The 2019 Yankees have depth reaching far into their 40-man roster. This can be a blessing or a curse. The key is ensuring each man knows his job…
The 2019 Yankees are now at full strength with the return of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. The lineup that Aaron Boone expected to post every day back in early April can be posted in the dugout today and left there for the next five or six days. However, how could Boone have possibly known that come June, it wouldn’t be quite that simple.
The depth of the 2019 Yankees goes far beyond the eight position players who take the field on any given night. Talent is spread evenly throughout their 25-man roster and also into a good portion of their 40-man roster.
Distributing playing time within a scarcity of positions becomes a potentially negative issue among players who otherwise would have regular jobs on another team. That disharmony is diffused, though, when the front office and team manager communicates to each player precisely what is expected from them. Unspoken, though clearly understood, is that if the player responds he will be rewarded for his efforts at contract time.
Aaron Boone, in conjunction with General Manager Brian Cashman, has excelled in providing job descriptions for each player this season. The rewards for doing so are witnessed in the American League Standings.
The 2019 Yankees Understand That Less Is More
To illustrate, reporting during the YES telecast last night, Merideth Marakovits reported on a conversation she had with Yankees pitcher, Nestor Cortes. Asking him how he felt about being sent back to Triple-A Scranton to make room for Aaron Judge, the rookie didn’t hesitate with a response.
Paraphrasing, Nester Cortes simply said, “It’s my job”. Cortes, because the Yankees have explained to him, knows that his job with these 2019 Yankees is to be the bouncing ball between the major and minor leagues for the duration of the season. Cortes “gets it”.
It didn’t matter that Cortes had thrown three solid innings and 57 pitches that same night in relief of The Opener, Shane Green, enabling a Yankees victory over the Astros. Cortes is prepped and ready for any assignment the Yankees need for him to fulfill.
Chance Adams and Stephen Tarpley, both of whom are having outstanding seasons at Triple-A Scranton were also given the same message by the Yankees. Be ready for that Uber ride to the Stadium when we need you…and the message has been taken.
In the same way, DJ LeMahieu reports to the ballpark knowing there is an excellent chance he will play. The only thing he doesn’t know is where he will play. As a finalist in the 2019 All-Star balloting at second base, LeMahieu started at third base in last night’s game, but he’s also appeared in six games at first base.
Again, LeMahieu has no problem being shuffled around the field. But that’s only because Brian Cashman made it clear to him that’s what his role was to be if he signed with the Yankees as a free agent.
More than likely, no one needs to tell veteran outfielder, Brett Gardner, his playing time will be severely limited. The return of Stanton and Judge who, together with Aaron Hicks compose the Yankees starting outfield, barring injuries, put a crunch on his playing time. That okay only because Gardner registers everything with “W’s” – The Yankees Way.
Gio Urshela, a top-three qualifier for the 2019 All-Star team at third base, is another Yankee impacted by the return of an injured player. Not a peep out of Urshela, though, when Didi Gregorius took over the shortstop position, moving Gleyber Torres to second base, where LeMahieu had been receiving the bulk of playing time. Urshela and his .300 batting average sat last night while LeMahieu played third.
Austin Romine is the Yankees back-up catcher for Gary Sanchez. He knows his job is to be ready to play every day in the late innings of a rout, or as a starter, once a week, to provide a day of rest for Sanchez. No problem for the free agent to be – he gets it too.
Maybin, who has no options left and would need to be released, was “saved” by the Yankees when they optioned out Nestor Cortes. But as a 32-year-old veteran who has played for eight teams, Maybin understands his time with the Yankees may still be shortened.
Ironically, Maybin himself eased the stress on Aaron Boone’s lineup decisions when he suffered a strained calf in last night’s win over the Houston Astros. Accordingly, the Yankees placed Maybin on the 10-day IL today.
Do The Yankees Have A Job Description For Clint Frazier?
Perhaps, the only time the Yankees failed this season in communicating a job description to a player is with Clint Frazier. Given ample playing time when Judge and Stanton went down, Frazier sparkled offensively for the Yankees, batting .283 with 11 home runs and 34 RBI in 200 at-bats.
There is no indication the Yankees ever told Frazier he would have a regular job dependent on his performance during that stretch. More likely, Frazier assumed that was the case.
Nevertheless, Clint Frazier talked about issues he had with the team regarding his seeming inability to “fit in”. This was noticed and, as a result, the Yankees may use Frazier as a trade chip in dealing for a much-needed starting pitcher.
Unexpectedly, the Yankees may once again have a need for Frazier given the injury of Maybin, together with shoulder problems that still persist for Aaron Hicks. In two starts for Triple-A Scranton, Frazier has one hit in nine at-bats.
Yankees Turn Lemons Into Lemonade
Major league ballplayers have blood that runs with competitive juices. They all want to be Babe Ruth or Sandy Koufax. And they all believe they can (be) if only given the opportunity. By “opportunity”, they mean playing time.
On most teams, where the talent levels of their players do not conflict, playing time is not an issue. But when it comes to the 2019 Yankees, potentially, the team could be in shambles over the issue of who plays and who sits. Or, who plays their games in the minors.
More than any Yankees team I can recall, including the late 90’s teams of Joe Torre, this team plays as a unit day in and day out.
That is attributed to only one thing. The Yankees players know what their job is. Sounds small, but it goes a long way into having a winning season. These 2019 Yankees are proving it…