Saturday, October 17, 2020

Waiting Until Next Year...


Baseball is no fun without the Yankees…

I miss the Yankees.

 As the AL and NL Championship Series play themselves out, we, the fans of the greatest franchise in the history of baseball, can only sit around and wonder what could have been. Or, like many of the self-appointed GM’s on Twitter, we can deconstruct the Yankees for an imaginary rebuild. 

What rebuild? This team doesn’t need to be rebuilt but they do need to make some changes. I know that many called for the head of Manager Aaron Boone, but even before Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner proclaimed that Boone would be back next year, it was apparent Boone has a long leash. I was disappointed with some of the manager’s moves in the playoffs, but I am convinced he can and will get better. I am not ready to close the door on Boone’s career with the Yankees. Unlike some Yankee fans, I am certainly not pining for the return of Joe Girardi. Look, I liked Girardi when he was the Yankees manager and I had been hopeful the team would have re-signed him when his contract expired after the 2017 season. But they didn’t and I trust the decision-making process in the Yankees’ hierarchy, and I’ve moved on. I wish Girardi well, and I hope his stay in Philly cements his legacy as good Major League manager, but you won’t find me looking for a reunion. My desire for manager reunions lived…and died…with Billy Martin.  

Maybe you can say GM Brian Cashman has been on his job too long. Perhaps. If I was Hal Steinbrenner, I’d probably re-structure the front office and basically kick Cashman upstairs. In other words, make him the team President and send Randy Levine on his way. Then, appoint a new GM to work with the analytics team and serve as the face of the organization. I don’t know if I have a specific candidate in mind. It could be an insider like Tim Naehring, a former insider like Billy Eppler, or maybe a fresh, new voice from the outside. I am a little disappointed that Kim Ng has never gotten an opportunity to be the first female GM. The last part of that sentence, in my mind, is irrelevant. Kim deserves an opportunity because she knows baseball and will be an elite general manager if she is ever given the chance. Maybe the Phillies hire her to replace the fired Matt Klentak, but I’d love to see her come back to the Yankees. It won’t happen as Hal Steinbrenner seems devoted to Cashman in his current role. “Obviously, I’ve known Brian forever, and the way he goes about doing things in a very objective way,” Steinbrenner said recently. He went on to say, “He listens to everybody—pro scouting and analytics and anybody else that wants to get into his hear. I know the people that work under him respect him, and Boone respects him, and it’s been good. We’re just going to have to keep plugging away.” It is Hal’s money.  As long as Hal is happy, it doesn’t really matter what you or I think.

The first order of business must be re-signing DJ LeMahieu. I love DJ as a Yankee, and I was a big fan of his when he played for the Colorado Rockies (I lived in Denver at the time). But for as much as I’ve called for the Yankees to re-sign him (almost with each post), the talk of a five-year contract does put me off a little.  I am completely fine with a three-year deal but five years seems to be pushing it a little too far. LeMahieu will be 33 next July. Maybe he ages well, but the thought of a 38-year-old second baseman bothers me. If the Yankees have proven anything in recent years, they’ve generally avoided extended-length contracts (unless your name is Gerrit Cole, of course). I think a three-year deal is fair for both player and team. You can build the necessary dollars into the contract to provide long-term financial security for the player, while keeping the team’s options open should the player regress with age, or if the Yankees were to go five years, I’d want to see some options in those latter years so the Yankees would have an ejection button without the contract becoming an albatross.  So, now that some dollars are being tossed around as ideas, I’ll modify my position to say I want the Yankees to re-sign LeMahieu as long as it makes financial sense to do so. I’d be devastated if he leaves, but I do believe the team needs to protect its flexibility to make future roster enhancements without the dead weight of bad contracts. 

