The New York Yankees decided in the second half of 2016 that they were going with youth. It was a little surprising therefore, to see their two major signings in the first half of the post-season be a 36-year-old who would be designated hitter and one of the relief pitchers they traded away in the movements that took place around the trade deadline
The Yankees have given up far more players with major league experience so far in the off-season than they have acquired. Thankfully, most of these were bullpen pitchers who were inconsistent in 2016.
First out of the door was journeyman pitcher, Anthony Swarzak, who chose free agency over the possibility of being a non-roster invitee to Spring Training. He had done quite respectably overall with the Yankees (1-2, 5.52 ERA) but the longer he had stayed on the roster the less consistent he had seemed.
Kirby Yates was another of those on the fringe of the bullpen to move along as he was claimed off waivers in October by the Anaheim Angels. The Angels claimed two Yankees relievers on the same day, the second being Blake Parker.
Speedy, Eric Young jr. who joined the roster in September and played almost exclusively as a pinch runner was another who has chosen the free agency route.
Conor Mullee must be wondering if he is coming or going. Most baseball thinkers were surprised to see him arrive in the Major Leagues as soon as he did when he joined the Yankees roster in 2016. However, when the opportunity came along to join the World Champ Chicago Cubs, he must have thought all his birthdays had come on one day. However, after joining them via waivers in early November, he was then non-tendered in early December: only then to find himself offered a minor league Cub contract as an early Christmas present – a contract which he had previously declined to take a look at free agency.
Branden Pinder is still technically in the Yankees organisation but has been cut from the 40-man roster and with recent surgery, his future chances are not bright.
Joe Mantiply is another like Mullee for whom the off-season is causing dizzy spells. He was claimed by the Yankees off waivers from the Detroit Tigers. He then spent a whole ten days as a Yankee before being designated for assignment. 5 days later he was released entirely, only then to be signed to a Yankees minor league contract within the week.
Billy Butler did a very respectable job for the Yankees in the last weeks of the 2016 season (.345 with 1 home run) and with gaps being created by the absence of the likes of Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran amongst the senior squad members who could take time at designated hitter, it wasn’t beyond possibility that the New York club might try to re-sign him. As it worked out there couldn’t have been anything further from the case with Butler choosing free agency without a murmur.
Another who might have been a major consideration in that designated hitter mix was Brian McCann who lost his role as first choice catcher with the explosive debut of rookie, Gary Sanchez. Rather than battle Austin Romine for the second string catcher role and make up his swings as DH, McCann decided to waive his no-trade clause and now finds himself as an Houston Astro in exchange for cash and two minor league prospects.
Nathan Eovaldi achieved 23 wins over the last two seasons, with the Yankees. In some ways he was as lucky with run support as Michael Pineda has been unlucky. However, his season ended with the need for a second time on the surgeons’ table with arm problems and that leaves him as a free agent with an awful lot to prove in 2018.
James Pazos was an accomplished spot left-handed reliever in 2015 but could never really reproduce that form in 2016. He will have a new start with the Seattle Mariners having been traded for RHP Zack Littell.
Like Eovaldi, Dustin Ackley was another whose time as a Yankee came to an end because of injury. As a free agent who has never really realised his potential, his future in the game looks bleak.
Nick Rumbelow is another young arm who will find himself with a future out-righted to Scranton when he begins his recovery on the mound late next season.
Jacob Lindgren‘s future looked bright when he found himself on the Yankees’ mound at the tender age of 22. After a very disappointing 2016, he finds himself with a chance to prove himself all over again but this time in Georgia with the Atlanta organisation.
That infamous character “Player to be Named Later” was the chip which saw another young arm, Nick Goody move to Ohio and join Cleveland.
The Yankees also lost Caleb Smith, Tyler Jones and Tyler Webb in the Rule 5 draft.
Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman are two future prospects. They are both 20 years of age. They are both potentially starters in the future should they make the grade. They both joined the Yankees in the Brian McCann trade along with a bag of cash. Abreu pitched at single-A last year. Guzman was in the Gulf Coast League. We will see what happens.
Matt Holliday is a puzzling acquisition. He will be 37 in a few days time and hardly fits into this new much-vaunted youth policy that Mr Cashman has talked about so much. Also and in addition, aside from a part-season at Oakland, he is a career National Leaguer with no time at designated hitter to note. Psychologically all that additional bench time can be a challenge. The Yankees are paying the rather injury-prone Mr Holliday $13m for his one season in Pinstripes. An interesting side note is that his contract allows him to block any trade to Oakland (the one American League team he has previously served with). I wonder what that is all about.
And then there is Aroldis Chapman. Nobody doubts his ability. Many would doubt his temperament. He entered 2016 with domestic violence charges hanging over him. He left the Cubs at the end of 2016, talking less about the honour of becoming a World Champion with the club and more about how he felt he was misused during the post-season. There is just a whiff that maybe Mr Chapman is more concerned about his own stats and less about the betterment of his team. At least, the Yankees know what they’re getting (back). Mariano Rivera he ain’t.
Will there be other moves? Maybe but at the moment all is quiet. There was talk of pitchers, Jose Quintana and David Robertson arriving from the other Chicago team. I would have liked to see Robertson back and Quintana would really have deepened the rotation but apparently the asking price was too much.
I’m not holding my breath.