At 82-80, the New York Yankees posted their worst record in three decades last season. They finished in fourth place and missed the postseason, and came close to posting their first losing record since going 76-86 in 1992. Ace Gerrit Cole won the Cy Young, and Aaron Judge nearly matched 2022's 62-homer pace when healthy, but the season was ultimately a disappointment.

"We understand very well that last year was not anything anyone in this organization wants or demands or expects," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said on the first day of spring training. "And I would say we have poured into that from ownership to the front office to the coaches and staff all the way to the players, that I do feel we have prepared properly. We are ready to roll. But again, we got to show you."

That disappointing season led to an active offseason. The Yankees traded for Juan Soto, who figures to be their most impactful left-handed hitter since Robinson Canó was in his prime, and they also brought in Alex Verdugo and Trent Grisham to further reinforce an outfield that was deficient behind Judge in 2022. Marcus Stroman was signed to round out the rotation as well.

The Yankees do not lack talent. Judge and Soto are two of the very best hitters in the world and Cole is 1 of 1 in terms of durability and ability to dominate. The question for the Yankees this year is whether they'll be able to keep that talent on the field more than they have in the past, and whether others can take a step forward. Let's preview the upcoming season in the Bronx.

Win total projection, odds

  • 2023 record: 82-80 (fourth place in AL East)
  • 2024 Sportsline win total over/under: 93.5
  • World Series odds: +800

Projected lineup

  1. 3B DJ LeMahieu, RHB
  2. RF Juan Soto, LHB
  3. CF Aaron Judge, RHB
  4. 1B Anthony Rizzo, LHB
  5. 2B Gleyber Torres, RHB
  6. LF Alex Verdugo, LHB
  7. DH Giancarlo Stanton, RHB
  8. C Austin Wells, LHB
  9. SS Anthony Volpe, RHB

The Soto and Verdugo pickups push Judge into center field, where he has played plenty the last few years. Grisham will join backup catcher Jose Trevino (Cole's personal catcher) and infielder Oswald Peraza on the bench. The final bench spot figures to go to utility man Oswaldo Cabrera. Outfielder and top prospect Jasson Domínguez is on the mend following Tommy John surgery and is expected back in June or July. The Yankees will figure out how he fits when he returns, and not a second sooner.

Projected rotation

  1. RHP Gerrit Cole
  2. LHP Carlos Rodón
  3. RHP Marcus Stroman
  4. LHP Nestor Cortes
  5. RHP Clarke Schmidt

The Yankees tried and failed to sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto -- they quickly pivoted to Stroman after Yamamoto signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers -- and they reportedly remain in the mix for Blake Snell. A Snell signing would more likely push Schmidt into the bullpen rather than Triple-A. Even without Snell, there is a lot of upside with this group, but also a lot of physical concerns.

Projected bullpen

Scott Effross missed 2023 with Tommy John surgery and will miss the start of 2024 with back surgery. We have Marinaccio in that spot now because he's been a bullpen regular most of the last two years, though that role figures to be a revolving door with fresh relievers shuttled in and out as necessary.

Will they be able to re-sign Soto?

The 2024 season hasn't even started yet, but it's hard not to look ahead to 2025. The Yankees traded for one year of Soto. He will become a free agent after this season, and there is no reason to think he will sign an extension. "(I don't see) too many things stopping him from reaching free agency," GM Brian Cashman said last month.

Soto, who is still only 25, is represented by Scott Boras, and Boras likes to take his top clients into free agency. With a typical Soto season -- he's a career .284/.421/.524 hitter -- the young man will have a chance to set new contract records given his age and production. Remember, he turned down a $440 million extension from the Washington Nationals a few years ago. 

"My priority right now is just getting to know the team and these guys," Soto said during his introductory Zoom call in December. "... For any contract stuff, they know who to call and who to talk to. I'm here just to play baseball."

Last offseason, Judge set the market for a "best hitter in baseball" type at $40 million a year through age 39. For Soto, that would equal a 14-year-old contract worth $560 million. Crazy? Maybe! But who saw Yamamoto getting $325 million this offseason? The price for players this good and this young tend to far, far exceed any reasonable contract projections.

Ultimately, the Yankees can afford any contract for Soto. Money is not an issue here. The question is whether the Yankees can sell Soto on the organization and show him they're ready to win; they need to convince him 2023 was just a blip. The trade gave the Yankees a head start on the recruiting process. Winning in 2024 may not guarantee re-signing Soto after the season, but it can't hurt.

