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Yankees are getting old to stay young

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It's easy to mock a squad of geriatrics, but it's a safe way to improve and keep your best prospects

You can just smell the mothballs!
You can just smell the mothballs!
Jim McIsaac

The 2013 Yankees are attempting to make the playoffs with an old, injury-riddled roster. It's not really an insult or anything, it's just facing the facts. And the only kinds of players the Yankees decision-makers seem to be looking to add are...also old. And overpaid. And being brought aboard over the protests of general manager Brian Cashman. So there are reasons to not be thrilled with the methodology that the powers-that-be are employing here. But it's not easy to acquire good or even average players without giving up valuable assets, and acquiring older players is one way to do this.

The Yankees got Alfonso Soriano in a straight one-for-one-swap (with some money thrown in) for a prospect that wasn't even considered among the Top 20 in an organization that tends to rank average (or worse) among organizational prospect lists. How do you get a useful, occasionally good player for one middling prospect from a middling system? When they're old. Age depreciates value. Most teams don't want dusty old veterans. Now, don't let the Soriano maneuver get lumped in with, say, the Vernon Wells acquisition. Getting old players is okay, but getting terrible players is counter-intuitive, and just plain stupid. You don't want to give up a roster spot to just anybody. Clearly the ideal situation would be to plug in your own young talent from the minors to fix problems at the MLB level, but after hot starts, players like David Adams and Zoilo Almonte have not done much to distinguish themselves and were never considered the Yankees' top minor league talent anyways. Don't consider that a indictment on their futures as players or anything, but the Yankees just aren't really in a position to give them time to find themselves with the current Wild Card deficit.

Now, if you're in the camp that the Yankees should be sellers, none of this matters to you. Getting Soriano for a bag of balls would be a waste of time. But if you want the Yankees to try to go for it and makeup their 2.5 game deficit AND not sell out their future, getting old is the way to go. Chase Headley, Giancarlo Stanton or any decent players on the right side of thirty are going to require the very best the Yankees have in their farm system. Gary Sanchez and all the rest of the Yankees' quality youngsters are going be what these other teams will want in return for any player with value that extends several years beyond this season. So targeting veterans strikes me as the best solution.

Also, it seems to me that much of the criticism of the Yankees for bringing veterans in as "stopgaps" is the embracing of a larger narrative: that this team is downright addicted to giving out contracts that are too long, acquiring players that are past their prime. That the Yankees are blinded by name recognition. And I don't think that's a fair assessment. The last major prospect the Yankees parted ways with was Jesus Montero, and he was swapped for a player in Michael Pineda who is almost as young and far from an established star. There haven't been any Wil Myers for James Shields sorts of disasters, so I think the Yankees have earned a bit of a reprieve from the reputation they seem to have for themselves as future-mortgagers. Or, in the very least, just analyze the merits of these trades on an individual basis without trying to tie them to some overarching systemic failure.

So while I wouldn't exactly be thrilled by the acquisition of Michael Young or someone of his ilk, I like it better than the alternative of say, Mason Williams and/or others for Michael Morse. I've seen the metaphor of the 2013 Yankees as a rusted, rickety old ship used before and I think it's apt. But better to plug the ship's leaks with materials that other builders don't particularly want than sending your next potential young crewmen away for fancy new parts. As I find with most things in life, it is best to find compromise. Get old at the major league level, stay strong on the minor league level.