When diluted, Yankees players are not much different than you or me. Some have been touched by the Coronavirus more than others. These players feel it the most.
Not all Yankees were created equal. A few were tagged as teenagers to be rationed and strategically developed into future All-Stars. Others were targeted by management as a player to be patiently brought into the fold the moment stars aligned perfectly.
Others came to the Yankees with bold-type back page headlines while another player came in with barely a ripple on the MLB Transaction Wire. Still, others signed on as late-round draft picks, hoping to defy the odds of ever seeing the Yankees clubhouse.
Regardless of these varied backgrounds, the Yankees of the moment share a commonality among all of us as we seek to cope with a new and unsettling style of living. And depending on individual circumstances, some have more to worry about than others.
Yankees: Some Risk More Than Others
Elite Yankees, like Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton, are sitting on long-term guaranteed deals that cement their status with the team, significantly reducing the anxiety that accompanies a season that may never begin.
These are the exceptions, though, and not the norm.
Take, for instance, Aaron Judge. 2020 was supposed to be the year he showed the Yankees he can stay on the field and produce for more than a half-season, thereby easing the Yankees nervousness about offering him a long-term deal.
Judge will turn 29 as the 2021 season begins. By then, “long-term” will have shrunk to six-years if he’s lucky, instead of the ten most believed he was on target to earn.
Aaron Judge is losing a lot for each game not played, and that assumes he’ll be ready to play this July when the season is on pace to open.
Yankees: Players On The Edge
Then we come to three key Yankees who are in their walk-year before becoming unrestricted free agents for the 2021 season.
Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and DJ LeMahieu are all losing critical time to reestablish their value to the Yankees as well as other teams as they seek to grab what could be their last big payday in the majors.
They’ll all have jobs next year. But what about marginal position player Yankees like Luke Voit, Mike Tauchman, Tyler Wade, Mike Ford, Clint Frazier, Kyle Higashioka, Gio Urshela, Thairo Estrada, and Estevan Florial?
These are Yankees who have had some success with the team or are pegged as up-and-comers with a chance to make – and stay – on the team.
No games – no chances to prove your value to the team. And they all know memories are extremely short in baseball – it’s all about what have you done for me lately.
Yankees Pitching: Is This Really Necessary
There is cause for concern among certain pitchers on the Yankees staff, especially with the relief corps.
New Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake has been harping on his concern that the rush to begin the season with a preseason of only three weeks elevates the chances for arm injuries among his staff.
Yankees team doctor Chris Ahmad rang the same bell today in a story published by the New York Daily News, expressing his concern that pitchers will try to do too much too soon, resulting in the need for a rash of Tommy John surgeries.
While Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Chad Green are automatically penciled in as core relievers, others like Tommy Kahnle and Jonathan Holder are coming off so-so years and could be subject to the fears of Blake and Ahmad.
For all Yankees players, coaches, management, and ownership, these are trying times that test the nature of our being.
We all want to go fast to return to some semblance of normalcy. Yankees players are no different, but some have a need more than others.
Brett Gardner wants that (probable) last chance to secure a second ring and is thinking back to 2009 when he thought there were more coming – just rack ’em up.
Expecting the chance to show 2019 was not an aberration, he now stands at the mercy of the Yankees to have his contract renewed for 2021.
Even Gerrit Cole has to be biting at the bit to prove the 324 million dollars in his pocket is going to translate to a Yankees World Championship – not tomorrow – today!
2020 Doesn’t “Count” Anyway
But let’s face the truth. The “real deal” cannot come without an asterisk attached to an abbreviated 2020 season. To be sure, Rob Manfred, Commissioner of Baseball, will present a trophy on national television this fall.
Hopefully, the Yankees and their fans will refrain from making rash decisions on players, up or down, until Spring Training 2021 and not based on a half-season of eighty games this year.
Instead, the focus of the Yankees and all of us should be to stay healthy enough to slide through this summer, fall, and winter. After which, we’ll welcome the 2021 baseball season in its whole.