Yankees free agents 2024: Biggest offseason decisions for New York, from Yoshinobu Yamamoto to Josh Hader

The Yankees won 99 games in 2022 and expected to be back in that same neighborhood again in 2023, but in retrospect that seems a bit foolish when considering how flawed the roster was heading into the season.

And now the Yankees have officially entered retrospect mode, with an outside entity called in to make an audit of the organization, figure out where things went wrong. What will that mean for GM Brian Cashman — architect of the roster — and manager Aaron Boone? 

We will find out soon enough. Regardless of who’s calling the shots, there are lots of pressing issues the Yankees need to handle this offseason. Let’s take a look.

MORE: Top 10 available free agents for 2024

Yankees three offseason goals

1. Evaluate the audit, fix the problems. The expectation is that the club’s reliance on analytical-driven decisions will shift after the findings. It’s not that they’ll abandon analytics, of course, but at least evaluate if they’re using the right analytics; anecdotal evidence says they haven’t been. Aaron Judge has hinted the same. 

2. Find offense. Some of the problems that existed for the Yankees this year probably will next year, too, and that’s the team’s commitment — financially — to giving at-bats to veteran hitters who are past their prime. In 2023, the Yankees jettisoned Aaron Hicks and Josh Donaldson. But looking at the 2024 lineup, three past-their-prime veterans are in line to get everyday at-bats: Giancarlo Stanton (heading into age-34 season, 87 OPS+ in 2023), D.J. LeMahieu (age-35 season, 96 OPS+) and Anthony Rizzo (age-34 season, 94 OPS+). Granted, Rizzo was really good in 2022, so a bounce-back in 2024 is possible if he’s healthy. But Stanton had an 87 OPS+, can’t run, can’t play defense and makes regular trips to the IL. LeMahieu has escaped some criticism because he hides in Stanton’s shadow, but he has just a 101 OPS+ over the past three seasons, and he has three years remaining on his deal. 

Part of fixing the offense isn’t just about bringing in certain players, it’s finding a way to get rid of others and stop giving away so many at-bats. 

3. Find pitching. The Yankees have the arms to fill out their 2024 rotation behind Gerrit Cole, but there’s certainly room for improvement, and there are options for upgrades both through free agency and on the trade market. 

Yankees free agents

SP Luis Severino: His up-and-down tenure with the Yankees ends with a 6.65 ERA in 89 1/3 innings.

SP Frankie Montas: Montas worked hard to come back from injury; Yankees could bring him back with a short or incentive-laden deal.

SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa: Brought in as the starting shortstop, leaves as the backup outfielder

RP Wandy Peralta: Pretty effective, with a 2.83 ERA (but 5.05 FIP) in 63 relief appearances

Yankees free-agent targets

The list starts with Shohei Ohtani, obviously. But the chances of Ohtani choosing the Yankees at this moment in their history seems … slim. 

Even though the free-agent signing of Carlos Rodon was a disaster in the first year of the contract, that doesn’t mean the next guy will be. And there are plenty of starting pitchers available, beginning with Japan’s Yoshinobu Yamamoto. He’s dominated in Japan and he’s just heading into his age-25 season. He had a 1.21 ERA and 0.866 WHIP this year. 

After Yamamoto, there are starters like Aaron Nola, Blake Snell and Eduardo Rodriguez. Short-term, they could try and deal for Corbin Burnes, Tyler Glasnow or Brandon Woodruff (all are FAs after 2024), or they could swing a bigger deal for Dylan Cease, who has two years of club control left with the White Sox. Josh Hader would be a huge upgrade in the bullpen. 

Do they believe Cody Bellinger’s resurgence in 2023 was for real? Sustainable? If Cashman’s still the shot-caller this offseason, that’s a pretty big risk for him to take, with the type of contract Bellinger is likely to land. 

MORE OFFSEASON PRIORITIES: Cardinals | Red Sox | Mets

Yankees potential trade target

Ohtani feels like a long shot on the free-agent market, but what about trading for Juan Soto? The Padres clearly didn’t accomplish what they wanted in 2023, and adding yet another massive contract to their ledger — Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts both have 10 years left on their deals — might not be the best idea. Now, imagine pairing Juan Soto with Aaron Judge in the Yankees’ lineup for the next decade, which would be actual real, legitimate protection for Judge. That’s worth a trade and massive extension, right? 

Yankees on the trading block

Gleyber Torres can hit the free agent market after the 2024 season. He’s been … good, not great, which is miles better than most Yankees hitters were in 2023. But he hasn’t developed into the hitter most thought he would, when he was an All-Star in both 2018 and 2019, and are the Yankees really willing to extend him? If not, there are teams that would roll the dice on a power-hitting second baseman, and that could help the club fill other issues. 

Final Yankees thoughts

There’s work to be done, no doubt. The roster was flawed in 2023 — it’s amazing they even finished .500 — and it’s still very flawed as of this moment heading into 2024. We saved the biggest question for last: Will Hal Steinbrenner finally go all-in and approve what it will take for the Yankees to get back to being The Evil Empire?  

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