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Without a bona fide star, the Yankees will be stuck in their cycle of mediocrity

Brian Cashman and the front office have done a great job patching holes in the post-dynasty world, but they still haven't acquired a superstar. Until they do, they're likely stuck in the mud.

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

It's no secret that I'm generally optimistic about the Yankees. I don't really think that the front office is idiotic, nor do I think Joe Girardi should be fired (in fact, I think he's one of the best managers in the league), nor do I think that the roster is devoid of talent. I have my critiques of ownership, of course, but I think those arguments could have been made in 1996 as well as 2016.

With that being said, though, I think the Yankees are stuck. They're not stuck in the way other franchises are. While a team like the Reds or the Braves are forced into total rebuild because of their inability to compensate with payroll due to their smaller markets, the Yankees have the financial might to at least feign contention, even when they absolutely shouldn't. It's pretty hard to believe that they are an over-.500 team since 2013, and that they were even able to get a playoff spot last season. When you're the Yankees, and rebuilding has a greater financial impact than with any other franchise, it is almost impossible to tear things down.

This has forced the front office to do some creative things to stick around: trading for Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley (as well as signing Headley), trading for Didi GregoriusStarlin Castro, and Nathan Eovaldi, and compensating for a lack of starting pitching with a killer bullpen. It's allowed them to hang around in contention in each of the past four seasons, and they might be forced to do this for the foreseeable future.

The thing is, though, there's only so much time that fans, especially casual ones, can put up with this mediocrity. Of course we would obviously prefer an 85-win team to a 65-win team–you'd have to be a sadist to want the latter–but patience with mediocrity also has its limits.

The Yankees, I'm sorry to say, are likely stuck in this cycle of mediocrity. Rosters usually turn over rather quickly, so this is not going to last forever, but I don't readily see a path out of this. This also doesn't mean they'll be unable to make the playoffs, because a season is so long and strange that even low probability events happen every single season.

The teams that do the best, though, and the ones that can sustain years upon years of playoff contention, are the teams with stars. Consider playoff teams from 2013 to 2015. Of all of those teams, only two did not have a player that had a 5.0+ fWAR: the 2013 Indians, and, not surprisingly, the 2015 Yankees. Every other playoff team, and I would venture to say many teams before then, had a legitimate star, and this shouldn't be a surprise.

It is hard enough to find one decent player in the big leagues, and that's a given because there is always a scarcity of talent. When you lack players who are impact, players that produce five or more wins, the front office is forced to produce more and more decent players to make up for that lapse. This has its limits, especially on a 25-man roster. The result is a team that doesn't have many holes–in fact, ZiPS projects the Yankees will have ten two-plus win players–but without one dynamic player who can make a difference.

Some of this isn't the Yankees' fault. In this era of baseball, television money and competitive balance measures have limited the type of talent that is normally available. There are fewer impact free agents on the market because most teams can now afford pricey players, and players over 30 do not produce as much value in the post-steroid era.

This doesn't mean the Yankees are blameless. They passed on international players who were available at bargain rates, they failed to draft effectively in the years preceding the end of the dynasty, and ownership stubbornly tried to hold onto their luxury tax dreams, only to pass on legitimate talents in their moments of austerity.

The future is still uncertain. The Yankees are certainly drafting a bit better, but these picks haven't come to fruition yet. Their haul in the 2014 international amateur market is still in infancy, and their old contracts are still on the books. Not only that, but the greatest prospects of this era–Gary Sanchez, Jorge Mateo, Luis Severino, Greg Bird, and Aaron Judge–have yet to provide value at the big league level. They are the best chance for a Yankee star in our time. Until then, we are forced to wait.