The late George Steinbrenner would be rolling in his grave based upon the current philosophy employed by the New York Yankees.
Widely regarded as one of the best owners in American sports history, Steinbrenner had a penchant for spending ungodly amounts of money in order to lure top talent to the Bronx. There was a large period of time in which the Yankees built up their team via free agency rather than player development.
It was a “win-now” mentality – with the future far out of the proverbial scope. If the Yankees could win immediately, giving a player in his early 30’s a long contract wouldn’t matter…despite the fact these albatross-like agreements could hinder the team later on.
The Yankees last won the World Series in 2009 – with varying amounts of playoff success since. New York made the playoffs only once in the last three years. As such, General Manager Brian Cashman decided to do something unheard of under the Steinbrenner regime: Rebuild.
The franchise gradually decided to get younger across the board – focusing on scouting and the draft as opposed to solely the free agent market. It’s a model used by many successful franchises of late – including the Cardinals, Cubs, Indians, Giants, Rays, Dodgers, and Astros. Free agency should be used as a means to combat roster deficiencies – though not used exclusively as the primary method.
New York swung multiple deals – jettisoning higher-priced players (Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Beltran) for a bevy of big-time prospects. The Indians included OF Clint Frazier and LHP Justus Sheffield in the Miller trade. Both Frazier and Sheffield are considered two of the best prospects in the Yankees’ farm system. Frazier in particular could make his major league debut towards the end of this current season.
The Yankees landed SS Gleyber Torres in the Chapman trade with the Cubs. Torres is not only the best shortstop prospect in the game, but many are projecting the Venezuelan to become a future All-Star. The Yankees clearly won the trade from a long-term standpoint – as Chapman ultimately re-signed with them a year later.
Cashman also made a sneaky-good trade – grabbing 3-time All-Star Starlin Castro from the Cubs in exchange for a fringe pitching prospect and a utility player to-be-named-later (which turned out to be Brendan Ryan). He hit 21 home runs during his first year in New York, and is currently leading the team with a .362 batting average. At only 27, Castro is just reaching his prime.
New York shrewdly acquired former first-round pick Aaron Hicks from the Minnesota Twins for a fringe minor league catcher. Hicks was a player high on ability – but one lacking confidence. After struggling immensely in the beginning of his Yankees career, the California native has turned things around in 2017. He’s batting .288 with five home runs and 12 RBIs, and could be the best defensive outfielder on the roster. Like Castro, Hicks is only 27.
The budding star within the team is Aaron Judge. A hulking outfielder at 6’7”, Judge has gotten off to a scintillating start – hitting 13 home runs in 25 games. The 25-year-old truly has the look of a legitimate power hitter going forward.
As of May 4th, the Yankees sit atop the A.L. East with a 17-9 record. No one expected New York to be this good at such a quick rate. Cashman truly has a done a magnificent job – pairing together a cast of youngsters with multiple high-character veterans (Matt Holliday, Chase Headley).
The core of Chapman, Torres, Castro, Frazier, Hicks, Judge, Greg Bird, Dellin Betances, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, and Ronald Torreyes is built exceptionally well for the future. Cashman has revamped the farm system considerably – as it now is considered by many to be within the top five in the league.
Plus…the Yankees are still the Yankees. The deep pockets will not go away anytime soon. The 2018 free agency class will feature the likes of Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Josh Donaldson, Zach Britton, Dallas Keuchel, Matt Harvey, Craig Kimbrel, and Andrew Miller. Clayton Kershaw and David Price could also become free agents – should they exercise their opt-out clauses.
In the year 2019, the Yankees will have only $56.14 million committed to players on its current roster. As such, expect the Bronx Bombers to be huge competitors in the market.
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