Understanding the Yankees can be complex. Not that the same is a shock. They have consistently been a complex franchise. For that matter, life is complex. However, we are talking about baseball. In that regard, let me first start by saying, as a whole, I like the acquisitions that they made. Considering what the free agent market had to offer and the team's needs, the acquisitions made largely make sense even if the dollar amounts and length of the deals are arguable. However, what is more problematic is the moves that were not made. It is therein that the Yankees acts or omissions of the off season seems tests my faith in their ability to once again build a title contending team.
As it stands, the Yankees have question marks along their entire infield except catcher, and also questions in their bullpen. To be fair, the Yankees decision to permeate the $189 million level was, purportedly, predominantly the result of their desire to get Masahiro Tanaka. Had they not succeeded in doing so, the Yankees likely would have tried to keep their payroll under that number. Because of the same, it can be argued that some moves that they did or did not make prior to signing Masahiro Tanaka might have been handled differently if the cost and certainty of Tanaka were known retrospectively. Further, the idea of being tethered for multiple years to the likes of players like Omar Infante or Stephen Drew does not come without some major downside. Yet, even so, the fact remains that to date, similarly to last year, the Yankees are moving forth with said abundance of flaws, apparently hoping and praying that the issues that exist will resolve themselves, and we all know how last year turned out.
I saw a quote about a week ago from the Hank or Hal Steinbrenner (I am sorry I still confuse the two) whereby it was asked, in effect, what more moves the Yankees were looking at, to which it was responded that the Yankees are done spending money. The answer to the question struck a chord with me. No one asked anything about spending? It was asked if there was more to be done. The answer is very concerning. Are the Yankees trying to win or pretend that they trying to win? Or even worse, do they not understand that having questions marks at first base, second base, third base and shortstop and with no reinforcements in the minors, plus having a serious downgrade in the bullpen, does not set up the best odds of having a top season. I by no means judge how much money should or should not be spent and am by no means saying that the Yankees did not make any good moves but the Yankees have a lot of significant question marks still. Why commit to spend so much money only to stop short of a more well rounded team. Either you are playing for now or you are not. if you are playing for now, then why would not you build a better team for now? Whether by spending or by deals, the Yankees still are deploying the same strategies that sunk their chances last year.
Last year, the Yankees signed and/or acquired Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis, Ichiro, Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells, and a bunch of other guys who either have not been healthy since the Wonder Years or have not had a solid season since Clinton was President. While some people will point to injuries as the culprit, the reality is, the Yankees knew their roster had big issues well before the 2013 season began plus a lot of the injuries they had should have been expected merely by the fact that, but for Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter, were historically injured players to begin with. The injuries that were not expected was almost punishment for not having better forethought.
This year's infield allegedly has Mark Teixeira at first, Brian Roberts at second, Kelly Johnson at third and Derek Jeter at shortstop. Aside from the fact that this ensemble leads the all Geritol infield, even healthy, this unit does not excite anyone. Specifically, Teixeira has been hurt for a number of years now and has already said he expects to hurt all of this year as well. Plus, even healthy he has been, but for his first year in pinstripes, a below average hitter, though with power. So we already have an injured, poor hitting first baseman, on a team that seriously needs more power production then last year. Brian Roberts has not played even remotely close to a full season since.....Baseball Reference please!!!! Plus, even the production he has provided is a far cry from the playoff caliber version of himself. But no worries, he is only replacing the only all star on the Yankees offense from last season. At third, the Yankees have the low obp, low average and unpolished third base glove of Kelly Johnson. Then at shortstop, the Yankees have the no range, though largely mistake-free, but also limited hitting Derek Jeter. If that is not concerning enough, when and not if, the injuries mount, the Yankees current best answers are guys who are no longer prospects, if they were even ever prospects, but have yet to have anything more than a cup of coffee, if that, in the majors.
Retrospectively, I am not of the belief that a team needs to field all stars at every position. However, as the saying goes, "failing to plan, is planning to fail." My hope is that as spring training progresses, the Yankees recognize their holes and exercises some modicum of intelligence and orchestrate some deals that would reverse their self-sabotage. Notably, now that the Yankees have all three outfielders locked up for three years or more, while two of their outfielders are more speed guys then power guys, it would seem that, if guys like Mason Williams, Ramon Flores or Slade Heathcott, no longer belong in the Yankees plans. Only Tyler Austin has power potential plus he has the ability to play third. Taken together with the fact that JR Murphy's stock has rose a lot and that the Yankees have a number of starting arms who have either touched the majors or are close, the Yankees would seem to have a the makings of a package to get a Nick Franklin, a Chris Owings or maybe two such acquisitions. If not these guys, how about adding just someone who is at least more likely to contribute than what is on the current roster.
While no one can say with certainty who the Yankees could have acquired via trade, the fact remains that the Yankees have allowed themselves to have a poor infield with no promising options in the system. Further, the Yankees allowed pitchers like Grant Balfour to sign elsewhere just to save for them what would really be pennies. How sound is that strategy? I sure hope the Yankees know what they are doing because it still does not look like they know how to do anything other than outbid other teams for free agents.