How else to explain the moves that the Yankees have made since the season ended in October?
The Yankees might have listed their goals for the off-season as follows:
a) To strengthen their 25 man roster
b) To reduce the average age of players on their 25-man roster
c) To make themselves more competitive for 2016
d) To achieve the first three without majorly increasing their payroll for 2016 from its 2015 level.
As we are now halfway through that off-season period, it is fair to say that they have failed in the first three categories and, therefore, in the 4th.
Let’s look at the moves they have made –
First of all the Yankees parted company with Stephen Drew and Chris Capuano. No problems here. Capuano is 37 years old and was the worst semi-regular pitcher on the Yankees roster in 2015. Drew, at 32, looks finished and has had two awful seasons since Scott Boras, his agent, encouraged him to sit out the opening of 2014, waiting for the top dollar offer to come along – that never came.
But also in the same breath, the Yankees allowed Chris Young, a great hitter off left-handed pitching to head for free-agency. He’s 32 so it was a case of what happened next and whether the Yankees would seek to bring him in and save a buck or two.
The club then released the 29-year-old reliever, Chris Martin, who had been sub-standard in ’15 but who it wouldn’t have cost much to keep on board through Spring Training. Interesting.
Next, having made 2b one of the spots they wanted to strengthen, the Yankees allowed Jose Pirela (a second baseman) to slip away for Ronald Herrera, a 20-year-old right-handed pitcher, who whatever his future is likely to be is not anywhere near major league ready and is not on the Yankees forty-man roster in forseeable times.
Then we were back to those age-related questions with the Yankees acquiring Aaron Hicks from Minnesota (aged 26) for John Ryan Murphy (aged 24). Now this filled the gap left by allowing the aforementioned Chris Young to depart but left a gaping hole for one of the catching spots which Murphy had held down strongly all season in 2015. Now Murphy had spoken out of turn in the Yankees post-game celebrations but aside from that letting him go makes no sense. Young and Hicks are pretty much a wash when you consider their hitting figures and especially the figures against left-handers and Hicks is younger than Young but Murphy will be missed.
But then things got stranger. Another weak area for the Yankees is the starting rotation and one possibility was Chase Whitley, albeit that the 26-year-old is coming off major surgery. The Yankees allowed him to slip away off waivers to divisional rivals Tampa Bay Rays – lessening their options by one young player. Young also signed for a divisional rivals in the Red Sox.
The Yankees need for a second baseman raised its head again next. Now when we think about this we have to consider that for the last 18 months, the team’s choice has been the plain awful Stephen Drew. So when the team talked about feeling that they felt they could possibly upgrade from the current favourite choices of a tandem of 24-year old Rob Refsnyder and 27-year-old Dustin Ackley then we have to think everything is relative. Now signing 25-year-old Starlin Castro is no doubt that upgrade they were seeking but giving up 28-year old Adam Warren who was a potential starter or reliever for next season is very strange. Makeweight in the deal was Brendan Ryan who whilst defensively strong was already looking like the odd man out and won’t be missed but Warren is another matter. With Whitley and Warren gone, the Yankees who were already looking threadbare in pitching were getting alarmingly thin. And so next? Well, the Yankees had been saying how the bullpen was really one of their strengths in 2015 and whilst it could always be strengthened and no-one was off-limits if a big name was thrown into the ring……
And so what did they do? Justin Wilson (aged 28) who was the 7th innings for the Yankees in 2015 was traded for Chad Green and Luis Cessa. Now some readers might be thinking that the two acquisitions have passed under their radar. Others might be asking if I really meaning the Chad Green who had such a good season at double-A last year and be wondering if that’s the same Luis Cessa who won a pitcher of the week award at Savannah in June 2013. Yes, those are the ones. Cessa goes on to the 40-man roster but is unlikely to see Major League action in 2016. We may never hear of Green again.
Now no-one expected the Yankees to move their aged players with large contracts. A-Rod, Teix and C.C. were going nowhere. But they are trading away young (under 30) accomplished players and so far, Castro aside, getting nothing in return to help in the short-term. And all the Castro acquisition has done has left people scratching their heads and wondering what this means for Refsnyder, Bird, Ackley and the rest and just who they are going to have in the rotation now that most of the notable free agents of that breed are heading for other cities.
Like I said, ludicrous.