The glut of talent in the Yankees system cannot go forever. Eventually, personnel decisions will need to be made, with the most significant of these coming in the crowded outfield. The paring down will begin at the trade deadline, and by Opening Day 2019 some very familiar names will be missing.
Memorial Day, the quarter-pole in a baseball season, traditionally marks the time when fair-weather fans turn their attention to major league baseball to check on how their team and favorite players are doing. These Yankees fans will note new additions to the team like Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar in the infield, along with last year’s NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton, in the outfield. They’ll wonder how that happened, and whatever happened to Jacoby Ellsbury?
But these changes are nothing compared to the Yankees team they’ll see when they tune back in at this time next Memorial Day. Fair-weather Yankees fans…take note because you are getting your last look at Brett Gardner, one of the grittiest players to ever don the pinstripes. Gardner’s contract expires at the end of the season, and it’s unlikely the team will offer him a new one.
You’ll see a familiar face in CC Sabathia, but his one-year contract will not figure in the Yankees plans for 2019, mainly due to the inability of his 37-year-old overworked body to deliver lengthy starts. It’s an affliction hitting the entire rotation, excepting Cy Young candidate, Luis Severino, who has emerged as a genuine Number One on the Yankee staff.
Perhaps most of all, though, fair-weather fans just tuning in will wonder what happened to the players they heard so much about, the ones percolating in the Yankees farm system, and just a step or two away from Yankee Stadium?
Well, aside from Torres and Andujar, only Tyler Austin and his eight home runs have made the cut. All the others are still biding their time in the minor leagues. Which means if you asked yourself the question, that you’ve identified the single-most important problem the Yankees are facing now – too much talent.
The rest of us (Yankees fans) have been dealing with this issue for the entire season. And most recently, the crunch came to a head when the team was forced to send Ronald Torreyes down to Triple-A Scranton to make room for the return of Greg Bird.
Some, though not all, of the problem, may soon be erased when Brian Cashman sets to work in doing his annual Magic Show at the trade deadline, which may be coming sooner rather than later this season.
Consider, for example, prime trade chips like Clint Frazier (OF), Chance Adams (P), Billy McKinney (OF), Justus Sheffield (P), Estevan Florial (OF), Jorge Guzman (P), Domingo Acevedo (P), Luis Medina (P), Tyler Wade (IF/OF), and the list goes on reaching all the way down to the Single-A levels.
Despite the talent, though, how many of these players can ever expect to see the Yankee Stadium clubhouse as a regular wearing the pinstripes? Two, three, four, maybe?
Consider this. Even with Gardner gone next year and Jacoby Ellsbury exiled, the Yankees have a full outfield consisting of Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Aaron Hicks for the next seven to ten years. Take your pick among Frazier, McKinney, and Florial as a fourth outfielder, and that pretty much blocks all other challengers.
It’s even worse in the infield, where you have ultra young Andujar and Torres, and medium young Didi Gregorius and Bird. Pitching could be a different story, and the Yankees might want to stockpile as many as they can. But even there, it’s more likely Cashman will pursue veteran and proven talent via trades than gambling on “developing” a pitcher while the team is capable of winning championships every year.
Generally, minor league players have little going for them, and in reality, they are indentured servants to the team “owning” them. Rule 5 combats this a bit (summarized here):
Referring to the above list of Yankees, Chance Adams is completing his fourth season as a non-roster player, moving him closer to free agent status, while, for instance, Justus Sheffield, who came to the Yankees from another organization via trade, has only two years of service.
All of which means the Yankees are in control of their destiny, and they can freely decide the fates of these players for another two to three years if that’s the direction of their thinking.
I don’t think they are going that route, though. The Yankees, and in particular, Brian Cashman, has seen enough of all these players to know what value they have to the team at the major league level. And the time has come to reshuffle the deck by clearing the floor and starting over again, beginning with the upcoming College Draft in two weeks.
It will not be a fire sale, though. Instead, it’ll be a gradual draining of the system beginning with the July trade deadline, and continuing through the offseason, when most of the action will occur. The highest rated prospects will go first to meet the immediate need the Yankees have for another starter not named Sonny Gray to pitch between Severino and Masahiro Tanaka.
Depending on how Jordan Montgomery progresses through his rehab, adding a second starter to the want-ads is not beyond the realm of possibilities.
So, once again a warm welcome to all fair-weather fans joining the Yankees chase for Number 28. I’m a fair-weather fan of pro football myself, not watching games until Thanksgiving, so I know how you feel. You couldn’t have picked a better time to arrive than now.
The Yankees and Boston are locked into what is going to continue as an epic battle for supremacy in the AL East. Plus, you can almost hear the wheels turning in Brian Cashman’s head as he begins the reshaping of the Yankees, not only for this year but next season as well.