While the current narrative surrounding the New York Yankees targets their losing grasp on the AL East lead, beyond 2015 is scarier.
Every night out, one of these three guys is throwing smoke. Filthy smoke that is increasingly forcing the rest of the National League to take notice to the point they’re shaking in their boots of the thought of a short playoff series against them.
Meanwhile, the New York Yankees are equipped with none of that.
The second most powerful hitting team in MLB (533 runs), lost 2-1 to the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night. Their fifth straight loss and sixth failure in the last seven, scoring only 10 runs during that span.
It’s gotten so bad that they now have to deal with looking up at the scorching hot Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East.
Five straight losses prior to Thursday night’s victory in Cleveland, salvaging a three-game series has brought up a bevy of interesting questions.
Are The Yankees Just Too Old?
Throughout the course of a 162-game schedule, baseball teams see their fair share of highs and lows. Even the most dangerous lineups can cool off from time to time.
What this club did wasn’t just cool off, they absolutely melted.
Scoring an obscene 90 runs during a 10 game stretch had everybody calling this lineup the second coming of “Murderers’ Row.” It was Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira turning back the clock. It was Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury setting the table to perfection. It was even Carlos Beltran finding his stride a bit.
They were dominating any starting pitcher thrown their way.
Then the knuckleballer came in the form of Boston Rex Sox starter Steven Wright. Wright limited them to one run over eight innings last Wednesday night, throwing them into a tail-spin which only featured eight runs in 10 games.
They have now lost five straight games (heading into Thursday night) and control over the AL East.
New York is currently the fifth oldest team in MLB with an average age of 29.4. This number even comes with the call-up of 22-year old Greg Bird.
It’s now well known that general manager Brian Cashman would like to turn a new leaf with the roster. One that sees the infusion of youth with Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Luis Mateo, Gary Sanchez and the aforementioned Bird.
To do that, a roster must be planned out. It needs to possess the holes around the diamond which need to be filled by an up and coming youngster.
When looking around the diamond at the Bronx, you’ll notice not just high priced veterans, but locked-in stars who aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Teixeira is 35 and enjoys the fruits of an immense contract that doesn’t expire until after the 2017 season. A-Rod is here until after 2018; Brian McCann 2020; Jacoby Ellsbury 2022; Brett Gardner 2019; Chase Headley 2019; and Beltran 2018.
All of these players are north of 31-years old. McCann is the youngest at 31.
This presents a major problem. Where will Judge and Bird play? It’s nice to be equipped with the financial wherewithal the Steinbrenner’s throw out there on a yearly basis, but all of them cannot be bought out.
A couple of dead contracts will work in Yankees-land, not five.
Let’s also not forget how each of these guys will gradually decline from this point forward. At any point several of them can crash and burn at the same time.
Cashman not only stayed pat at the MLB trade deadline because he wanted to keep his youth, he also did it because he realizes it doesn’t make sense to add anymore terrible contracts.
Teixeira and A-Rod doing what they’re doing is unusual, not the norm.
Developing Players Will Be Tough
Now that Cashman has upped the rep of his farm system to a significant degree, the Judges, Birds and Severinos of the world are hot commodities.
Where though, will they find the time to develop at the big league level?
Severino is a far easier solution. With five starting pitching spots, and only one really terrible contract (Sabathia) and an unknown contract (Mashahiro Tanaka), he’ll plug right in there and pitch away.
For Judge, Bird and the rest of the position players soon to make their arrivals at Yankee Stadium, it’ll be tough to find them consistent playing time.
Yes, the plan for Judge is for him to take over right-field and play night in, night out. Beltran can be bought out after the 2015 season and said goodbye to. But how about Bird? Does anybody think for one second that the fiery Teixeira is going to relinquish his job that easily?
What about Luis Mateo? Now that Didi Gregorius is finally putting on a show, that second-base spot must be cleared for him.
Simply put, there are too many extended contracts around the diamond for the Yanks to fully implement their youngsters over the next couple seasons. There’s not enough flexibility.
The Though Of Empty Seats Scares The Brass
The real reason Cashman hasn’t been able to build the farm until recently has nothing to do with his plans. Rather it’s been his bosses holding him back.
The Steinbrenners and the powers-that-be up in the heavens at The Cathedral are scared to death when thinking about empty seats in August and September. This has led to terrible signings and the impossibility of New York retooling or reloading with core players.
Now, however, it finally seems as thought they’re fully allowing Cashman to implement his patient plan; albeit a few years too late as they deal with veterans plugging up too many positions.
The real truth here is that it doesn’t matter what the Yanks do the rest of 2015. Unless they get hot at the right moment, this club is not championship caliber.
Cashman made the right move at the deadline by standing pat. He’ll just need to remain patient and implement his youth movement over the next two seasons.
Stay tuned, this is the only way the Yanks can enjoy their next dynasty like they did with the Core-4 in the late 1990s.
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