The New York Yankees face an interesting next few weeks as players gear up for the start of the 2022 season without the assurances required from ownership. The CBA is still in the works with core economic issues left to solve — the luxury tax remains their biggest hurdle. The hope is both the Players Union and owners will begin to meet more frequently without risking the regular season being compromised.
Prior to the lockout, the Yankees were quiet, passing on big money acquisitions and waiting for the new luxury tax to drop to see how much flexibility they have. That could end up backfiring since there will be a frenzy when the market opens back up, presenting a ton of competition for the leftover players.
General manager Brian Cashman still has plenty of moves left to make, specifically regarding positions that have been impacted by injury. First base and centerfield could use a bit more support after both Aaron Hicks and Luke Voit went down last season, missing 90 games apiece, at least.
Without the team facilities and trainers, working their way back has been even more tumultuous.
“We’re just getting work in where we can,’’ Luke Voit said last week. “It’s a little bit harder not being able to use the [team] facility, but we don’t want to get too far behind for whenever we do start.”
Voit played 68 games last season, hitting .239 with 11 homers after a lucrative 2020 season where he led the MLB with 22 home runs. There is no guarantee that Voit won’t be replaced at first base, especially if the Yankees are willing to splash big money on Freddie Freeman. Nonetheless, Voit has stated that he will find a different place to play first if the Yankees won’t give him an opportunity.
Hicks, on the other hand, has spent two of his last three seasons injured, playing 32 games last year. He featured a .194 batting average with four homers and 14 RBIs, putting the Yankees in a tough spot after extending him on a seven-year, $70 million deal. The Yankees desperately need more value from Hicks, who has been nothing short of disappointing ever since signing a fresh contract.
Hicks has been getting some action during Winter League play, but he could’ve used this time with the team trainers and regimen to help rehabilitate.
Another important player who has dealt with injuries the past two seasons is starting pitcher Luis Severino.
Severino pitched just 6.0 innings last year at 27 years old, enjoying just a combined 18 innings over the past three years. Severino has battled two Tommy John surgery‘s but still maintained an adequate fastball pace despite lengthy rehabilitation timelines.
Over such a small sample size last year, his fastball touched 95.3 mph on average. Compared to his 2018 season, where he averaged 97. 6 mph, he’s down quite significantly, but giving him more time to build up his strength should get that number a bit closer is ideal. With Corey Kluber hitting free agency and signing with the Tampa Bay Rays, Severino’s return is imperative.