Hal Steinbrenner Still Open to Improving Yankees

Hal Steinbrenner still looking to improve Yankees

The New York Yankees have been active this off-season. The trade for Juan Soto with the San Diego Padres is one of the most exciting trades that the Yankees have made in recent history. The club then went on to sign Marcus Stroman to a two-year, $37 million contract in an effort to strengthen their starting rotation. Other notable moves include the roster additions of Alex Verdugo, Trent Grisham, Luke Weaver, and Caleb Ferguson among others.

Other big names in free agency loom large in the minds of the fans with Blake Snell, Jordon Montgomery, and Cody Bellinger still looking for a contract in 2024. These moves will take a significant investment by the Yankees. So now we ask, “How does the owner Steinbrenner feel about the current roster?”

“I think we have a championship-caliber team right now, but we haven’t stopped looking to improve, and we never will,” Steinbrenner told The Athletic Thursday. “We’re able to do whatever we’re able to do all the way up to the trade deadline. That’s a long time from now.”

New York is coming off an 82-80 season that saw it miss the playoffs for the first time since 2016. This was a hard pill to swallow for fans who had just seen the team play in the ALCS only a year prior. The Yankees haven’t had a losing season in over 30 years, but a championship is still the ultimate, and only, goal within the organization. This lack of success led Steinbrenner himself to consider the 2023 season an “embarrassment.”

“I don’t think there’s one person in this organization that wasn’t embarrassed,” he said. “I think we have something to prove to fans after last year, absolutely. No doubt.”

“I’m just going to continue to tell you that we continue to look at a lot of different options,” Steinbrenner said. “Given where we are payroll-wise, any addition to the club is going to be a costly one. I’m still willing to consider anything that Cash and his team bring my way. I’ll leave it at that. We are not done trying to improve this team.”

As it currently sits, the Yankees’ payroll is roughly $295 million, with a projected luxury-tax payroll of $306.7 million, the highest in Major League Baseball. Any dollar the Yankees spend beyond the highest luxury-tax threshold of $297 million will come with a 110 percent tax, making additional moves even pricier. The urge to go all-in this season is strong, especially after trading away key players like Michael King and Kyle Higashioka to obtain Juan Soto. Soto is entering the final year of team control, with the outfielder poised to command a contract in excess of $400 million next offseason. Steinbrenner said he hoped it would not just be a one-year partnership and indicated he would be open to considering an extension before the season started, though Soto is widely expected to test free agency.

While the starting rotation has been an area of concern for fans, there has been no indication that another move is particularly “close”. Snell had been heavily targeted by the Yankees after the team failed to sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto who later joined the Dodgers in December of 2023, but now their stance seems to have softened as the recent Cy Young Award winner remains unsigned. Dylan Cease and Shane Bieber have been rumored as potential trade targets, but it seems likely that the Yankees will wait until the trade deadline to make a splash, if at all.

If the Yankees do opt to make a move at the trade deadline, Steinbrenner mentioned some names that he is apprehensive to deal away.

Steinbrenner said he “wasn’t willing to part with” Will Warren and Chase Hampton, noting the pitching depth the Yankees had already sacrificed in the Soto deal. He also mentioned Spencer Jones as someone he would be hesitant to give up in a trade.

“The depth is somewhat concerning to me, but the rotation as it stands is a very good one,” Steinbrenner said.

While the Yankees are not considered to have had the “best” off-season due to the Dodgers making unprecedented moves and spending a billion dollars on two players, they have made it a “very good” one. It remains to be seen if the Yankees have any other tricks up their sleeve this off-season, but another move could be made as the trade deadline approaches in the summer.

Jacob P.M.

Covering the New York Yankees - Find me on X/Twitter: @JacobBSpeaks

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