Regardless of what happens the rest of October, the Yankees have spent the past week watching the two teams that knocked them out of the playoffs the past two years face off in the ALCS.
And as they prepare for their organizational meetings, which are set to begin this week, they’ll be developing their own strategy, but also no doubt considering what the Astros and Rays will look like in 2021.
The economic impact of a regular season that was shortened and held without fans is still to be determined, so it’s even more difficult to predict teams’ plans than it was in the past. Given the fact the Rays won 90-plus games in 2018 and 2019 before finishing this season with the best record in the American League and the Astros overcame the firings of manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow due to Houston’s sign-stealing scandal to advance deep into the postseason, there’s no reason to believe the Yankees won’t have to contend with both again in next year.
The Rays will certainly be creative — and frugal — again this offseason.
Kevin Kiermaier is due to be their most expensive player next season at $11.6 million and is owed another $12.1 million in 2022.
Left-hander Blake Snell could be a trade candidate, since he figures to get a raise to over $11 million in arbitration and Tampa Bay has never been shy about dealing players before they get too expensive.
Charlie Morton and Mike Zunino might not be retained, but others that have thrived this postseason — like Tyler Glasnow, Randy Arozarena and Manuel Margot — will remain bargains.
It’s hard to know what to make of Houston, which lost ace Justin Verlander, closer Roberto Osuna and one of its best hitters, Yordan Alvarez, and only made the playoffs because they were expanded this season.
They’ll again be without Verlander in 2021 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, while George Springer and Michael Brantley are set to hit free agency.
Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman will remain, and Martin Maldonado has another year on his contract.
The emergence of players like Kyle Tucker in the lineup and Framber Valdez in the rotation likely aren’t flukes, and the front office put in place after Luhnow’s dismissal will get its first full offseason to make its mark on the roster.
Will general manager James Click try to move any of the long-term contracts that were signed when he was still an assistant with Tampa Bay?
If so, perhaps Houston will look to the future and see that Correa, Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr. are among those who will be free agents after next season and test what the market is for them. Greinke is due to make $35 million next season, while McCullers is set to hit his final year of arbitration. Correa would have made $8 million in a full season this year and it’s hard to see Houston trading him given his value and role with the franchise.
The Astros won more than 100 games in each of the previous three seasons — although that record looks very different in the wake of the cheating scandal.
Prior to joining Houston, Click’s only MLB experience came with the penny-pinching Rays. He won’t have the same budgetary restrictions with the Astros, although there may be some.
Either way, it’s hard to see the Yankees not having to contend with one or both of their new rivals in the future.