Yankees Showing Lack Of Moves In 2021 Offseason (www.mlb.com)

The Yankees aren’t the only team that has been quiet so far in the baseball offseason. Just about everybody except the Padres has been. The Mets, under new owner Steve Cohen, were supposed to make more noise than a runway at LaGuardia Airport, but the biggest move they have made

The Yankees aren’t the only team that has been quiet so far in the baseball offseason. Just about everybody except the Padres has been. The Mets, under new owner Steve Cohen, were supposed to make more noise than a runway at LaGuardia Airport, but the biggest move they have made so far is to sign catcher James McCann.

But no team has been more quiet than the Yankees. Too quiet, as they used to say in old western movies. In the movies, that was generally before something big was about to happen. Yankees fans are beginning to wonder what that might be, one year after their team spent $324 million on the ace, Gerrit Cole, who was finally supposed to win them their first World Series since 2009.

Cole was as advertised in October, the month for which the Yankees hired him. He was swell in the last game of the Yankees’ season, in their American League Division Series loss to the Rays. He pitched into the sixth, struck out nine and gave up just one run. The Yankees lost, 2-1. They stopped hitting — the way they have at the end of so many big postseason series since they last won a World Series. They stopped hitting the way they did against the Astros in the 2017 AL Championship Series after leading 3-2 in the series, scoring just a single run in Games 6 and 7.

Now … they wait. Quietly.

They mostly wait on DJ LeMahieu, their best player the last two seasons and one of the best free-agent acquisitions general manager Brian Cashman has made, for two years and $24 million. The second year of that deal, LeMahieu hit .364 and won a batting title with the Yanks, same as he had once done with the Rockies. The year before that, a full season, he hit .327 with 26 home runs and 102 RBIs, and proved he could play anywhere in the infield.

All the latest LeMahieu rumors

LeMahieu likes the Yankees, likes playing in New York and likes his teammates. But he is 32 and a free agent, and this is his chance to make the score of a lifetime. Maybe in the end he decides to give the Yankees a family discount and stays. But if he doesn’t, the Yankees have a big problem — in their batting order, in the middle of their infield.

But that’s not their only problem. The Yankees did make the postseason in the short season of 2020 for what felt like the hundredth time in a row. But they didn’t win the AL East and they didn’t beat the Rays in the playoffs. The Yankees like to talk about all their injuries, especially with their starting pitching. Look at the injuries the Rays had. They made it all the way to Game 6 of the World Series against the Dodgers.

Now the Yankees still have holes in their rotation, even if Luis Severino, once their nominal ace, comes back in the summer. Masahiro Tanaka is a free agent, so is James Paxton, and so is J.A. Happ. Maybe this is the year when the Yankees lean on their young starters more than they have in the past. We’ll see. Last year they came into the season with Cole, Tanaka, Paxton, Happ — all 29 or older.

All the latest Yankees free-agent rumors

Here is another problem: money. Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ general managing partner, says his team lost more of it than any other club in the sport last season, and he wants Cashman to keep his payroll under the $210 million competitive balance tax threshold for 2021. It means that Cashman has less than $40 million to spend, and that’s before he might bring back LeMahieu at $25 million a year, and as he continues to work around the contract of Giancarlo Stanton, which sometimes makes Yanks fans think an oil derrick has been built in the middle of Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees need at least one starter. If LeMahieu leaves, they need a shortstop, because they will likely move Gleyber Torres off short, where he continues to look more than somewhat out of place. And they need a left-handed bat for that short right field at Yankee Stadium. Only they likely can’t afford one of those, not with Stanton as the DH, and even in a right-handed-heavy batting order, one that features two big guys — Stanton, Aaron Judge — who can’t manage to stay on the field.

There’s a lot going on with a team that was the World Series favorite from the AL going into last season and then had to fight for a playoff spot in September. So I asked Cashman the other day if he might have a big surprise in store for his fans.

Cashman: “Would be nice.”

Then he added this: “Always under promise and try and overperform.”

His team has been full of promise for years now, but it underperformed enough with the money on the table. Still a long way to Spring Training, whenever Spring Training starts. Still a lot of players out there who could help finally put the Yankees over the top. Still time for Cashman to surprise us all. But still quiet out there for now. Too quiet for Yankee fans.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.

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