The New York Yankees hoped the Gerrit Cole signing would help solidify the rotation and spark the Bronx Bombers to a World Series.
Instead, the Yankees came up short in the American League Division Series, losing to the Tampa Bay Rays in five games. New York now heads into a challenging offseason.
Aaron Boone's roster lacked quality starting depth and, with both Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton headed to free agency, it would seem the Yankees could prioritize starting pitching again this offseason. However, star second baseman DJ LeMahieu will also be a free agent. LeMahieu is sure to command a large contract, presenting another conundrum for the Yankees.
But while free agency is likely to loom large in the minds of Yankees fans, the catching situation might also be something to watch.
Gary Sanchez tore onto the scene when he hit 20 homers in just 53 games and followed by being named to the AL All-Star in 2017. Sanchez also seemed to bounce back from a poor 2018 campaign by hitting 34 homers and posting an .841 OPS. But Sanchez had another poor year at the dish in 2020, and he eventually gave way to Kyle Higashioka in the playoffs.
Now, it is fair to wonder whether Sanchez is still regarded New York's future backstop.
Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported that the Yankees were "open" to the idea of trading Sanchez ahead of the August deadline, though Brian Cashman apparently did not receive a desirable offer.
Sanchez's power is evident. He has 115 homers in 421 career games. But the 27-year-old is also coming off a season when he had a career-low .618 OPS and 69 OPS+ while striking out in over 33 percent of his plate appearances.
It remains to be seen how the Yankees would proceed behind the plate if they did shop Sanchez. While Higashioka impressed during his brief regular-season stint and also had an .896 OPS against the Rays in the ALDS, he has yet to appear in more than 30 games in a single season.
New York drafted Austin Wells in the first round this past June, but Wells' professional baseball journey is only just beginning, and the Yankees are not going to rush that process. Feinsand suggested the Yankees could pursue J.T. Realmuto, though he might be out of New York's price range, especially if Cashman hopes to retain LeMahieu and one of Tanaka and/or Paxton.
That said, Sanchez could have value on the open market. In spite of his defensive deficiencies, Sanchez has two more years of arbitration before hitting the open market in 2023. Sanchez is a controllable asset and one of the best-hitting players at the position when he is playing well.
Perhaps the Yankees attempt to leverage Sanchez in exchange for a young and promising pitcher who can help the rotation in 2021. In any case, Cashman seems more open to dealing Sanchez than he has been in the past.
La Russa Excited to Interview With White Sox
It has been 34 years since Tony La Russa managed on the South Side of Chicago, but he could be headed back to the Windy City with the White Sox looking for a new manager.
The longtime Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals manager, currently working in the Los Angeles Angels organization, has been granted permission to interview for Chicago's vacant manager position, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reported La Russa is "seriously looking forward" to speaking with White Sox leadership about the job.
Chicago's AL club made headlines when it fired Rick Renteria after he helped lead the team to its first postseason appearance since 2008. Renteria was criticized for his management of the bullpen in a wild-card loss to the Oakland Athletics, and White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said the team is looking for a manager with championship experience, per James Fegan of The Athletic.
La Russa certainly has championship experience. He led the A's to a World Series title in 1989, a run that included three consecutive World Series appearances between 1988 and 1990. La Russa then won two more championships with the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011.
Fegan reported the White Sox are not attempting to rush the process, and the likes of AJ Hinch and Alex Cora are also expected to receive attention from Chicago.
However, La Russa also has a relationship with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. He managed the team from 1979 to 1986, and Fegan reported the two had been spotted together at White Sox games in recent years.
It is possible the White Sox will turn to a familiar face as they hope to take the next step in 2021.
Pedro Grifol Impresses Tigers
The Detroit Tigers are another AL Central team looking to fill a managerial vacancy after Ron Gardenhire stepped down earlier this year.
Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported Kansas City Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol impressed in his recent interview with the Tigers, adding Grifol has "advanced into the top tier of candidates" for the position.
Morosi noted Grifol has a history with Tigers GM Al Avila, who previously considered Grifol to be the team's manager before Detroit hired Gardenhire ahead of the 2018 season.
Grifol has been a candidate for a number of other positions, and Morosi reported he is regarded as an excellent communicator. That could be a boon for a Tigers team still in the early stages of rebuilding and developing young talent.
All stats obtained via Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.