Last year, I pondered how the league, and especially the Yankees, might respond to the construction of both the Astros and Braves’ rosters. At the time, I was probably being a little too reactive when considering what the Yankees could learn from the Braves. Their run was contingent on Eddie Rosario, Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, and Adam Duvall playing out of their minds and covering for the loss of the teams’ superstar, Ronald Acuña Jr. Realistically, if all the Yankees did in the offseason and trade deadline was acquire mid-tier players that they were hoping to get the absolute most out of, we would have all still been disappointed and hyper critical of Brian Cashman.
However, there is still something to admire regarding general aggression in trading and doing your best to cover your bases. While Cashman was indeed aggressive when trying to supplement the Yankees’ incredible first half, he still deserves to be criticized for his mistakes in the offseason. No what the process or reasoning was, adding Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa was a major loss. There were better alternatives out there that could have raised the floor and ceiling of this offense. Cashman sometimes takes on weird gambles, and this was one that didn’t pay out.
That part is where they could learn from the Phillies. Even considering they have made an incredible run to the World Series, there is no denying this roster has its flaws, so I won’t pretend it’s the perfect team. However, what this team does possess is a core group of players with a high floor and ceiling that is capable of making this kind of run in the playoffs if those players get hot at the same time. The two main players I’m thinking of are, of course, Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto.
Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball and has been for a few years. Combine consistent top tier defense with a wRC+ ranging from 115-130 in any given season and you easily earn the crown. I know the Yankees have Jose Trevino, who was a Gold Glove winner and All-Star this season, but they had a chance to acquire Realmuto for only money when they were constantly considering whether Gary Sánchez was a viable starter. This was the second of two chances they had to swipe up star free agents that eventually signed/re-signed with the Phillies. The other of course was Bryce Harper. I won’t dive too deep into that piece, because you all know plenty about it. But what I will say is this: the Yankees need to invest more into the sure thing. Other than Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, this team might not have a single “sure thing” in the offense. Bryce Harper is the epitome of that and makes $25 million a season, albeit on a long contract. That mark isn’t far off from the current Yankees third baseman.
Now, once again, the Yankees have one key thing to learn from the Astros and no, it’s not the pitching. In fact, I think the Yankees have proven to be just as good as the Astros in that department, if not better. Call me crazy, but I just think Matt Blake and Sam Briend are really damn good at their jobs. Anyways, we are brought back to what has plagued the Yankees for multiple years now: the shortstop position.
Despite letting Carlos Correa walk in free agency, the Astros confidently stood by their next best option in Jeremy Peña. The offense in the postseason has probably taken them by a slight surprise, but what hasn’t is his incredible defense. They took a chance on his high defensive floor and decided to let the offense develop however it would. When acquiring IKF, the Yankees took a chance on both defense and offense. You simply cannot do that with this position. During any game, mistakes at shortstop can be very costly — you need a sure thing there. No team will ever play three different shortstops in the playoffs and win the World Series. It’s just not going to happen. I’m not even saying Carlos Correa needed to be on this team. To be frank, Miguel Rojas would have sufficed. Or even better, giving Peraza the chance to play everyday months before the playoffs would have been nice. Either way, I think the Yankees have learned you can’t cheat the shortstop position. It will never work.
Okay, my rant is over for now. I know it won’t sway Brian Cashman in any direction, but perhaps losing will. Coming to grips in the middle of the playoffs that your team doesn’t have a starting shortstop is pretty embarrassing if you ask me. It’s an admission of a gigantic mess up on the biggest stage. Everybody should experience some humility from time to time, especially those in an industry that are judged by their wins and losses. Instead of always thinking you’re the smartest in the room, it may be nice to learn from other teams sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I think this team has made many great decisions because they are very smart in several areas, but if you continue to lose and not change your tactics, you will fall behind the crowd.