Once the lockout ended, fans of the New York Yankees wondered if a major name in free agency would join a team that flamed out in the wild-card game at Fenway Park.
The Yankees did not add any prominent new names via free agency, and their big-ticket addition was acquiring Josh Donaldson from the Minnesota Twins — who promptly used the money saved in the deal to sign Carlos Correa.
After an offseason that frustrated many fans, the Yankees get underway Thursday afternoon when they host the Boston Red Sox in the opener of a three-game series.
“I think we’re a better team right now than we were at any points of last year,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I would say, yes, a more complete team, but it’s April 3. So that’s great and all, we have to go do it.”
Gerrit Cole will begin his third season with the Yankees against Nathan Eovaldi in a rematch of the wild-card game.
Cole is 23-11 with a 3.11 ERA in his first 42 regular-season starts as a Yankee. He was 16-8 with a 3.23 ERA last season when he finished second behind Robbie Ray in the Cy Young voting, but he also faltered down the stretch while pitching through a hamstring injury as the Yankees qualified for the wild-card game on the last day of the regular season.
Cole’s last appearance was in the wild-card game, when he allowed three runs and four hits in two innings of a 6-2 loss. He is 5-3 with a 3.81 ERA in 10 career starts against the Red Sox and was 2-2 with a 4.91 ERA in four starts against them last season.
The roster surrounding Cole is mostly unchanged from last season other than Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who will comprise the left side of the infield after being acquired for Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela on March 13.
Donaldson batted .247 with 26 homers and 72 RBIs last season in 135 games last season while Kiner-Falefa batted .271 with eight homers and 53 RBIs in 158 games for Texas last season.
“We have a strong team here,” Donaldson told reporters. “We feel really good about the pieces that have been put together here. It’s one thing to be able to talk about it, it’s another thing to go out there and do it, but we’re excited about the opportunity to go and do those things.”
Besides Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the team Donaldson joins includes Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo, midseason acquisitions entering a full season with New York.
The Yankees are banking on Aaron Hicks staying healthy after he was limited to 32 games last season due to a wrist injury. They also hope to see rebound performances from DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres after the infielders hit .268 and .259, respectively.
The Red Sox return mostly the same cast from last season’s 92-win team that reached the ALCS after ranking near the top of several offensive categories. They added Trevor Story to join forces with sluggers Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez, a trio who combined for 89 homers last season.
Story signed a six-year deal with the Red Sox and will move to second base after hitting .251 with 24 homers and 75 RBIs in 142 games last season.
“I looked at the board and I was like, ‘Man, we have a sick lineup, a deep lineup,'” Story told reporters.
Eovaldi was 11-9 with a 3.75 ERA in his third full season with Boston. He was 2-2 with 3.71 ERA in six starts against the Yankees last season and is 3-4 with a 3.64 ERA in 15 appearances (12 starts) against New York.
–Field Level Media