Saturday, March 19, 2022

Cashman's Swings and Misses...


The Week of Questionable Moves…

A week into the return of Major League Baseball and I think some fans were ready to go back into the Lockout. I generally try to stay positive, but the week has been puzzling to say the least.

I get it...these are no longer George Steinbrenner’s Yankees. The days of a passionate owner who wants to win at all costs are over and have been over for more than a decade. The Boss died in 2010 but he had been phased out the last few years of his life. Outside of 2009, Hal Steinbrenner has never been “all in”, at least not to me. I know, the Yankees generally spend more on payroll than most other teams and are consistently at or above the luxury tax threshold. The criticism is mainly how those dollars have been allocated and the times when spending more money made sense, but the team choose the status quo. 

The biggest surprise of the week was the end of the Gary Sanchez era in New York. I had grown frustrated with Gary like most Yankee fans, but I recognized he was well liked among his teammates, and he carries a reputation as a hard worker, so it was not like he was not trying. Many fans have been screaming all winter for Gary’s ouster, and there was frustration each time a speculative catching target was traded elsewhere (such as Cincinnati’s Tucker Barnhart to the Tigers). El Gary remains an offensive threat, a rare quality among catchers. I was ready to support Gary for the coming season despite his defensive lapses. While I thought it was possible the Yankees might move Gary, I was surprised at the news he and Gio Urshela had been traded to the Minnesota Twins for Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Ben Rortvedt. I think my first reaction was ‘why?’

Gary Sanchez / Photo Credit: Nathan Mayberg, Cape Coral Breeze

Josh Donaldson is 36, has had injury challenges in recent years, and is owed $50 million for the next two years which includes a $6 million buyout option in 2024.  Generational free agent talent is available, and the Yankees choose to provide the Minnesota Twins with financial relief. Money that helped the Twins sign the top available free agent shortstop, Carlos Correa, last night. Funny, the Yankees could have used an elite shortstop.

I will start this by saying I like Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the team’s new starting shortstop. He possesses a great attitude and has the ‘I loved the Yankees as a kid’ pic that the fan base always appreciates.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa (right)

The Yankees, one of the wealthiest teams in Major League Baseball, are counting on Kiner-Falefa to be the answer at short until either Oswald Peraza or the prized Anthony Volpe are ready for their Major League debut. The Texas Rangers thought so highly of Kiner-Falefa, they signed Corey Seager to a ten-year, $325 million contract to play shortstop and Marcus Semien, a noted shortstop, to a seven-year, $175 million deal to play second base. Kiner-Falefa, an oft-mentioned name for the Yankees offseason rumor mill, seemed like he would stay in Texas to play third base when their top third base prospect and potential starter Josh Jung had surgery in February to repair the torn labrum in his left shoulder. Jung is expected to miss six months. Yet, it did not keep Texas from shipping Kiner-Falefa to the Twins for catcher Mitch Garver when they had the chance. After acquiring Kiner-Falefa last Saturday, the Twins received a financial gift from the Yankees who took the entirety of Donaldson’s and gladly handed them Kiner-Falefa as part of the deal less than 24 hours later.

Kiner-Falefa was easily moved within the past week by two lesser valued teams to be the starting shortstop for the most storied franchise in baseball history. I am sorry but I view Kiner-Falefa as a super utility guy at best. Betting the farm on top prospects who are still a couple years away does not seem to be a sound baseball decision, especially when you are wasting the prime years of Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.  If Kiner-Falefa turns out to be more, like Didi Gregorius did when he took over for Derek Jeter, I will gladly eat my words. It just seems to be heavy risk to me, especially when free agents Carlos Correa and Trevor Story were still available. Rather than pay Donaldson, I would have preferred to use the money toward shortstop and keep Gio Urshela as the starting third baseman (or DJ LeMathieu at worst).  Correa is now a Twin, and the Red Sox seem to be potentially connected to Story. 

I hope this decision does not backfire on GM Brian Cashman but unfortunately, I feel there is strong potential for it.

The Rangers grab Mitch Garver, one of the better catchers in baseball and a proven successful student of Yankees catching coordinator Tanner Swanson, and the Yankees get a young catcher with limited Major League experience with Ben Rortvedt. Despite having some serious guns, Rortvedt is better known for his defense, and presently slots into a catching platoon with Kyle Higashioka.

