The Yankees farm system is all but tapped out. Help is not on the way. The season will not be a stroll in the park. Now, for the bad news…
The Yankees are struggling big time losing to teams they should have buried, but that’s a story for a different time. This story is about the lack of replacement depth on the 40-man roster when things go the wrong way due to injuries and poor play.
Brian Cashman, who is normally treated like a God on this page, answers the call for help with Mike Tauchman, who if you were like me when the Yankees traded for him, said to yourself, “Hold on, give me that again, Mike who?” One for ten with only a double to his credit, Mike Tauchman is not Luke Voit, who the Yankees scouted for almost a year before plucking him from the Cardinals, and he’s showing it.
Other holes have been filled with Clint Frazier, who is supposed to be in Tampa and Triple-A Scranton because according to the Yankees he needed more time and at-bats to get in gear following a lost season in 2018 due to re-occurring set-backs from a concussion. In a small sample since returning to the Yankees, Frazier is hitting .222 with a duplicate slugging percentage.
Tyler Wade, now an integral part of the Yankees infield when Miguel Andujar went down this week, was left off the 25-man roster the team took with them to open the season. He wasn’t good enough then – but now he is as a regular in the Yankees lineup, despite a .111 batting average since returning to the team.
Yankees: A Time Of Reckoning
Estevan Florial would have been a natural as a call-up at this point, but he is injured too. Billy McKinney, is now the starting left fielder for the Toronto Blue Jays, lost in the deal for J.A. Happ. How about Jack Cave – remember him? He’s now a key component in the outfield for the Minnesota Twins, having been traded there for Luis Gil (another who?).
There is work to be done with this team and it has little to do with who returns from injury – or not. In simple terms, the Yankee’s depth has departed with the wind following trades over the last year or two, depleting the team of resources to fill the gaps when injuries set in.
To be sure, Brian Cashman’s record over the last decade is exemplary when it comes to outwitting and gaining acquisitions to the Yankees from his peers. But there comes a point when it’s time to reckon with the cost of doing business that way.
After all, trades do not occur in a vacuum and there is always a team actively engaged to “steal one” from you, as Cashman did, for instance when Gleyber Torres became a Yankee in the deal for Aroldis Chapman.
DJ LeMahieu solves the problem at third base (thank you, Brian) for however long Andujar is missing from the lineup. He’s a professional hitter and former NL Batting Champion who can play adequate, and perhaps even better, defense than Andujar at third base.
Brett Gardner will be kept in Aaron Boone‘s lineup come hell or high water because he is – Brett Gardner, capable of giving that competitive at-bat or catch in the outfield when it’s needed most.
But more is needed. It’s not that Brian Cashman miscalculated in designing the 2019 Yankees. After all, who could have predicted the rash of injuries to high-level players that has afflicted the Yankees in the opening week of the season – and before?
At the same time though, it’s evident the Yankees, with the exception of Florial, have tapped out their once-vaunted farm system and there is no one on their Triple-A roster capable of stepping in with an immediate impact.
Reaching down even further for a look at the Bombers Double-A Trenton team, two prize pitching prospects stand out (Albert Abreu and Domingo Acevedo). But again, there’s a reason why the Yankees positioned them where they are…
Unfortunately, the Yankees guessed right when they determined Clint Frazier needed more at-bats in the minors, and Tyler Wade is – well – Tyler Wade, a good player but not one who is going to help in any big way, today or tomorrow.
Yankees: Nowhere To Turn
A perusal of the remaining unsigned free agents appears fruitless as well, although there’s a chance that taking a flyer on a player like Denard Span could help. Trades? With Cashman, that’s always a possibility.
But again, his main bargaining chips are long gone in other swaps, and unless he trades from the 25-man active roster, even the Cashman Magic is not likely to work, especially when other teams see the Pinstripes in a state of desperation trying to fill immediate holes.
All of which means the Yankees lineup is not going to change. It is what it is until key players like Aaron Hicks, Didi Gregorius, and (a wish and a prayer) Miguel Andujar gradually make their way back.
Until then, the mission of the Yankees is to keep their head above water, while hoping the Red Sox continue to flop and the Rays (Oh yes, they’re for real) don’t run away with this thing by the All-Star break. It’s not the way this season was drawn up, but when all is said and done, facing up to these challenges build character in a team.
And that’s not rationalizing – that’s baseball.