Yankees Farm System: The Lord Giveth And The Lord Taketh Away

Yankees farm system - 2019 (Photo Credit MLB Journals)

The Yankees know you can only dip into the cookie jar so many times before you reach the crumbs at the bottom. What’s in the jar now, and who cares?

Beginning in 2016, the Yankees embarked on a dual path of beating the luxury tax without spending wildly on free agents and using trades to find new talent that was major league ready. In one swoop in July 2017, for instance, the Yankees added Todd FrazierTommy Kahnle and David Robertson in a trade with the White Sox. Ian Clarkin (minors), Tito Polo (minors), Blake Rutherford (minors) and Tyler Clippard went to the White Sox, with Rutherford as the Blue Chip from the farm system. No one argued with Brian Cashman’s magic in making the trade.

A week later, the much ballyhooed and coveted Rob Refsnyder went to the Toronto Blue Jays. And a week after that on July 30, 2017, the Yankees traded top pitching prospects Dietrich Enns and Zack Littell to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Jaime Garcia.

Trades have made the Yankees the winning team they are today

A day later, the “Big One” followed as the Yankees sent three of their top prospects (James Kaprielian (minors), Jorge Mateo (minors) and Dustin Fowler to the Oakland Athletics. in exchange for Sonny Gray and international bonus slot money.

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Today, we can debate forever on the value of each trade from the Yankees standpoint. But Yankee fans recall there was little or no dissension at the time.

In 2018, the Yankees engaged in trades that sent prospects Jake Cave, Dillon Tate, Billy McKinneyGiovanny Gallegos, Tyler Austin, Justus Sheffield, and Chasen Shreve to other clubs. Receiving talent like Zach Britton, J.A. Happ, and Lance Lynn eased the pain somewhat, but here’s what the cookie jar looks like now.

MLB Farm System Rankings (Source - Fangraphs)
MLB Farm System Rankings (Source – Fangraphs)

All right, now tell me. Did you start at the top like we’ve been accustomed to, scrolling down and further down until you found that little NYY? The Lord giveth – and the Lord taketh away.

In December, Prospects361listed the Yankees remaining Top Ten Prospects. That list was headed by Jonathan Loaisiga (SP), Estevan Florial (OF), Everson Pereira (OF), and Albert Abreu (SP). None are expected to travel North with the Yankees in April, and each is dependent on injuries within the big club to see any action at all in the majors.

Unless, of course, Brian Cashman decides to use them as leverage in a trade or trades later this season. Meaning, of course, the Yankees farm system will be even further depleted by this time next year.

But that misses the salient point, though, which is to take a minute to go back to the chart, fixing only on the teams at the top. Then, ask yourself what the Padres, Twins, Tigers, Angels, Pirates, Rays, Blue Jays, or Reds have won over the last two to three years by stockpiling prospects. Nada. Nothing.

Next, go back to the Yankees who were traded away. Find just one who has had an impact on the team they were traded to – just one. I’ll save you the time – there isn’t one.

By definition, “prospects” in the Google dictionary carry synonyms like possibilities, potential, promise, and expectations. And some prospects like Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez carry those labels long after spending a significant amount of time in the major leagues. There are no sure things.

The Yankees are close to emptying the tank of prospects in their farm system. That’s a fact. But, so what? Would you instead have Billy McKinney or J.A. Happ? Blake Rutherford or Tommy Kahnle? James Kaprielian or (yes even) Sonny Gray?

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Trades have made the Yankees the winning team they are today. D.J. LeMahieu now counts as a major free agent signing. Brian Cashman had a plan, and he stuck to it. And all indications suggest he is continuing with the same program, favoring trades over free agents as a method to improve his team. The shunning of Manny Machado is evidence of that.

One change we could see shortly, though, is the Yankees having to dig into their 25-man roster to have the juice to pull off one of those “big deals.” This might result, for instance, in the Yankees having to cede Miguel Andujar, Greg Bird, and possibly even Gary Sanchez or Gleyber Torres, depending on how big the fish is that the team is trying to reel in.

It sounded a lot better, of course, when we raised our glasses to toast the Baby Bombers and one of the top three, if not the best, farm systems in the major leagues.

But if you’ve followed the progression and evolution of the Yankees team since those days, is there anything (really) to complain about? Number 28? – Of course. But the front office is working on it, and maybe it’s time to shine a brighter light on the 25 guys in that dugout…

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.

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