow up a roster is intense.

So this from an MLB executive Sunday morning less than 12 hours after Jose Altuve walked off the Yankees into winter:

“Man, we are going to talk about how to fix the Yankees. They are terrific. They won 103 games. A few swings go a different way — I mean one or two — and they go to the World Series and we are not having this conversation. How about we talk about fixing the Tigers?”

Perspective in such a time is appreciated. Much has been made that the 2010s are the Yankees’ first calendar decade without a World Series appearance since the 1910s. But again, deep breath, they have the best winning percentage in the decade (.569) and are tied with the Dodgers for most playoff appearances (seven).

And for those who pine for the days of George Steinbrenner because that would not be good enough, reality check: The longest stretch in that time without a World Series appearance was 1982-95 when Steinbrenner was at his most Steinbrenner-iest, throwing around money with much rancor and no plan and turning the Yanks into a laughingstock. For those with a memory, you might recall that George, needing to brag about something, would note the Yankees had the majors’ best record during the title-less 1980s.

From 20,000 feet you can see a Yankees core that can be right back here next year. The problem is so can the Astros. In this era, these Yankees are the Pat Riley Knicks while the Astros are the Michael Jordan Bulls. This is the third time in five years Houston has eliminated New York. Those Knicks never found the second star to play with Patrick Ewing to better counteract Jordan. And these Yankees have not found enough starting pitching or athleticism to break Houston.

Since the Yankees’ core is strong and so is their ability to find high-caliber supplementary players (especially on offense), then this offseason is about internal decisions (potential free agents Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, Austin Romine) and external star hunting. The Yanks should mimic their post-2008 season strategy when they did not mess around and went to the top of the market for one starter (CC Sabathia) and one position player (Mark Teixeira) to become champions.

The most discussed area to fix is starting pitching and you will not complete this column without getting there — I see you, Gerrit Cole. But let’s start with a pipe dream: The Yanks should call the Indians and ask about Francisco Lindor.

Will he be available? Maybe not overtly as Cleveland tries to be discreet. But the Indians are a smart, proactive organization. They have conceded they cannot afford Lindor long term (think $300 million plus). He is a free agent after the 2021 season and his tab for the next two years will be $43 million-ish, perhaps more; an amount that does not work for Cleveland. This is the last best moment for the Indians to maximize return and set themselves up well for the near future. Teams with deeper farms such as the Braves and Dodgers could be in play and redirect their shortstops (Dansby Swanson or Cory Seager) to the Indians or elsewhere.

So I think the Yankees would have to say no Aaron Judge, Luis Severino or Gleyber Torres. Now shop away. Would it mean Jasson Dominguez, the 16-year-old they so recently gave $5.4 million and whose initial internal reports have made the Yanks swoon in joy? Sure. Miguel Andujar? Deivi Garcia? Taking on the $17.5 million in 2020 (plus a $1 million trade kicker) for Corey Kluber? Yes, yes, yes.

Look, the Yankees are ready to win now and Lindor is everything they need. A switch-hitting shortstop with power, speed, limited strikeouts, defensive excellence at short and proven postseason fearlessness. The Yanks’ athleticism improved from 2017 to ‘19. But on the same field, the Astros look like they’re playing fastbreak and the Yanks slow down to half-court.

The Yanks traditionally find the Indians’ ask too much (they couldn’t agree on Trevor Bauer in July, for example). But these teams have made big trades (Andrew Miller, per example). The Yanks have positional depth and lots of big righty arms in the system. Use it to get Lindor. Sign him long term. Make the positional cornerstone for the next five years Lindor and Torres up the middle plus Judge.

The Yanks need Lindor on defense and the bases. And the offense has to be more about hitters with power than power hitters such as Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton, who are so easily pitched to at this time of year. Judge might strike out a ton, but it is within the context of competitive at-bats, plus Judge brings an on-base and defensive acumen that Sanchez and Stanton do not. The Yanks endlessly defend the defense of Stanton and Sanchez. They must see something in the numbers not revealed by the eyes.

Francisco Lindor's speed and defense would improve the Yankees.
Francisco LindorMLB Photos via Getty Images

I think it is a legitimate question to ask if the Yanks can win a title with Sanchez behind the plate. And trading for Stanton — a George Steinbrenner-esque move, by the way — is going to be the biggest problem of this Yankees era. He has eight years and $244 million left, can’t stay healthy, can’t hit high-end pitching, and because of that and his no-trade clause he is borderline impossible to move. Does that contract either 1) scare the Yanks from another long commitment and/or 2) complicate adding another big deal and meeting whatever payroll mandate Hal Steinbrenner imposes?

Because that will impact any Cole pursuit. Scott Boras is the agent, he loves milestones and so the first pitcher to $300 million is probably in his sites and I would think eight years at $250 million is a minimum. As one top AL executive said, “With what we know now about stuff when it comes to spin, movement, velocity and his age (29) and his now great postseason resume, you can argue he is the greatest free agent pitcher ever.”

Again, a moment for perspective, with all the words about the Yankees’ rotation shortcomings and bullpen strategy, their 2.87 postseason ERA was better than the World Series participants with the great starters in Houston (3.49) and Washington (2.90 in the non-DH league). Still, Zack Britton and Tommy Kahnle both noted that the frequency of looks the Astros got at relievers with tinier repertoires, the easier the adjustments were. Simply, it is easier to assemble a three-piece jigsaw puzzle then eight-piece, and the great ace at this time of year limits how many relievers are needed and how often.

I would argue Justin Verlander did as much to help the Astros win Game 6 while losing Game 5 as any Astro who played Saturday. He surrendered four first-inning runs, but did not surrender to the moment. He shut out the Yankees the rest of the way through seven innings. Without a blowout, the Yanks had to use leverage relievers Britton, Kahnle and Chapman while the Astros needed only one inning from Brad Peacock and nothing from Jose Urquidy, Will Harris and Joe Smith, who all would be needed in a bullpen game 24 hours later.

A team with Verlander has played the Yankees five times in the postseason (three with Detroit, twice with Houston). They are 5-0. Perhaps that is coincidence. I don’t think so. The superior starting pitching of his teams (with him) has won out. He no longer is available to them. But his younger version, Cole, is. The expectation is all things being equal, the free agent would go West toward home and maybe the Angels or Dodgers make that possible.

But if this is about money, the Yanks should win here because with him, a full season of Luis Severino, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka plus a strong bullpen, the Yanks would not be outclassed by any opponent. Add Lindor too and the Yanks stop being the Riley Knicks against any foe — including the Jordan Astros.

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