When comparing the Yankees last two offseasons, last year's and the one we now find ourselves in, there are very little similarities to be found between the two. This is not necessarily the ideal, as front offices like those in St. Louis and Oakland seem to have more uniform strategies year in and year out when it comes to building their rosters. The Yankees opted for the conservative approach and hoarded compensatory picks last year while signing just about everybody this year and coughing up their own first-rounder. However, despite having some pretty major holes in their roster, they have yet to part with any major prospects. Is that common thread between this year and last part of a wider organizational strategy, or does this year's aggression foreshadow a "scorched-earth" approach when it comes to making the playoffs?
I would assume part of the team's hesitance in trading their prospects is the fact that so many of them seemed to have difficult or injury-plagued seasons in 2013. Giving up on a former blue-chip prospect is a tough pill for any team to swallow, as any team looking to acquire the player is going to base their offer on his value at its lowest point. Perhaps the Yankees are counting on the likes of Mason Williams to rebound before they even entertain the thought of offering him in a trade. But like any stock, the value could plummet even further, so the Yankees are still gambling by not having been able to move anyone from their minor league outfield corps to strengthen their depth elsewhere. Their infield is thin both at the major and minor league lever, after all.
Or perhaps there's just not much interest in any of the Yankees' prospects. Any trade involving a quality major league piece would likely begin and end with Gary Sanchez. And even then, the reports on Sanchez's ability to remain as a catcher have not exactly been a boon for his value. It's hard to get much done (especially during the offseason) with only one prospect of note. Perhaps the market will open up a little better as the season progresses and fewer teams have playoff aspirations.
Another possibility, and the one I'm sure would be preferred, is that the team is committed to not stripping the system bare. It's already not abundant with talent, particularly at the higher levels of the minors, and any attempt to improve via trade would only exacerbate matters. Spending loads of money on free agents is one thing, it doesn't inherently weaken the team in any areas while improving immediately. A first-round pick is a nominal price to pay for a premium free agent. But several young pieces for what is often more a quick fix than anything else is much more detrimental to the organization's health. All manners of aggressive roster construction are not created equal.
I think this season is going to be a true test of the Yankees' patience when it comes to retaining their prospects. If things go south during the season, or the Yankees are in a dogfight for a playoff spot, there will be a lot of temptation to mortgage whatever good the team has in the minors for a few pieces to help immediately. They've spent a lot of money on some big names, and after missing the playoffs last year it's going to be expected that the front office does whatever it takes to get in. I hope that their recent history is a sign that they'll be smarter than that and not be at the mercy of their competitors.