The New York Yankees, like the general who has led his troops on a long march, need to settle in, pitch a tent, build a nice campfire, and prepare for the six months of battle that lie ahead. Recruits are not required.
The New York Yankees stole the offseason from day one when Brian Cashman pulled off one of those “how did he do that?” trades with the hapless Marlins, adding Giancarlo Stanton to an already explosive lineup.
Amidst a conundrum of rumors tying the Yankees to Shohei Ohtani (signed with the Angels), Gerrit Cole (traded to the Astros), Manny Machado (still wallowing in the depths of Camden Yards), and now, Yu Darvish (still trying to steal a five-year deal from someone), the Yankees sit here today with none of these players on their roster to begin the 2018 season. As a result, did Brian Cashman (finally) earn an “F” for his efforts this offseason? On the contrary, he gets another “A+.”
For one thing, Cashman still has the $19 million in the bank that he’s earned by keeping the payroll in check and under the $197 million cap – yes, that’s right, from now on I’m calling it what it is – a salary cap. And that’s after the Yankees were able to reach a one-year agreement with CC Sabathia, who before the year is out will prove his value to the team triple-fold.
Yes, you can argue Cashman is leaving the Yankees without a proven major league second and third baseman if he stops now. But a stronger argument says Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar will not hurt a team built like the Yankees even if they hit only .240, as long as they can hold their own in the field. And besides, the Yankees have 25-30 games in spring training to test both players against a steady diet of major league pitching before the manager, Aaron Boone, needs to fill out his lineup card for Opening Day.
If Boone has any questions at all about either Torres or Andujar at that point, he will not hesitate to move Ronald Torreyes immediately into a starting role at second base, using the two rookies as alternates at third, or just go with the hot bat among the two.
Which raises the only possible addition to the team that Cashman still could pull the trigger on, and that would be last year’s sparkplug, Todd Frazier. While not a necessity, Frazier would give Boone more day-to-day options, and at the same time, add even more punch to a dangerous lineup.
On the pitching side, the Yankees arguably have the best bullpen in the big leagues. So why mess with that? Noticeably, when Sabathia was signed, the talk about moving Chad Green into a starting role dissipated, leaving the ‘pen as fortified as ever.
The Yankees currently have five proven major league starters, something only a few teams can boast about in January. Sending Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and Sonny Gray out there, back-to-back in any three-game series, puts the Yankees in a position of being competitive against all comers. Jordan Montgomery took a massive gulp of what it’s like to pitch at this level over the grind of a long season, and he passed every test. And Sabathia, well, he’s CC Sabathia.
The caveat to everything at this point is injuries. In this regard, all Cashman can do is seek depth from within the Yankees organization, and if worse comes to worse, make a trade you don’t want to make just to keep afloat until the injured player returns.
Outfield backups are already in place with Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier on stand-by. In a pinch, the Yankees could rush along Justus Sheffield, and there’s always that guy the Yankees just don’t seem to know what to do with in Chance Adams.
The bane and the beauty of major league baseball is the staggering length of the season. In the NFL, if a team gets off to a 1-6 start in a shortened season, the team scouts are already out there prowling for the best draft pick and finding a sweet spot in the draft lottery. With baseball, older players wilt in the dog days of summer, younger players become intimidated when they find themselves in the throes of a pennant race. Prolonged slumps that no one can explain will occur (Aaron Judge last season), and injuries mount causing the need for general managers and managers to adapt on the fly to changing conditions.
But then, there is July and the much-ballyhooed trade deadline, when teams have an opportunity to recreate themselves by filling in this leak and that hole to build the whole that will carry them to the prime target – the World Series. And if you get fortunate, a championship trophy.
The Yankees almost did it last season through the wizardry of Cashman, finishing one game short of the World Series, while the Houston Astros achieved the prize with one move when they grabbed (salary be damned) Justin Verlander from the rebuilding Detroit Tigers.
Which brings us back full circle to the initial idea that the Yankees have plenty of time to get this season in order. There should be no rush to add recruits to the team at this stage of a season that has yet to even begin.
With Boone’s input, (and I might add Sabathia and Brett Gardner as well), Cashman will have plenty of time to assemble all of the feedback needed to enter the deadline period armed and ready to get what the Yankees need for the same push to the 2018 playoffs he manufactured last season.
It’s just a matter of patience and holding on to that $19 million for when you need it. That time is not now, or even in the next few months. Boone has a team with built-in capabilities to win in this league. Let him fly with it for a while: we might be pleasantly surprised by the results.
For now, though, light that campfire with all the “logs” we have in the clubhouse now. It’s more than enough for all to see the flame that will arise for a good long while.