clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Yankees can be salvaged with incremental upgrades and savvy trades

Things are so very bad. Very, very bad. Let's change that.

This guy!
This guy!
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

So let's all sit back and reflect on what's been going on with the Yankees of late. They've been bad. Very, very bad. The defense has been bad, the bullpen has been bad, the starters have been sub-optimal, and the bats have been inconsistent. The Bronx Bombers actually showed up on Friday and scored nine runs on a day when Michael Pineda toed the rubber, but still managed to lose. When your ace implodes and gives up seven runs in an inning, it's tough to win a game. It's even tougher to lose when you respond with nine of your own.

Then there's the "give up ten runs in an inning and have Garret Jones pitch" scenario. The less said about that one, the better. There were a few good things that came out of Saturday's hilarious loss.

  • Joe Girardi spared the more important arms in the bullpen by hanging Esmil Rogers and Branden Pinder out to dry.
  • Pinder's arm-healing vacation to Scranton resulted in the promotion of wunderkind reliever Jacob Lindgren. Although Lindgren will be the fourth lefty in the bullpen, all four can get righties out.
  • There are only so many times Esmil can lay an egg before getting DFA'd. The straw that breaks the camel's back has to be coming very soon.
Besides the fairly early hook on CC Sabathia, Joe really did a lot of good in how he managed the blowout. Obviously he may not have known that Lindgren was next in line at Triple-A, but he kept the more reliable arms of Chasen Shreve, Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller out of what could have been a very long bullpen outing. However, changes very clearly need to be made with this Yankees roster. There are too many sore spots, too many vulnerabilities and inconsistencies. There are very few quick fixes. Trades will be need to be made, which will require bargaining and bartering. We'll discuss a couple trades later on, but here's how it could start. Here's some music to set the mood.

  • Drop Stephen Drew: It's time. I'm sorry, Stephen, it's just time. There's a part of me that wants to option Didi Gregorius to Triple-A and slot Drew at short due to his glove, but Didi (0.3 fWAR) has actually been more valuable than Drew (-0.4 fWAR). For all the good Drew does in the field, he gives it back tenfold at the plate. Rob Refsnyder will give back quite a bit in the field, let's make that clear. Refsnyder is going to be a bit of a mess in the field. The idea is that Refsnyder, the anti-Drew, will be a net positive because of how advanced his bat is. He's currently batting .299/.365/.416 with only two home runs, and that low slugging rate will likely come down once he starts facing big league pitching. Or will it? Refsnyder slugged .456 in 77 games at Triple-A last year, so will his positive regression be cancelled out by the more advanced pitching? Who knows. Regardless, it's more likely than not that his bat provides more value than his glove gives away. Refsnyder can't be worse than Drew, right?
  • Be patient with Didi: It's very hard to do this. But it's hard to see a scenario where Didi's jitters don't dissipate. There's no help down on the farm to bring up, which is why he's here in the first place. There's also no shortstops worth mentioning that are available for trade unless you want to take on Zack Cozart's regression or Alexei Ramirez's slide into being bad at baseball. For all you Troy Tulowitzki fans out there, Tulo's mega-contract is exactly the kind of thing the Yankees should be avoiding. Huge money for a declining, injury-prone player on the wrong side of thirty? No thank you. It's Didi's job until he absolutely cannot do it anymore. We're also starting to see a little bit of power from Didi, which is a great way for him to expand his value. The best is yet to come. 
  • Name this player (.301/.316/.521): That's Carlos Beltran in the month of May. Carlos seems to have finally woken up a bit with the bat, and while he's naturally not going to bring this level of production through the rest of the season, the Yankees need all the offense they can get. That's increased tenfold by Jacoby Ellsbury's presence on the disabled list. Beltran has the range of CC Sabathia in right field and the same kind of wheels. But with Alex Rodriguez firmly entrenched in the DH spot, that's a necessary evil. Plus his contract isn't exactly going anywhere. May as well play the hot hand.
  • Kidnap Scott Kazmir and paint pinstripes on his uniform: Okay, so maybe not that extreme, but here's a list of impending free agents (read: rental players). Kazmir is the most appealing of all the starters on non-contending teams for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, he shouldn't cost too much to fetch in a trade. Think Gary Sanchez and another small piece, perhaps. You won't get Johnny Cueto for that much, plus Cueto just missed a start with elbow soreness. Kazmir is a lefty, and left-handers are useful for curtailing lefty sluggers from putting cheap homers into the short porch in the Bronx. Kazmir is also just a good pitcher who's rocking a 3.09 ERA (3.75 xFIP). Putting him into the rotation affords a chance to put Adam Warren back into the bullpen, and Warren thrived in that role last year. It's a move that helps fix two problems at once. It's also worth keeping an eye on Mike Leake of the Reds. Leake hasn't had a great season thus far (4.14, 4.25 xFIP) but he's always been better than this. If he regresses in the right direction, he's another tantalizing trade target. Oh, and if Billy Beane would be willing to include Tyler Clippard without increasing the price too much, that's something to explore.
  • Find a new long reliever: Esmil was okay for about a month or so. Then he turned back into Esmil. Now it's an event every time Joe Girardi brings him into a game, especially when the Yankees are winning. If there's a chance of the Yankees mounting a comeback in a losing game, more often than not it's gone when Esmil leaves. Having a guy capable of eating innings is one thing, having a reliever who can put a stop to most of the bleeding is another. The Yusmeiro Petit-type guys don't exactly grow on trees, but perhaps it's time to give Bryan Mitchell a shot? Mitchell has some of the best raw stuff in the system but his 4.85 BB/9 in Scranton is terrifying. A 3.09 FIP makes things sound a lot better, but perhaps an option currently in the bigs is a better idea until Mitchell gets his control slightly more under wraps. 
  • Keep an eye out for more cheap pickups: Brian Cashman put on a GM'ing clinic during the middle of last season. For the cost of the positionless Peter O'Brien, Yangervis Solarte, Vidal Nuno and some spare parts, he brought in Brandon McCarthy, Martin Prado, Chase Headley and Stephen Drew. That's fantastic. Those are the kind of buys that this team needs to execute so that Cashman doesn't have to blow up the farm to get Cole Hamels. The core of this roster is something that can be worked with, there are just too many half-baked pieces surrounding them. Incremental upgrades and some positive regression could go a long, long way.
That seems like quite a shopping list, and they almost surely won't all be addressed. That's fine. It's hard to plug every single hole on a fringe contender like the Yankees. Incremental upgrades are the name of the game here, and going from someone being really bad at baseball to someone being decent at baseball at a few roster slots could pay massive dividends. The Yankees are bleeding losses and it's time for a change.