Cashman: People want to see how bullpen and infield shake out. Those things are going to have to answer themselves.— Pinstripe Alley (@pinstripealley) January 22, 2014
"Those things are going to have to answer themselves" is what Brian Cashman said yesterday about the Yankees' infield and bullpen woes during a conference call to talk about the signing of Masahiro Tanaka. Yikes. The bullpen aspect doesn't quite bother me as much as the infield aspect. For all intents and purposes, the bullpen usually does answer itself most of the time. Yes, the Yankees are now without Mariano Rivera. Hal Steinbrenner believes that David Robertson is the answer to that question, and I agree with Hal. The rest should work itself out. Cashman has been pretty good with bullpen construction. The infield though, that's another matter entirely.
What makes this statement so troubling is that this was seemingly the plan for the 2013 infield as well. The 2013 Yankees infield never answered itself. There were only questions. Horrible, horrible questions. "Who or what is Reid Brignac?" and "No really, how long was Travis Ishikawa a member of this team?" were prevalent all season long. It's 2014 and it still doesn't seem like there is any kind of a sensible plan in place. As Andrew put it when the Scott Sizemore minor league signing was announced, the Yankees' goal is to sign all the questionable infielders and see what works. That's a bold strategy, Cashman.
The Yankees have proclaimed that they will most likely not sign any more infielders to major league contracts. That does not mean that a classic Cashman ninja trade is out of the question. Assuming that's not the case, the Yankees are really going with what I call Plan Yangervis, or Plangervis, if you will. Is that really a bad plan? The immediate answer is, of course, absolutely. Last season taught us the harsh reality of what happens when you rely on injury prone players, other teams' scraps, and our somewhat impotent farm system to fill in at infield positions. What's the alternative. though? The immediate answer to that is, of course, utter crap. Given a choice between Plangervis and utter crap, Plangervis sounds better. Bold, but still better.
The thing that separates Scott Sizemore, Yangervis Solarte, and Dean Anna from the likes of Stephen Drew, Mark Reynolds, and Michael Young is that while they might not be good, they're younger, and they might not be good for cheaper. Plus, I can make up stupid words like Plangervis. It's going to be a gamble either way. At least they're gambling with youth rather than veteran presents for once. In that regard, perhaps they did learn their lesson from 2013. Well, not every lesson because, well...Brian Roberts. I'd also really like to think that they've given up on the Eduardo Nunez experiment. Perhaps they're just waiting for Sizemore to come alive in spring training so that they can politely DFA Nunez.
The Tanaka signing could very well mark the end of the Yankees' preseason acquisitions, which means Plangervis is in effect. I'm still unsure how to feel about this because these are different times for the Yankees. The old guard is retiring and new faces are donning the fabled pinstripes. The culture is changing. They can no longer wait for superstars like Clayton Kershaw to hit free agency, as they are being locked up. They're no longer the only team that can afford to give out crazy contracts to players like Robinson Cano. Maybe this is for the best though, in that it will force the Yankees to change the way they do things.
What a lot of people do not realize is that change takes time. The Yankees are being asked to adapt to this new era of baseball, and it's going to take some time. Acquiring Tanaka and giving out massive contracts to Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran is a sign that the Yankees of old are still there. Those Yankees aren't afraid to spend, and they value winning above everything else. Plangervis is a sign that the Yankees might be moving past the often failed design of relying on the likes of Michael Young to patch things up. I say might because, well...Brian Roberts. However, Brian Roberts combined with a healthy Scott Sizemore or an eager Dean Anna could work. Maybe. These are weird, scary times.
The bottom line is that what Cashman said about how "things are going to have to answer themselves" is absolutely right. The Yankees don't have much choice at this time in their franchise's history. They're not going to rebuild, nor can they right now. They don't have the tools, and getting the tools could take a while. Unless Cashman can find some last minute gold via a trade or two, Plangervis really is the best we can do. The real answer to the question of the infield is to hope for health and lightning in a bottle. Hope that Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira hold together and produce hits, and hope one of the young, cheap acquisitions excels in pinstripes. Finally, hope for more Yangervis Solarte, because his name is Yangervis Solarte and because, well...Brian Roberts.