Life as a “small market” team…

Shopping at Nordy’s Rack…

The latest news about Yankee acquisitions does leave one a bit unfulfilled on this post Christmas day.  Sebastian Valle, Vince Pestano, Jose Rosario, Richard Bleier and Juan Silva are not exactly household names.  They represent the Yankees’ latest minor league signings or fodder for the upper levels of the farm system.  The Yankees also signed former New York Mets prospect RF Cesar Puello.  I am not familiar with Puello, but his status as the only player suspended in the Biogenesis scandal not to play in the major leagues is not exactly awe inspiring.

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John Munson photo, NJ.com

Nothing against these guys but how times have changed.  While all notable major league free agents sign elsewhere, the Yankees are sticking to their new business model (seeking young, controllable players).  I am sure that they are hoping to find a diamond in the rough with the minor league signings.  Someone like Yangervis Solarte who was able to make the opening day roster the year he signed a minor league contract with the Yankees.  A few of these players were once notable prospects with their original teams, such as C Valle with the Philadelphia Phillies.  There’s always a chance they can find that promise they once held, but odds are against it.

Hip, hip Jorge?…

When Baseball Prospectus recently named SS Jorge Mateo as the Yankees’ top prospect.  I was a little surprised.  I agree that Mateo has the potential to be a great player, but he is still only 20 and far from a sure thing.  I would have thought RF Aaron Judge would have been the top prospect.  2016 will be a very critical year for Judge.  If he plays his cards right, he can supplant Carlos Beltran in right field at some point in 2016, whether it is through injury or simply the given fact that Beltran has become a defensive liability in right, thanks to age.  If Judge is not ready, it will make the transition more challenging.  I am sure that Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams will be doing everything they can to find a place in the outfield so Judge will not be handed right field.  His job is to take it, and the sooner, the better.

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Corey Sipkin, NY Daily News

As for Mateo, it makes me wonder how long Didi Gregorius will be a Yankee.  It’s inevitable that Mateo will one day be the starting shortstop.  But will it be with the Yankees or for another team like the Miami Marlins?  Time will tell.  I am sure that GM Brian Cashman likes the #1 prospect tag as it makes the player seemingly more valuable.  Under the former Steinbrenner regime, I would have almost guaranteed that Mateo would play elsewhere.  But under Team Hal, the odds are Gregorius is a Yankee only until he starts to get expensive, and then Mateo slides into his spot.

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MiLB.com

Taking one on the Chen…

Clearly, the Yankees need a frontline starter.  They passed on the mid range free agent starters like Mike Leake although I suppose Wei-Yin Chen is still available.  I think Chen would be a good fit, but of all the teams that have been linked to Chen, the Yankees are not one of them.  Still, it would be a good opportunity for the Yankees to strengthen their rotation and protect it against injury to the other starters and weaken a chief AL East rival.  In my opinion, it would be a good investment even for a team that no longer wants to spend money.

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Rob Carr, Getty Images North America

Too much ink talking about 2018…

I dislike the stories indicating the Yankees are waiting for the 2018 free agent market when Bryce Harper tops the inventory.  Every team will be making a run at players like Harper.  The Yankees cannot outspend a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers, and based on their recent history, they won’t.  So, 2018 is not the great savior year for the Yankees.  Perhaps they do ultimately end up with Harper, but that’s not the ‘be all, end all’.  Too many factors need to fall the Yankees’ way for Harper to pull on the pinstripes and it is certainly not a given.  So making moves today to set up the free agent signing of Harper in 2018 is a flawed business plan for a team that is seeking to eliminate excessive long-term contracts.

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Where do we go from here?…

With so many young players being added to the team, the Yankees do need to keep or add veterans who simply know how to win.  The Chicago Cubs did a great job in adding the versatile Ben Zobrist as their new second baseman as the guy is a winner.  The Yankees need a few players like that instead of the ‘me first’ guys like Mark Teixeira.  1998 was such a great year for the Yankees because it felt like a “team”.  That is the culture I am hopeful Brian Cashman is able to re-create.

I am worried about third base.  I always thought that Chase Headley would be a good fit for the Yankees during his years with the San Diego Padres.  He did a great job in 2014 when he was acquired by the Yankees.  His defensive play was a notable upgrade, and going into 2015, the Yankees looked to be set defensively-speaking on the left side of the infield.  Then, Headley proceeded to have one of his worst years on both sides of the ball.  Will 2016 see a continuation of 2015 or will he recapture the magic he flashed in 2014?  Probably somewhere in between, but at some point, the Yankees will need to find a replacement.  Here’s hoping that minor league 3B Eric Jagielo can make great strides next season.

I am not sure who I would prefer to see backup Brian McCann next season.  The popular choice is Gary Sanchez, however, I feel that he’ll need meaningful at-bats.  Given that DH is clogged with Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira, I am not sure that it would be in the best interests of the development of Sanchez to not play every day.  Therefore, Austin Romine might be the better player suited for the backup role.  Player to player, Sanchez is clearly the better catcher, but the Yankees need to ensure he’s built to be a key cog for the next decade.  Sitting on the bench in 2016 is not the best use of the player.  On the other hand, if the Yankees do go with Sanchez, Austin Romine’s time with the Yankees will almost certainly come to an end.  The Yankees have had good luck in flipping the last couple of catching backups for talent in other areas so I’d prefer to see Romine make the roster in an attempt to boost his trade value.  And then turn to Sanchez in 2017 when he can begin to take the catcher’s role away from McCann (the obvious DH of the future).

Starlin Castro may never be the player that Robinson Cano is or was, but I still prefer the 26 year old Castro over the 30-something $240 million Mariner.  At this point, with Team Frugal, I am glad that they don’t have the albatross of Cano’s contract hanging over their heads as the bloated contracts of Rodriguez, Teixeira, and CC Sabathia expire.

The Yankees have much to do between now and spring training.  Granted, there will be no splashy moves, but I anticipate a Nathan Eovaldi type of trade looming on the horizon.  Not a trade sending Eovaldi away, but rather a trade to bring a young, cost-controlled player/pitcher with significant upside to the Bronx.

So, we remain waiting for those additional moves that Brian Cashman alluded to.

Hey Cash, your move…

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—Scott

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