Multiverse theorists in physics are inclined to think that the Universe is really just a set of an infinite number of possible universes, which means that everything that can happen has happened or will happen. For the sake of some sadistic fun, let's take a stroll down one of these universes. Just as it's possible that everything can go the way of the 2013 Red Sox and the Yankees will be World Champions in 2014, it's also possible that the whole thing could explode. So, what are the questions?
- Will Mark Teixeira's wrist hold up?
- Will Derek Jeter be Derek Jeter?
- Can Jacoby Ellsbury stay healthy?
- Is Masahiro Tanaka the real deal?
- Will Ivan Nova have a full season of success?
- Can CC Sabathia bounce back?
- Will Hiroki Kuroda run out of steam again?
- Will the infield be a total mess?
One can probably come up with about a billion more, but this is a pretty good start. Let's break it down, disaster by disaster.
The biggest flop would be that of Tanaka, who was paid $155 million over seven years. Obviously, if he flops, the opt-out will not be taken, and the Yankees will have made one of their biggest mistakes ever. Next on the chopping block would be Sabathia, who would continue his downward plunge into nothingness. He would still be owed two years of salary, which the Yankees realize will hurt more than they ever expected. Kuroda will have a decent first half, but his age will get the better of him and he'll fall off a cliff in July. It's been fun, Hirok. And the coup de grâce to the demise of the rotation would be that of Nova, who would lose his form once again and would spend the remainder of his career in Triple-A. The rotation would be a wasteland featuring two overpaid flops and an array of number five ceiling young guys duking it out to see who can break a 4.50 ERA. It'd be so sad that it'd be fun to watch.
The day is Opening Day. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and then Jacoby Ellsbury makes a diving play and separates his shoulder. This would be the absolute worst-case scenario for the outfield, where Ellsbury accounts for about 4.0 WAR out of a projected eight. Brett Gardner would fill his role competently, putting together a decent 2.0 WAR season. Alfonso Soriano would no longer have the platoon luxury, and would put up 0.0 WAR and strike out 175 times. Carlos Beltran would be a hobbled version of himself, and the Cardinals organization would pat themselves on the back. The whole outfield would put together a WAR total of 3.0, which would make them worse than the Houston Astros outfield, where George Springer will have put together a rookie campaign that was better than the whole Yankee outfield combined. And to boot--Beltran is committed to another two years and Ellsbury another six! Yay!
It's funny, because for this to work out in the worst-case scenario, it'd actually be close to the current projections. All you need is for Derek Jeter to act like a 40-year-old, for Teixeira's injury to act up (even he thinks it's possible), and for Brian Roberts to be Brian Roberts. Kelly Johnson may even have a decent year and it could still be pretty bad. One doesn't have to conjure up a spooky dystopia here--it'd look a lot like 2013.
For the other miscellaneous question marks, one would only need a sprinkle of disaster here and there to satisfy. Brian McCann would have a couple of stints on the DL, David Robertson would struggle in his new closer role, the rest of the bullpen would struggle, and the depth options--Brendan Ryan, Ichiro Suzuki, and Dean Anna--wouldn't hit a lick.
The farm will have had another step backward and would be without a high draft pick to even add a little high-ceiling talent. Slade Heathcott maintains his propensity for diving and gets injured again, Mason Williams continues to underwhelm and maintains a lackluster work ethic, and even the good ones (Eric Jagielo, Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez) go the way of the Dante Bichette Jr. and fall into a black abyss. There would be no appearances on any Top 100 prospect list and their system falls to dead last. There is the possibility that the Yankees spend big internationally, but for the sake of a fun disaster, let's pretend they have a change of heart.
So, what happens next? The first thing is that the organization would probably turn itself over. It would be Brian Cashman's last year, but who knows what his future in the organization would be? Who knows what the status of any current member would be? The whole model would be threatened. The Yankees will have spent nearly $500 million, and it turns out that they are worse off than they were before. They will have tied their own hands due to the lack of payroll flexibility, their farm system would be a wasteland, and their television and ticket revenue would take a massive hit. The Yankees would fire members of scouting and development (especially international scouts), top front office executives, and maybe even Joe Girardi. The whole ordeal would be disastrous.
The Yankees would be faced with a choice: tear the whole team down and start anew, or try to slowly build back with what they have. The Yankee model is certainly to do the latter, but who knows what they would think. It failed after 2013, why would it succeed in the future? Probably for the course of a few years, the Yankees would be just good enough not to be unwatchable, but not good enough to contend.
I can't imagine that all of this could happen, but the probability is still greater than zero. It really just goes to show that there is a lot at risk for the Yankees organization. There is a lot of money tied up in quite a few high-risk ventures. If they fail, the entire organization's way of doing business will be put under the microscope. And it would not only be a circus for the front office, but for the fans as well. And what can fans do? Pray that this does not happen.
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