Much has been made about The Art of the Rebuild™, in baseball particularly, but also across sports in general. It’s incredibly easy to promise, “We’re going to win this year,” and easier to fail. It’s more difficult, however, to argue that a team won’t be good now, or for a while, but promise continued success in the future.
The Cubs and Astros pulled it off perfectly. They developed a plan, stocking up on minor league and amateur assets over an extended period of time. Then, when the talent permeated the major league level, those teams put the necessary veterans in place to carry them over the edge.
For every successful rebuild comes a number of failures. One thing failures and successes all have in common is that once that talent trickles to the major league club, and the team starts to improve, the succession of fresh prospects diminishes each year after that first crop emerges. Take the rebuilds of the Mariners and Royals for example.
When the Mariners were rebuilding, they were second on Baseball America’s organizational ranking in 2013. Now, they are at 23rd. When the Royals rebuilt they had an all-time farm system, complete with nine top 100 prospects in 2011. In 2017, they are 27th. Even the Cubs, a team that had the best farm system in 2015, are down to 16th.
It isn’t necessarily what happens to get to the rebuild—it seems that quite a few teams are good at amassing minor league talent—but what happens after the rebuild that truly matters. The Yankees are at the crossroads right now. With a still enviable system this year, they have a choice to make about what direction the rebuild heads in, and how much minor league talent should be spent on shorter-term gains. They have already made a few.
They have already traded Jorge Mateo, James Kaprielian, Dustin Fowler, Jorge Guzman, Blake Rutherford, and Jose Devers for David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Sonny Gray, and Giancarlo Stanton. They’re not sure what happens next.
They have turned down offers related to sending Gleyber Torres in exchange for Gerrit Cole, and the Tigers have turned down an offer of Clint Frazier, Tyler Wade, and Thairo Estrada, obviously waiting on Torres.
Reports like these actually give us an indication that Brian Cashman has thought about everything above, right? It’s evident that the reason Hal Stienbrenner pushed the team to a minor league overhaul was for this reason, to both sustain the team over an extended period of time, while also having enough pre-arbitration players to bring the Yankees under the luxury tax.
That has happened, and as I said before, it comes down to Cashman pulling the right triggers for the next piece. His estimations are encouraging, and they show he is willing to accrue short-term assets if it does not cripple the overall system’s health.He is also taking the opportunity to move the needle in the Bronx while the likes of Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, and Stanton are in pinstripes.
If I were to guess, he will likely only stem the tide of what is an inevitable decline into a slimmer system. Cashman may prove resilient, though, and may just get a few more Gray’s or Cole’s, while also producing some homegrown stars along the way.