I would do the following (some obvious and some drastic):
1. Trade Sanchez - hes still young, hes still a power hitter, a change of scenery to a less pressure packed team may help turn things around. Maybe a trade to a team like the Reds. With the DH becoming a permanent part of the NL in 2022 it will help Sanchez value. Get some prospects back for him to restock the minors. To a team that still believes in Sanchez you could get a premium return still.
2. Resign LeMahieu - this should be a no brainer IMHO. Hes been the one constant on this team the last 2 seasons. The guy keeping this team going. He is about as close to the embodiment of a Yankee as you can get with the current crew. I get that the concern is that Torres may be best suited for 2B but honestly their most valuable player is DJL and while hes not a spring chicken hes not old either at 30.
3. Sign Trevor Bauer - with Tanaka, Paxton and Happs contracts all coming off the books there is money to spend on a guy like Bauer. The fact with revenues tanking and teams unlikely to go nuts contract wise in free agency this is the perfect opportunity to sign Bauer. What would also help is if Bauer keeps to his word and signs only a 1 year deal. It prevents the Yankees from being locked into him but does give them a buffer till Severino can return to full strength. Even if Bauer does want a long term deal, they have the resources to absorb him.
4. Let Paxton go - I would not pick up his QO. You don't want to risk him taking it. Paxton has been an inconsistent injury prone disappointment. He just doesn't seem cut for pitching here and his unevenness is palpable and disruptive. Stability and reliability is what they need on the backend of the rotation and Paxton just isn't the guy as he's a front end stuff guy that you never know what you'll be getting.
5. Let Tanaka go - the late season swoon and the awful playoffs may finally be the flag that says its time to move on fir both Yankees and Tanaka himself. If they add Bauer and assume that Severino will be back at some point the need for a front end is type guy is not necessary. A lot cheaper more stable options available at no.4 and no.5 in the rotation.
6. Let Gardner go - I get the energy and the fight but Gardner is mostly invisible at this point of his career. Mike Tauchman should be able to handle the 4th OF spot as they hand LF to Frazier full time. The money saved from not resigning Gardner can be better used elsewhere.
7. Trade Torres - back to the Cubs in a deal that nets the Yankees Javier Baez and Wilson Contreras. Baez has one year left before he hits free agency and there's talk the Cubs may be looking to reset and save money. Torres is under control for at least 4 more years. That should be more than enough value for the Cubs to include both Baez and Contreras in the deal. Baez may not be as offensively skilled as Torres (its close though) but is one of the best defensive SS in the game. Contreras has turned into one of the best catchers in the game on the defensive end in terms of pitch framing and runs saved and has a good deal of pop for a C. Baez is a fiery competitor and paired with DJL for the next many years would give the Yankees potentially the best middle infield tandem in the game. Contreras (only 28) would replace Sanchez. Baez will need to be resigned after next season but at just 27 hes just heading into his prime and with Lindor hitting free agency at the same time should not take a boatload to resign like Lindor. Both fits the Yankees current window.
8. Sign Tajuan Walker - Walker always had the stuff but hasn't been able to completely put it together for a myriad of reasons. Hes coming off a covid shortened season where it seems like things are finally lining up for him. Hes only just 28 and could be that find that makes hima great value signing.
For the upcoming season the Yankees would not be picking up any additional salary if all of the above moves are made. They get better defensively and on the mound...and in a significantly better position to challenge for a title.
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