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Creating the worst possible Yankees team from this decade

Just how bad could a team composed of former Yankees get? Stephen Drew is batting cleanup. Yep, it’s that bad.

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Tanking has been all the rage this year. Across baseball, teams like the Orioles and the Marlins have constructed rosters designed to generate as many wins as possible — for other teams, that is. To do so, they have acquired and given considerable playing time to players who probably would be more at home facing the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders than the New York Yankees. This got me thinking; although the Yankees have not finished with a record under .500 since before I was born, they have employed a number of players in recent years who probably did not belong on a big-league roster, due to either age or performance. What would happen if we were to put all these players on the same team?

Obviously, we can’t do that in reality, but we can still think through it. I have combed through the historical records on Baseball Reference and found the worst seasons by Yankees starters from 2010 to 2018, and then filled out the roster with the worst bench players and relievers that I could. The result is... well, see for yourself. It’s bad.

Starting Lineup

  1. Jayson Nix, 2013, 3B (.236/.308/.311, 3 HR, 24 RBI, 73 OPS+, 0.8 WAR)
  2. Eduardo Nunez, 2013, SS (.260/.307/.372, 3 HR, 24 RBI, 87 OPS+, -1.5 WAR)
  3. Alfonso Soriano, 2014, RF (.221/.244/.367, 6 HR, 23 RBI, 71 OPS+, -1.2 WAR)
  4. Stephen Drew, 2015, 2B (.201/.271/.381, 17 HR, 44 RBI, 77 OPS+, 0.3 WAR)
  5. Vernon Wells, 2013, LF (.233/.282/.349, 11 HR, 50 RBI, 74 OPS+, -0.2 WAR)
  6. Chris Carter, 2017, 1B (.201/.284/.370, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 71 OPS+, -0.7 WAR)
  7. Aaron Hicks, 2016, CF (.217/.281/.349, 8 HR, 31 RBI, 64 OPS+, -0.3 WAR)
  8. Alex Rodriguez, 2016, DH (.200/.247/.351, 9 HR, 31 RBI, 58 OPS+, -1.2 WAR)
  9. Chris Stewart, 2013, C (.211/.293/.272, 4 HR, 25 RBI, 59 OPS+, 0.0 WAR)

Over the years, the Yankees have sent up an assortment of starters who were never all that good (Stewart, Nix) and who were past their prime (A-Rod, Wells, Soriano); while Hicks may seem a surprise, it is easy to forget just how hapless he was at the plate before his breakout season. When you’re relying on Jayson Nix to be the table-setter and Stephen Drew to provide some pop, you have a problem.

Bench

  1. Austin Romine, 2017, C (.218/.272/.293, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 49 OPS+, -0.9 WAR)
  2. Reid Brignac, 2013, IF (.114/.133/.136, 0 HR, 0 RBI, -25 OPS+, -0.7 WAR)
  3. Ramiro Pena, 2011, IF (.100/.159/.175, 0 HR, 18 RBI, -10 OPS+, -0.8 WAR)
  4. Randy Winn, 2010, OF (.213/.300/.295, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 60 OPS+, -0.7 WAR)

The Yankees spent the first half of the decade looking for a utility infielder before finding Ronald Torreyes in 2016 — including 2013, where they trotted out an endless parade of them due to the team’s laughable lack of depth at the top of the farm system and numerous injuries to infielders.

Starting Rotation

  1. A.J. Burnett, 2010 (10-15, 5.26 ERA, 186.2 IP, 4.83 FIP, 1.86 K/BB, -0.7 WAR)
  2. Phil Hughes, 2013 (4-14, 5.19 ERA, 145.2 IP, 4.50 FIP, 2.88 K/BB, -0.9 WAR)
  3. Javier Vazquez, 2010 (10-10, 5.32 ERA, 157.1 IP, 5.56 FIP, 1.86 K/BB, -0.6 WAR)
  4. Vidal Nuno, 2014 (2-5, 5.42 ERA, 78 IP, 5.17 FIP, 2.31 K/BB, -0.9 WAR)
  5. Freddy Garcia, 2012 (7-6, 5.38, 107.1 IP, 4.68 FIP, 2.54 K/BB, -0.1 WAR)

The top of this rotation is filled out by two players who just couldn’t put it all together for a long stretch while in pinstripes, followed by an ex that Cashman just could not get over and thought deserved another shot. They held onto Garcia for one year too long, and Nuno’s biggest impact came in the form of the Brandon McCarthy trade.

Bullpen

  1. Esmil Rogers, 2015 (6.27 ERA, 33 IP, 4.68 FIP, 2.21 K/BB, -0.8 WAR)
  2. Chris Capuano, 2015 (7.97 ERA, 40.2 IP, 5.03 FIP, 1.73 K/BB, -1.1 WAR)
  3. Kirby Yates, 2016 (5.23 ERA, 41.1 IP, 3.97 FIP, 2.63 K/BB, -0.1 WAR)
  4. Bryan Mitchell, 2017 (5.79 ERA, 32.2 IP, 4.20 FIP, 1.31 K/BB, -0.3 WAR)
  5. Tyler Clippard, 2017 (4.95 ERA, 36.1 IP, 5.00 FIP, 2.21 K/BB, -0.2 WAR)
  6. Tommy Kahnle, 2018 (6.56 ERA, 23.1 IP, 4.19 FIP, 2.00 K/BB, -0.8 WAR)
  7. Anthony Swarzak, 2016 (5.52 ERA, 31 IP, 6.11 FIP, 4.43 K/BB, -0.1 WAR)

This is the Upside-Down equivalent of the 2019 Yankees bullpen. Save opportunities would probably be headed in the direction of Kirby Yates, long before he earned the closer job for the Padres.

Isn’t it nice to know that, with the exception of Hicks, who has broken out since then, and Kahnle, looking to bounce back after a rough 2018, none of these players are still on the Yankees roster? Based on WAR, this team would roughly project to win 28 games, or 14 games fewer than a team of replacement-level players...which honestly, I think is kind of generous. But hey, anything can happen in baseball, right?

Fortunately, this is just a mental exercise, and we can enjoy this trip down memory lane precisely because we are far away from most of these memories.