Ben Rortvedt

The days of loving offensive production from the catching position are over (Jorge Posada spoiled us). It is well recognized that Higgy is not a starting caliber catcher. Maybe he performs better in a platoon. I am sure Gerrit Cole will prefer the new catching tandem, but I am underwhelmed. Rortvedt is possibly an uncovered gem, but then again, it is a little bit of a pipe dream to expect more than what he is. 

In the end, I wanted the Yankees to go big at either shortstop or first base. They did neither. I like Anthony Rizzo and I am glad he is back with the Yankees. However, I had really wanted either Matt Olson or Freddie Freeman, both far superior players, but the Yankees had to get at least Rizzo with no disrespect to Luke Voit. The Atlanta Braves shocked baseball by trading for Olson, who was born in Atlanta, and signing him to a huge long-term contract. The jilted Freeman ended up going home too, returning to his Southern California roots to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I get Freeman’s decision to play closer to home, but Olson was a clear missed opportunity. Yes, I would have included Anthony Volpe in a trade for Olson if that is what it took. Olson is a young established Major League superstar. I will take that over prospect potential any day. I am not calling for the trade of Volpe, I am excited to see him play for the Yankees one day, but when the championship window is right now, you make decisions for today, not tomorrow. 

It was a little bittersweet to see Luke Voit leave yesterday. Clearly, the handwriting was on the wall that his days in Pinstripes were numbered. When Rizzo was re-signed, keeping Voit, the 2020 home run champion, seemed pointless. He could have played DH, but it would have been a job share with guys like Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton. I always appreciated his football mentality on a baseball field. Luke should be thankful the Yankees found a good home for him in San Diego, a team that has the potential to rise above the Dodgers in the NL West with its strong young talent base.  There was never any chance the Yankees would score Blake Snell in the Voit trade despite the wishes of many Yankee fans. San Diego needs every one of their elite arms to overcome their hated rival to the north. Many fans scoffed at the actual return; a single A pitcher who has been clocked at 102 mph (20-year-old Justin Lange). I am okay with the trade. Luke needed a change of scenery and the reason he was expendable (health questions and defensive concerns) limited his trade value. Lange was rated as the eighth best prospect in the strong Padres farm system by

Justin Lange

If Rizzo has a strong bounce back year, he could opt out of his contract after the season so we might be looking for a new first baseman this fall but that is not a concern for now. 

So far this off-season, Brian Cashman has seemingly made the wrong moves. I have been waiting for the huge, brilliant move to make the team better, but we have only served to help make other teams better. Meanwhile, there is a beast growing north of the border in Ontario.  The trade rumors for potential pitchers (primarily centered on A’s pitchers Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas) continue to swirl but we have yet to see any trades involving the Yankees. The Yankees, for the most part, seem content to run it back with last year’s squad who were beaten last October by the over-achieving Boston Red Sox. 

Whether it is true or not, the ‘World Series or Bust’ mentality of Yankees Ownership seems to have left the building. Build enough to make the playoffs as a Wild Card entrant and then play the roll of the dice seems to be the new mantra. If the Yankees finish third or fourth in the AL East this year, Brian Cashman should be fired. It is time for change. If Hal Steinbrenner is worried about paying his creditors and partners, maybe it is time for the Steinbrenner family to cash in their chips. I am sure there are plenty of billionaires that would love to hold the most valuable franchise in Major League Baseball and would be willing to provide a very generous retirement package for Hal and his sisters. 

I miss the old Evil Empire days. Oh well, at least Hal can pay his bills. 

As always, Go Yankees!

1 comment:

  1. If the Yankees aren't using their money correctly. I'm sure it's Putin's fault. Same if they don't win. I really hope they don't force the players to take a medical procedure against their will.
    But thank you for writing so eloquently on paper what has been in my head with every move. Or lack there of. I agree with you about the poor money allocation. The Yankees have the third highest payroll,yet may not be a top three team. I keep waiting for some game changing moves, but I'm afraid they are gonna say "my team is on the field",


Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)