The Yankees are on the clock, and they are playing a game of risk with Austin Romine, Didi Gregorius, and Brett Gardner. Why mess with a winning formula…
The Yankees insist they have it all figured out. Kyle Higashioka is more than capable of replacing Austin Romine as their backup catcher. Gleyber Torres slides over to shortstop, and DJ LeMahieu goes to second base to fill the void left by Didi Gregorius.
And without Brett Gardner, the team has Mike Tauchman and just signed outfielder Zack Granite (who?), who has played 24 major league and 421 minor league games in center field, to a minor league deal last week. Tauchman started 11 games at center field last season for the Yankees.
The Yankees say that puts a band-aid on their outfield until Aaron Hicks returns from offseason surgery mid-season. And that assumes Hicks will play 80 straight games to finish out the season without tweaking this or that.
How are the Yankees better with these minuses?
Brian Cashman cannot be serious. Maybe it’s his calculator working in overdrive. “Mmm…let’s see. That 14 mil for Brett, another 14 for Didi, and three for Romine. Shucks, that’s $31 million in reserve with Gerrit Cole‘s name on it”.
Never mind that Cole will make 35 starts for the Yankees while the trio they are losing will play in more than three-hundred games.
Or that Austin Romine is the best pitch framer on the team, and over the last two seasons has played the equivalent of a full season (149 games) while hitting 28 home runs and driving in 79 runs.
Or maybe it’s that the Yankees still believe in miracles, and Gary Sanchez will hit above the Mendoza line and stay healthy enough to limit Higashioka to 25-30 games.
Does it matter, too, that Didi Gregorius missed the first half of the season? And though his numbers were down, no one I can find suggests he’s taken a permanent step backward.
Or, that his defense is solid if not spectacular, and he makes all the plays a big-league shortstop is expected to make routinely?
Brett Gardner – how in heaven’s name does he even make it into this conversation?
Gardner just finished his best power season in the majors with 28 home runs. But with two strikes on him, Gardner still chokes up a bit ready and able to slap the ball for a base hit. Plus, there are the intangibles he brings to the team and the Yankees clubhouse.
Is it all just a game…
Pay these guys. Pay all of them and do it now before someone else does.
Or maybe there’s something more sinister going on here, and the Yankees have decided to toy with these veteran pinstripers?
And Cashman knows Brett Gardner would give his right arm to finish his career with the Yankees. So wait, and we can get him later for $500,000 less.
Or that Didi Gregorius looks at the Cincinnati Reds, who are reportedly interested in a multi-year deal for his services – and he says to himself – “Do I really want to play for a team that’s in the same division as the Cardinals, Brewers, and Cubs, probably losing 85-90 games a season?”
Similarly, how badly does Austin Romine want or need to be a full-time catcher in the big-leagues? Does he want it enough to sign with (say) the Pirates or Tigers, where he knows his bags can be packed and ready to leave for home on the first of October?
Waiting while the clock ticks on the Yankees
From outside the bubble and looking in, none of this makes any sense. And in many ways, it’s so “un-Yankeelike.”
The salient point remains. Why are the Yankees messing with a winning formula that has produced two straight 100+ wins seasons?
Over the years, I’ve learned that Brian Cashman always has a plan. But in this case, I’m waiting because I don’t see it…