For the last couple years, I have watched the Yankees continue to decline and downgrade their team. Players who were multi-dimensional, aged and either moved onto other teams or retired, only to be replaced by one dimensional players. Because of the lack of infusion of young talent, the Yankees became a team of Band-Aids. Here we are in 2013 and we now have a team to resembles the CBS owned Yankees of the early 1970s -- a couple of talented players surrounded by garbage.
Retrospectively, some people would like to blame the Yankees' state of affairs on injuries. (Management has already tried that.) However, that would be an unfair get-out-of-jail-free pass that the Yankees are not entitled to. Specifically, coming into this season, Jeter's return was already uncertain and Alex Rodriguez was expected to be out until mid-season. Stewart and Cervelli were already set at catcher despite the former never being able to hit and the latter being a slightly better hitter but a player who is more often injured than not. Right there, we have 3 position issues. The Yankees also came into the season with Hafner at DH, a player who has not been healthy or good in how many years? At least Ibanez still showed pop and a recent history of solid health (if little else.) That is now 4 positional question marks out of 9 positions and that is before the season. Granderson was hurt in pre-season and was expected to be out 2 months? That is now 5 known holes in the starting lineup before the season even started. The 4 less questionable positions in the lineup were filled by - Cano, Gardner, Ichiro and Texeira. Of those 4, only Cano came off a solid and healthy season. Teixeira was not only hurt (to no fault of his own) but he was already a sub-par hitter (average-wise). Ichiro was a sub-par hitter who Yankees fans became obsessed with based on a brief hot streak. Gardner was hurt last year after coming off a .255 season (in his last complete season.) Further, how did the Yankees fix their injuries? By getting Overbay, Wells, Youkilis and a bunch of donuts. Those 3 guys have not had a good year since I cannot last recall. In other words, the only player on the Yankees at the start of the season who the Yankees had every reason to expect to be healthy and good was Cano. How do you go into a season with only 1 out of your 9 expected starters and expect a solid season from your offense?
Notably, free agency is not what it used to be and is often a way teams encumber themselves with bad contracts that do not pay off. Accordingly, I was not a proponent of deals for guys like Greinke or Hamilton, guys all inherently flawed over their careers, though very good players. As such, I am not saying that, then, or now, that the Yankees should commit oodles of money to the next bust in-waiting. However, here the Yankees stand at the brink of becoming fossilized for the next few years and what do they do -- keep looking to add more sub-par parts. Does anyone really even care if the Yankees make the playoffs thanks to the gift of a Wild Card? I personally do not. Why? Because the Yankees are not contenders regardless of whether they make the playoffs this year or not. I would rather see the team actually aim to get better rather than make the playoffs.
So how does the team get better? The Yankees need to get smarter. As the baseball deadline for trades approaches, teams are determining whether to buy, sell or hold pat. For many, the choice to become a seller has a certain stigmatism because it is considered giving up hope for the season. The Yankees as an expensive and consistently competitive team cannot fathom that they are no longer a real contender. Based on the same, being smarter means doing something that is foreign to the Yankees, being sellers. On this Yankees team, there is no one who should be untouchable. The only guys the Yankees should be hesitant to trade are their top prospects. There are a number of buyers out there. Teams like the Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates, Braves, Nationals, Reds, etc., are all looking for boosts to make the playoffs (even if not realistic for all.) Further, teams like the Padres, Angels, etc., have needs which the Yankees can fill and excess that fill the Yankees needs. So what are the Yankees waiting for? I am not a general manager and therefore cannot presume who could be had for whom. However, we just saw Matt Garza, a free agent to be, fetch a couple of top prospects plus 2 solid prospects. What could Kuroda get? (He might waive his no trade clause to go back to the Dodgers -- who happen to have 3 high end prospects which all would help the Yankees, two of whom are near major league ready.) What about the Cardinals? (They have enough top pitching prospects plus Matt. Adams who is a nice player yet a spare part for them.) Can a deal be made? The Padres cannot play Headley, Forsythe, and Gyorko together if the infield is healthy. What would it cost for either of the latter two? The Angels love Hughes, a Cali guy. Could the Yankees get Trumbo for him? The Pirates are aiming for their first playoffs in years, can one of their prospects be pried lose. Seattle has plenty of pieces some of whom have no spots on the team -- S. Romero and D. Ackley. Neither are their top prospects but both would be upgrades over what the Yankees have that are near major league ready and have solid upsides. Can they be had and for what?
If anyone here has been following the Yankees' minor leaguers, the one thing everyone should notice is that none of the Yankees' top prospects entering this season are playing up to expectations. This is not to say that none of them will be good but what if one of them (not G. Sanchez) could land the Yankees a Matt Davidson or a Jedd Gyorko or a D. Hultzen. Why not do it? Of all the Yankees top prospects entering the season, only two have had more than one season of dominance in the minors, Austin and Sanchez. I would take a top prospect who performed in AA higher and throughout his career over a guy who dominated rookie ball. Further, the Yankees have historically done best with their International signings from Latin America, not their draft picks. Notably, Bernie, Mo, Cano, G. Sanchez were all International signings. Plus, the best Yankees prospects, like most teams, seem to be their earlier round picks. In that regard, the Yankees seem to have been doing well in the last couple of years.
So what does being smarter entail in a nutshell? Trade for young prospects or MLBers who could be had with real upsides. Use vets and unpolished over-rated/less projectable prospects to do so. Use money to land the best of the Latin American players available. (I understand not wanting to overpay but how do you not try to get guys like Soler, Cespedes, Puig, etc?) A few nice International signings and a few solid trades, and the Yankees are right in the mix. Then the Yankees add solid free agent signings that make sense in the coming years.