In theory, the Yankees could begin the 2019 season as is and make the playoffs with the run production they would have. But what is needed to go beyond that?
The New York Yankees are in a position much like the Chicago Cubs find themselves. Damned if they do (make changes), but more assuredly damned if they don’t make changes. Both are outstanding teams that are loaded with run-scoring potential to jettison them to a dominating regular season. But is the consistency of their lineup able to overcome brief slumps to key players in the playoffs which derail all chances to reach the World Series?
The answer is no, which is why, like it not, the Yankees will be making some painful, but much needed, decisions in the coming weeks and months that signal a roster much different from the one we look at today.
The injury suffered by Didi Gregorius and the subsequent need for Tommy John surgery changes things considerably for the Yankees. Where there was no hole, there is a gaping one now. Led by Brian Cashman, the Yankees brain trust will be meeting shortly in Tampa to formulate a plan that will encompass everything from a game of musical chairs from within to the pursuit of a very expensive Manny Machado et al. in the free agent market.
But first, let’s look at what appears to be a love affair the Yankees seem to have with Neil Walker against what seems to be a not so hot feeling for Miguel Andujar, who was quite glaringly removed from the Yankees lineup for nearly all of the ALDS. Understood, but not said, is that the Yankees believe Andujar is a menace to the team defensively.
Which is interesting since Gary Sanchez and his wooden glove was given the green light by Aaron Boone, who never looked back despite more passed ball and wild pitches subject to being caught or blocked in the ALDS. Boone chose Sanchez’s offense over his defensive ability, and while the move didn’t prove fatal, it certainly didn’t help, and any effort to remodel the Yankees for 2019 has to include considerations to trade Sanchez for a better backstop. J.T. Realmuto, the last remaining piece of Derek Jeter‘s Marlins worth anything is a prime alternative, depending on Jeter’s asking price.
I love Brett Gardner, and I believe we all do. Born and bred in Pinstripes, Gardner brings so many of those intangibles raising his value above the numbers, except that we’ve reached the point where the numbers just don’t cut it anymore. Everything about Gardner is on the downside, and that should not be attributed to anything but age catching up. The Yankees have an expensive option ($21 million) they can pick Gardner up for, but that money sure looks better in the pockets of a starting pitcher the team so desperately needs, And so, it’s probably time to send this cowboy on his way.
The battle for first base can seem to slide for one more season, thanks to the mid-season pickup of Luke Voit, who is sure to give Greg Bird more than a ride for his money during Spring Training. The Yankees pursued Voit very quietly for more than a year, and his production in limited at-bats was phenomenal.
Meanwhile, Bird has one last gasp to regain the faith of the Yankees brass, and probably his teammates as well. The Yankees no longer have the energy or the time to try to figure Bird out. The ball rests squarely in his court.
Moving to the outfield, Aaron Hicks appears to be one of those late bloomers as his career has traced. Again, he is one of those players the Yankees think highly of, so it would take a mighty offer to pry him away from the team. Nevertheless, Hicks has a tendency to get injured as shown by his average of only 100 games played during his six-year career. More than likely though, he’ll be heading North with the Yankees in April.
Aaron Judge is irreplaceable both on and off the field, so let’s move on because the same is not true of Giancarlo Stanton. Shortly after he was traded to the Yankees following his MVP season with the Marlins, I wrote a column suggesting that Stanton was nothing more than a one-year rental by the Yankees. How fickle of me, readers responded. But here’s a thought for you to digest.
Giancarlo Stanton and Starlin Castro, who was the primary Yankees giveaway for Stanton, nearly tied in W.A,R. for the 2018 season. Granted, Stanton is young and his best years may be in the future. But no matter how many home runs he hits, does that offset the over-the-top money owed to him through the 2027 season, especially when factored in against the Yankees need to spend big money on pitching?
Trading Stanton won’t be easy, and if the Yankees have a mind to do so the attempt should be made while Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are still on the table. When all the trade talk was underway over the winter, Stanton all but named the Dodgers as THE team he would like to be moved to. And the Dodgers have a well full of money so…
I also wonder whatever happened to Ronald Torreyes. We know he had some severe and undisclosed family issues over the summer causing him to be away from the Triple-A Scranton team for quite some time. Still, this breeds the question why Torreyes is not in the discussion to hold the shortstop job warm for Gregorius in the same way he did two seasons ago when Didi was injured. Or, why Torreyes is not favored over Neil Walker for the job at second base if Gleyber Torres is moved to shortstop?
So, as we should, we have more questions than answers. Questions are helpful because they open the door to creative thinking, which has been the mainstay of Brian Cashman during his long tenure with the Yankees.
Along with you perhaps, I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see what Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner (don’t forget the man with the checkbook) decide to do as the Hot Stove League warms up.
Note: The final installment will deal with the coaching staff, front office, and ownership.
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Reflections On Baseball