In my last Yankees-themed article, (https://twilightdawning.com/2015/12/23/the-new-york-yankees-off-season-update-novemberdecember-2015-ludicrous/), I highlighted how in my opinion, in their trades and lack of free agency activity, the Bronx Bombers had actually managed to weaken their squad of players. This view was obviously contrary to the view of Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi but it was difficult for me to see it any other way.
Anyway, the faithful expected that the Yankees would very soon sign that big-name from that increasingly thin looking remaining free agent market. Or perhaps they would trade a Brett Gardner or similar to bolster the starting rotation.
In the pre-Christmas rush, the Yankees had made some surprising moves which saw Justin Wilson, Adam Warren and John Ryan Murphy being allowed to depart with Aroldis Chapman being the sole really significant arrival. And Mr Chapman comes with baggage (lots of it) which suggests that it is not only his battery mates who could be on the receiving end of something travelling at 100 mph. The Yankees signed him knowing that he would likely be the first MLB player to be suspended under the Leagues’ new domestic violence guidelines; a possibility that has since reached fruition.
Warren was a strong possibility for the starting rotation if any of the aging and feeble arms that were theoretically ahead of him buckled in the Spring – as seems very likely – or at least to be the bridge that got the Yankees to the 7th innings as the best long reliever they had.
Murphy was a great back-up catcher last season. With Gary Sanchez emerging, there was a possibility that he would lose his spot but that was far from certain. Sanchez has no real Major League experience to speak of. Allowing Murphy to go, means that if the Sanchez-plan goes wrong then Austin Romine will need to step up — and if anyone played less in the majors than Sanchez last year, it was Romine. Mmm…
Last season, innings 7-8-9 for the Yankees were Wilson-Betances-Miller and they were near perfect. Now with Wilson gone, you have the very impressive grouping of Betances-Miller-Chapman (that is if you disregard Chapman’s baggage). But how do you improve on near perfection? And with Chapman to be suspended for the first month of the season, the Yankees are left with ?-Betances-Miller until May and with no Warren to step into Wilson’s empty shoes. Now that makes no sense. Sure the guys in the Bleachers will love Chapman’s 100 mph+ fastball but it can’t win the team more games than last season’s triumvirate. It simply can’t be done. Mathematically impossible.
But the Yankees had gained Starlin Castro who is a major upgrade on Stephen Drew (hey! I would have been a major upgrade on Stephen Drew) and so we just had to wait for the magic that Mr Cashman would do in January…or February…or sometime…
And they did nothing. They brought in a couple of right-handed relief pitchers in Tyler Jones and Kirby Yates and gave them minor league contracts. They traded for shortstop, Ronald Torreyes from the L.A. Dodgers and then allowed him to go back to Los Angeles (Angels, this time) on waivers and then claimed him back a few days later (on waivers again). What’s that saying about the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. I’m sure this isn’t what it was originally meant to mean.
And then there was the usual group of non-roster invitees to Spring Training – headlined by Jorge Mateo, Aaron Judge and James Kaprielian but these guys are for 2017 and beyond. Nobody expects them to stick this year. And they brought a little tension into the catching situation by bringing in a journeyman like Carlos Corporan.
And besides that there is not a lot. 2016 looks like a season where all the risks and gambles the Yankees are taking could come off and they could compete. Or things could go the more predictable route (Gardner and Eovaldi are already having injury issues in Spring Training) and this could be a season like 1989 where the team finished thirteen games under .500, finished 5th (of 7), and used what seemed like a million so-so pitchers. If memory serves me well, they went into Spring Training then wondering if veteran starters like Tommy John and Ron Guidry could carry them. This year they will need much more from their veterans if this strange plan is going to work.
But, hey, Spring Training games have just begun and Starlin Castro is playing up a riot in game 1 against the Detroit Tigers. What can I say? Hope springs eternal!