The Yankees’ 2016 season ended disappointingly with the team just finishing a few games outside of a wild card spot. If playoffs were the only measure for a team, you might be quick to judge this season as a failure compared to last year’s playoff berth. You’d be wrong though, because going into this offseason the Yankees have a much younger roster that puts them in a position to depend less on their aging veterans like they did in the previous offseason.
At the end of the 2015 season, the Yankees had just been shut out in the wild card game against Houston. Their veteran core had really outperformed expectations, leading them to a surprise playoff appearance. The youngest, and most productive player, was Didi Gregorius. The 25 year old, in his first season with the Yankees, led the Yankees position players with a 3.1 fWAR. Outside of Gregorius, the biggest contributors on offense were all veteran players including Brian McCann, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Brett Gardner.
Without making any major moves in the offseason, the Yankees best hope was for Rodriguez and Teixeira to catch lightning in a bottle twice and defy aging by repeating their impressive performances. The gamble to rely on their veterans for offense backfired and Rodriguez didn’t even last the entire season. Teixeira ended the year with a -1.1 fWAR.
As the Yankees start this offseason, there is much more hopeful feeling about the roster because of its age. Gary Sanchez rocked the baseball world with a rookie of the year caliber performance and the team saw flashes of talent from Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin. In the middle of the infield, Gregorius and Starlin Castro are both young and can be expected to take another step forward in their development next season.
On the mound, the Yankees will have their ace Masahiro Tanaka who will be just 28 years old. A group of young arms in Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell, and Chad Green will fight to round out the rotation after Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia. This doesn’t even include young pitchers like Jordan Montgomery who haven’t made their debuts yet.
None of this is to say that the Yankees won’t make any moves this offseason that won’t make them older. The team hasn’t won 90 games since 2012 and will be looking to get back there via free agency or the trade market. Brian Cashman recently said that he will be trying to improve the team’s offense, starting pitching, and middle relief. There is no reason for the team to shun a veteran that can contribute in one of those roles.
Even if they don’t make any major moves, the Yankees should be excited about the future because it’s been a long time since they’ve had such a good farm system. Once the playoffs end, Yankees fans can officially turn the page on the 2016 season and start dreaming about Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez leading the 2017 squad back to the promised land.