Well, here we are in November. The San Francisco Giants deservedly won the World Series and the Kansas City Royals made a very creditable run from a wildcard slot to fall at the last hurdle. It was a great season and a fascinating season to follow and write about the Yankees who overcame adversity to finish with a reasonable record.
The question now is, can they turn those problems and strengths into a team that can challenge for the post season in 2015? Let’s take an overview of their roster at this moment in time and see where it looks like they’re going.
Well, the big news is that the Yankees traded Francisco Cervelli to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for left-handed reliever, Justin Wilson. My instinct is that this a very good move. The Yankees had 5 catchers on their forty man roster and 1 or perhaps 2 were surplus to requirements. Brian McCann, who frankly did not set the world on fire in 2014, is under contact until 2018 at the rate of $17m a season, with a club option of $19m for 2019. This means that unless he has a truly awful 2015, he is the man holding the “tools of ignorance” for the foreseeable future. This leaves either John Ryan Murphy (under contract until March 2015 at $0.5m) or Austin Romine (similar contract to Murphy) as the obvious second catcher. A catcher with an outside shot of making the roster is Gary Sanchez, who is also been paid about the $0.5 million mark. Sanchez is a more accomplished hitter than either Murphy or Romine but is not as strong defensively and had a reputation for making life painful for his coaches at Trenton Thunder last season. He has been talked about as “a prospect” for quite a while now. He needs to begin to prove that he deserves that tag.
The Yankees infield selection is over-shadowed by the saint and the sinner. The saint is Derek Jeter, no longer available after 20 years as the Yankees mainstay and captain and everyday shortstop and without a blemish on his professional record. The sinner is Alex Rodriguez whose record-busting career is coloured by performance-enhancing drug (PEDs) use and a recent season long suspension. After the World Series, he was made available again to play competitive baseball. A few days later, a leaked Drug Enforcement Agency report showed that he had confessed to use of PEDs whilst with the Yankees. This was something he had denied for 21 months in press interview after press interview, admitting only to use earlier in his career whilst he was with the Texas Rangers.
Whether this could lead to a further suspension from MLB remains to be seen but for now, we will assume this will not be the case.
Rodriguez hasn’t played at third base for around 18 months and there are huge question marks as to whether he will be able to play there every day ever again. Certainly the Yankees don’t seem to expect this to be the situation. They are actively pursuing Chase Headley who joined them last season from the San Diego Padres but who has now reached the conclusion of his contract and is considering his options as a free agent.
Another piece in the puzzle is Martin Prado who stands to earn $11m in 2015 and is under contract at the same rate for 2016. He had an outstanding second half of 2014 after being traded from Arizona. He can play 2nd base, shortstop and the outfield corners.
Rodriguez has three years left on his contract and will be paid $61m (I will not suggest that he will “earn” that money) unless the Yankees find a unexpected way out.
First baseman, Mark Teixeira has two years left with a full no-trade clause at the rate of $22.5m per season.
On the fringes are Jose Pirela (who performed well at the tail-end of last season, minimum contract); Brendan Ryan (weak offensively, very strong defensively, $2m) and Zelous Wheeler (journeyman on minimum contract).
Teixeira at 1b; Prado at 2b; a new face at ss; Headley at 3b (if he’s willing to comeback and face the circus which will follow him replacing A-Rod).
Alternatively, Prado could be at ss and they could bring in a new 2b. Cashman has made it clear that if a 3b man comes in, he will be regarded as the everyday player. This will leave Rodriguez splitting time between backup third-baseman, back up first baseman and designated hitter.
Next time, we will move on to consider the outfield before looking at the pitching staff.