It’s no secret that Yankees fans have opinions on everything. Whenever the Yankees make a trade or sign a free agent, the entire fandom finds itself up in arms, arguing over the merits and drawbacks of that particular move. Sometimes, the fanbase has the right idea, and finds itself validated by the performance of the player and the team. Just as often—if not more so—Yankees fans, including us here at Pinstripe Alley, get it laughably wrong.
And never has anyone gotten anything as hilariously wrong as the 2019 New York Yankees. For this reason, let’s take a trip down memory lane, and see what we all said about the impact players for the 2019 Yankees on the days they were acquired.
Last July, the Yankees traded Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for international bonus pool money and first baseman Luke Voit. At the time, the then-27-year-old was an unproven commodity. He had hit in Triple-A, but had yet to find any success in the big leagues.
“In some ways he’s not unlike Tyler Austin,” said our initial writeup on Voit. He looked more like a depth piece ticketed for Scranton than a key contributor who would be the cleanup hitter on Opening Day 2019.
At that time, the big catch was the international money, which allowed the Yankees to sign the young right-handed pitcher Osiel Rodriguez. He now ranks as the team’s number 29 prospect at the age of 17.
You want to know how irrelevant Gio Urshela was when the Yankees acquired him on August 4, 2018, from the Toronto Blue Jays? With all the chaos of the Yankees getting swept by Boston at Fenway Park to bury the team in the divisional race, his signing slipped through the cracks and went largely unreported. His first reference on Pinstripe Alley, in fact, saw him already an established part of the Scranton lineup.
By spring training, however, Urshela had the privilege of being named a likely candidate to be this season’s “Shane Robinson.” In another article, Matt said that he was “by far the least known and least likely person to play for the Yankees in 2019.”
Thankfully, both of those evaluations were wrong.
Oh boy. When news broke that the Yankees had signed the former Rockies second baseman to serve as a utility infielder, New York collectively lost its mind. The anger was such that the site ran an article about the outrage.
While some tried to focus on the positives that LeMahieu would bring to the table, many zeroed in on the fact that his name was not Manny Machado as well as his lack of track record outside of Coors Field. Bloggers, journalists, and fans lampooned the signing, with some going as far as saying that this could go down as the worst offseason ever. Some looked forward to two years of week groundouts to second base; others pointed to the fact that he never played any position but the keystone and questioned his value as a “Ben Zobrist type.” Many said that he was never that good to begin with.
I’ll admit, had I been writing for Pinstripe Alley at the time, I would have been on this train as well. It had nothing to do with LeMahieu himself, strictly speaking, but what signing him instead of Machado meant about the team’s willingness to spend.
Of course, there were signs of what was to come, and two articles here did pick up on them. Joshua’s dive into the metrics found a bit of optimism, although he remained skeptical that he could actually build on it. Jake’s overview of LeMahieu as a potential free agent also highlighted the fact that Baseball Prospectus’s newest ratings, after removing the harsh Coors Field penalty, found him to be a slightly above-average hitter.
Even so, nobody expected the borderline MVP-level performance that we got.
“The Yankees’ depth in the outfield is getting stressed early on this season, and Brian Cashman apparently didn’t want to let that become an issue” wrote Ryan Pavich on March 24 in response to the Yankees’ acquisition of Mike Tauchman. Nobody knew just how prophetic that statement would be. The team’s outfield depth has been greatly tested with Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner, Cameron Maybin, and Jacoby Ellsbury all spending time on the IL.
Fortunately, considering the fact that the biggest headline surrounding Tauchman’s acquisition was Tyler Wade’s anger and frustration, the outfielder has been nothing short of a godsend for the Yankees. Aaron’s bold early-season post about the Sock Man’s upside turned out to have some merit after all.
The tagline for the news article announcing the Cameron Maybin trade read: “Can he be worse than Shane Robinson?” If that does not tell you how much the injury bug had battered the Yankees, I don’t know what will. Fresh off of injuries to Judge, Stanton, Hicks, and Frazier, the Yankees needed a warm body to complete the roster, and Maybin was that guy.
He quickly burst his way into all our hearts with his home run hugs, his fun attitude, and his general love of being a Yankee. Then he started hitting better than he ever hit in his MLB career, and became even more beloved. This being the 2019 Yankees, he of course found himself on the shelf, but in his 66 games so far, he has served as a bolt of energy for the team as it just keeps on chugging.