Will enough players have bounceback seasons?

Cole, Judge, and Soto are a heck of a foundation. Those are three of the 10-ish best players in the game. At the same time, it takes more than three players to win a World Series (or the brutal AL East), and the success of the 2024 Yankees depends as much on players coming off injuries and/or poor seasons as it does the stars. Look at these key contributors they need to bounce back:

Nestor Cortes

A pair of rotator cuff strains limited Cortes, a 2022 All-Star, to one start after May last season. He reported to spring training healthy and has looked like 2022 Cortes in his early Grapefruit League action, but we're only a few days into March.

DJ LeMahieu

LeMahieu, 35, slashed .243/.327/.390 last year, though that was split into a .643 OPS in the first half and an .809 OPS in the second half. He was hampered by a toe injury late in 2022 and it may have carried over into early 2023. Can LeMahieu carry that second half performance into 2024? He's the favorite to hit leadoff in front of Soto and Judge, a rather critical lineup spot.

Jonathan Loáisiga

Boone's most trusted setup man, Loáisiga is the master of generating weak contact with his upper-90s sinker. The problem is he's visited the injured list with an arm injury every year of his career, including elbow woes that limited him to 17 2/3 innings last year. Give the Yankees a choice, and I think they'd sign up for 40 innings from Loáisiga right now.

Anthony Rizzo

Rizzo started last year so well, then he collided with Fernando Tatis Jr. on a pickoff throw at first base on May 28, and inexplicably played through post-concussion symptoms for two months before shutting it down. Look at the before and after numbers:


Before collision




After collision




Rizzo is healthy now -- he was said to be healthy at the end of last season, though the Yankees decided not to activate him because they were out of the race -- and a productive Rizzo is a game-changer for this lineup. The Yankees will need someone to cash in whatever opportunities Soto and Judge leave behind, and a healthy Rizzo is qualified to be that hitter.

Carlos Rodón

Year 1 of Rodón's six-year, $162 million contract was a complete disaster: 6.85 ERA in 64 1/3 innings around back, hamstring, and forearm injuries. In his final start of the year, he became the tenth pitcher in history to allow eight runs without getting an out. Rodón came to camp noticeably slimmer and he has looked very good in his early spring training starts. Getting him back to even 75% of his 2021-22 form would give the Yankees a major shot in the arm.

Giancarlo Stanton

Stanton, 34, hit a career worst .191/.275/.420 last season -- he still managed 24 homers in 101 games -- and his defense is unplayable at this point, so he's a DH who didn't H. The 2017 NL MVP reported to camp slimmed down and talking of swing changes, but his production has been in decline for several years. Father Time remains undefeated.

Marcus Stroman

Three months into 2023, Stroman looked like a Cy Young contender with the Chicago Cubs, earning him a selection to the All-Star Game. Rib and hip injuries hampered him down the stretch though, and he had an 8.31 ERA in 34 2/3 innings after the calendar flipped to July. The Yankees badly need Stroman to be a rotation stabilizer and a reliable source of innings.

The Yankees have so many bounce back candidates that you can't reasonably expect them all to bounce back. Maybe one of the pitchers will get hurt again, maybe LeMahieu or Stanton will continue their age-related decline, whatever. But it's hard to imagine all of these questions are answered in a positive way this year. That's just baseball. Injuries and decline happen.

Furthermore, the Yankees also need young players like Volpe and Schmidt to make strides and raise their game. Last year, Volpe became the first Yankees rookie to a) have a 20/20 season, and b) win a Gold Glove, but he also hit .209/.283/.383, and that's not going to cut it. Wells is expected to get plenty of playing time behind the plate after last year's cup of coffee.

Cole, Judge, and Soto will be great. And if they're not, then the jig is up, and the Yankees aren't going anywhere no matter what the rest of the roster does. And the rest of that roster includes a lot of uncertainty. Contending in 2024 after going 82-80 in 2023 will require more than a few key players staying healthy and having bounce back seasons. It's a lot to ask.

What would make for a successful season?

Win the World Series. That's it. Things like Volpe (and Domínguez and Wells) taking a step forward and Rodón rebounding would be nice and welcome, but at the end of the day, it's World Series or bust for this franchise. You don't trade for one year of Soto and be happy with simply qualifying for the postseason. Since Judge's first full season in 2017, the Yankees have gone to the ALCS three times, and they've lost to the Houston Astros all three times (2017, 2019, 2022). It's time to get over the hump. The Yankees have to win the World Series for 2024 to be considered a success, full stop.