I think a lot about roster turnover, and how quickly a team can flip the script in a matter of a few years. The Cubs did it, the Astros did it, and the Yankees are currently doing it. What’s really funny to think, though, is what if we saw this roster transformation in a flash, which would be all-too-exciting and an interesting thought exercise in how teams can change incredibly rapidly. So for this piece I’m going to imagine a hypothetical self, gearing up for the upcoming 2015 season. He was suddenly transported to this day, and immediately goes to take a look at the 40-man roster with my present 2018 self around to ask questions. Here’s what it could look like.
Matt, 2015: Woah, what year is it?
Matt, 2018: It’s March of 2018.
M15: WHAT?! OK, first of all: I want to know what has changed in the world?
M18: Just to spare you... I’m gonna leave most of that for another day. Why I brought you here was to talk about the Yankees, what has changed, and your perspective considering the era you reside in is completely different. So to start off, get me your general feelings on the future of the franchise.
M15: Alright, I’ll humor you here. I’m about to start watching the 2015 season and I pretty much see this as the last gasp of the last dynasty. The Yankees are betting Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira play to the back of their baseball cards, so to speak, that CC Sabathia can stay healthy and re-tool himself, that Masahiro Tanaka’s arm doesn’t fall off, and that relatively newly signed free agents Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann play to their possible potential. I’ll be honest, though, and say that even in the best scenario... it’s an 85-win team. Was I about right?
M18: Just about. Rodriguez and Teixiera did play well, and while the starting pitching was somewhat healthy, they were pretty poor that year. Luckily, the bullpen was stellar, and that combined with a first-half surge they were able to make the Wild Card Game, but were eliminated by the Astros in a crushing shutout. How would you imagine the farm system is doing in your time?
M15: I’m pretty optimistic, I would say, but I’m definitely hedging. The Core Four was a phenomenon I really doubt we see again, and when you consider the farm systems that crumbled under their own weight despite their stocked talent—I’m looking at the Mariners right about now—I can see a scenario where Luis Severino doesn’t live up to the hype, Aaron Judge can’t make enough contact, and Gary Sanchez turns into another Jesus Montero. I’ve seen crazier things. Anyway.......... what happened?
M18: Well... [puts legs on the table] I just watched Giancarlo Stanton hit two home runs on Opening Day, backed up by Judge who set the rookie record for home runs last season, and Sanchez who has a 141 wRC+ and 53 home runs in his first 178 games. Oh, and Severino started, on the heels of a season where he put up the 7th best ERA- in baseball. They also missed the World Series by a game last year, and that was without Stanton. Aaron Boone is also the manager now.
M15: I’m sorry... what?
M15: OK, I have a few more questions. What happened with Ellsbury and McCann?
M18: The former is now awful, injured, and barely playable as a fourth outfielder, and the latter was salary-dumped on the Astros for prospects, one of which was used to acquire Stanton.
M15: And Tex, Beltran, and A-Rod?
M18: Retired, retired, and retired, in the broadcasting booth, and living his best life with J-Lo.
M15: Not all too surprising there. How did the Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda experiments turn out?
M18: Not too well. Both had pretty poor performances and ended their time with the team getting Tommy John surgery. No worries, though; Tanaka has been healthy so far and opted in, we got Sonny Gray using Jorge Mateo, and Sabathia did actually reinvent himself; he was actually crucial in the 2017 run. Anyway, what are your overall impressions?
M15: I definitely have a million more questions, but my inclination to say is that... I’m pretty stunned. I was generally resigned to this fact: after this season, even knowing what I know now, the team is old and cooked. The free agents were a total flop, their pitching experiences are question marks, and given the general success rate of prospects, even getting one or two regulars is considered a developmental success. To say that there were multiple successes, that they somehow pried Stanton from the Marlins, and that Judge and Severino turned out to be everything we thought they were... man, my thought is that Yankees fans will be spoiled forever.
M18: Alright, I’m sending you back. Enjoy another couple of seasons of suck, and then we’ll see you soon.
M15: WAIT I HAVE MORE QUESTI—