Well, it’s all quiet on the Eastern Front, a.k.a. The Bronx…
The winter has seen the arrival of a new second baseman (Starlin Castro) and fourth outfielder (Aaron Hicks). However, the cost included the young backup catcher (John Ryan Murphy) and the ultimate “6th man” (starter/reliever Adam Warren). Another trade sent away the key 7th inning reliever (Justin Wilson) for average prospects.
Now with a weakened bullpen, the starting rotation remains the greatest risk on the team.
There’s no backup at third, the new starting second baseman is the backup shortstop, and despite the youthful acquisitions, the Yankees are old and getting older at first base, right field and DH.
The moves made so far by the Yankees seem to echo the team is looking ahead to 2017 and 2018 when the big ticket contracts finally fall off the books. There’s been nothing done that instills confidence the Yankees can keep up with the Toronto Blue Jays or Boston Red Sox in 2016.
I do think that Castro is an upgrade, but I was fully prepared to go into the season with the combo of Rob Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley. It wasn’t like the Yankees did not have a plan for the position. I get why the organization is not playing in the $150-$200+ million market this winter but standing pat is not going to get the job done. GM Brian Cashman alluded to more moves to come but the last couple of weeks have just been crickets.
After the holidays, teams are starting to get more focused on spring training so I don’t see the potential for any blockbuster trades. If any deals are made, they will probably be the lower key variety for young, unproven players with good upside potential.
I was pessimistic about the Yankees’ chances last off-season, and as it stands now, I’ll be pessimistic again. The Yankees outperformed my expectations last year, but still, at the end, you knew it was a team that was not going to catch fire and tear through the play-offs. The wild card game against the Houston Astros felt like a loss before it happened and it was.
It’s too bad the Yankees can’t find a way to unload some of the dead wood but of course they’d have to send money away to do it. Hal Steinbrenner is a bean counter by trade and this is a bottom line business. I agree with his assessment that you don’t have to have a $200 million payroll to be a champion, but this period of transition in organizational philosophy is painful given the Yankees didn’t have the greatest farm system when the transition began.
Watching the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys flounder with backup QB’s during Tony Romo’s absence is what it will feel like if the Yankees lose any of their starters for extended periods next season. It’s not impossible that we’ll see James Kaprelian pitch at the big league level next season for no other reason than necessity.
Hopefully the Yankees can again outperform my expectations. As they say, time will tell as it often does…
Life as Baseball’s Biggest Spender…
I may not be a fan of the Yankees’ off-season, but it could be worse. They could be the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have lost their manager, arguably their best pitcher last season, and have seen a trade for Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman fall apart. Meanwhile, their rivals in the AL West have beefed up their starting rotations. The Arizona Diamondbacks feature former Dodger Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller as their modern version of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, while the San Francisco Giants have Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto following Madison Bumgarner. The San Diego Padres underperformed last season, but I expect improved play from them this year. The Dodgers have clearly lost ground. They made a good decision with their new manager (Dave Roberts) but their starting rotation after Clayton Kershaw is a far greater risk than even the Yankees’ starting five.
It’s been a crazy off-season when baseball’s two largest market teams sit on the sidelines while the other smaller market teams throw millions at free agents. The Yankees and Dodgers had the deep pockets to withstand bad financial investments. I wonder how that will play out for the teams that are not as deep in cash. Things could get ugly if the latest multi-millionaires begin the downward spiral of their careers too soon. The days of the Yankees and Dodgers stepping in to pick up the remaining balances on bloated contracts are over.
My Christmas wish list for the Yankees is simple. Another starter for the rotation, a sound backup third baseman, and a new reliable 7th inning bridge for the bullpen. Perhaps the latter will be an in-house solution, such as James Pazos or Chasen Shreve, but the other two will need to be acquisitions. I have no clue who they might be, but that is Cashman’s problem to worry about.