Exercising the team option to bring back Zack Britton is a no-brainer and a must move. I’d be in favor of moving Britton into a co-closer’s role with Aroldis Chapman. Chappy seems to be getting more vulnerable with each passing year. Unfortunately, not everyone…well, in fact, no one…is Mariano Rivera.  But to make Britton the co-closer, the Yankees must make bullpen improvements. I honestly do not know what to expect with Adam Ottavino. I’ve always thought he was a great player, even when he had his struggles in Colorado, but it was difficult to have any trust in him after last year. Can he rediscover himself like he once did in Colorado? I wouldn’t bet against him, but like LeMahieu, he is older now. It gets harder.  Given Tommy Kahnle will miss the 2021 year, the Yankees have to find an elite replacement.  This isn’t a job for the young arms in the farm system. Team Cashman needs to find their next gem with a reliever that is ready to explode. The next Josh Hader is preferable. I don’t know who that is, but I am sure the Yankees have a board of non-Yankee prospects they rank for target acquisition purposes. The Tampa Bay Rays have had great success with their seemingly shot-in-the-dark acquisitions which have turned out to be brilliant discoveries. 

I don’t like Mark Teixeira’s idea of trading Luke Voit to move LeMahieu to first, Gleyber Torres back to second, and re-sign Didi Gregorius to play shortstop. I wouldn’t be opposed to Didi coming back but I don’t want LeMahieu pushed to first to make it happen. Conversely, I’d hate to see LeMahieu leave in order to bring Didi back. I think all of us were disappointed with Gleyber’s results at shortstop this year but like Aaron Boone, he will get better. Gleyber has proven to be a player who puts in the time, the commitment, the work to get better. He’s not just living the high life as a wealthy young man…he is dedicated to his craft and I think he will be successful. I get Teixeira’s belief that Luke Voit’s value has never been higher, but I am hopeful the next Yankees championship includes Voit.

Photo Credit: Rich von Biberstein, Icon Sportswire

With the disappointment of Masahiro Tanaka’s October starting performances starting to fade, I think the Yankees bring him back. They almost have to given the current state of the rotation. I’d love to see the Yankees sign a guy like Trevor Bauer despite the baggage he brings, but I don’t think they’ll spend that type of money in free agency this year. They’ll spend the money on guys in-house, and they’ll use potential trades over making any big splashes in free agency. Luis Severino offers hope but of course we won’t see him until next summer and then there’s always the caveat that it takes some guys a year to get back to their previous level. If he could provide at least the stability of a #3 starter when he returns, I’d be very happy.  It will most likely be 2022 before we can talk about him being second only to Gerrit Cole. By then, I am hopeful Clarke Schmidt and/or Deivi Garcia have fully blossomed into Major League starters.  Through all this, Tanaka offers some glue (stability) so I am convinced he’ll be back. 

I wish I had a crystal ball to see the state of Yankees’ catching in 2021. I am not sure Gary Sanchez is long for life in Pinstripes. I had hoped the new catching coordinator, Tanner Swanson, could work some magic with Sanchez, but the results were less than ideal to say the least. Losing the trust of his manager and the team’s best starting pitcher does not bode well for Gary unless he has a miraculous off-season and comes into Spring Training on a mission to awaken the Kraken. I am starting to give up hope we will ever see it happen. I am not ready to hand the keys to Kyle Higashioka yet, so I really hope this is an area the Yankees figure out this winter. I want Gary to succeed and I want him to do it as a Yankee. But if Cashman has made the determination it is not a salvageable situation, then I’ll trust him to make the decisions to make catching a strength once again. This will certainly be something I’ll be watching closer as we move into the final months of the year. 

J.A. Happ, please don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

I don’t have a grand map for how the Yankees can improve. I trust Cashman and his team to make those decisions. It will be interesting once the World Series is over and off-season planning begins to take shape. Early November moves can often be a precursor to the team’s off-season blueprint. I think at that point, we can start to make better projections for potential moves. I think the Yankees WILL be better next year. I certainly don’t think they will tear it down a year after signing Cole to the monster contract. They need to maximize the potential of the team during the best years of Cole’s contract. There is talent on the roster and there must be a focus to address the team’s weaknesses. With the right moves, the Yankees, on paper, will be among the greatest teams in MLB. Throw in the right chemistry, and 2021 could be a very special year for Yankee fans…the year we’ve been waiting for.

As always, Go Yankees!