The Yankees and What Could Have Been

After Passing on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, where do the Yankees go from here?

The Yankees are slight favorites to win the 2019 World Series.

Fangraphs has the Yankees projected for 97 wins which puts the team slightly ahead of the projections for the Astros and Red Sox, who they see reaching 95 and 94 wins.

If you don’t like Fangraphs, go to your sports betting site of choice and check the odds.

If the Yankees win their 28th World Series this season nobody will be surprised.

The past two seasons saw the Yankees make it to Game 7 of the 2017 ACLS and win 100 regular season games in 2o18 while also setting the MLB record for most home runs in a season.

There is zero doubt that the Yankees are a really good team and are set up to be that way for a long time. As The Ringer’s Zach Kram notes, “Not since 1970 had New York fielded a younger average lineup than it did last season.”

The farm system has produced young homegrown talents like Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, and Greg Bird who will make up the core of the team for the next decade. Throw in fantastic trades by General Manager Brian Cashman for Aaron Hicks, Didi Gregorious and Giancarlo Stanton in the past few years and you have a lineup chock full of guys who are either in their prime or who soon will be. Cashman has done a masterful job building this team.

So then why does something feel wrong? Why has this offseason left a bitter taste in the mouths of a lot of Yankee fans? The situation I described above seems like a dream scenario for any fanbase.

Well for starters the Red Sox won the World Series last season. You might have heard about that. They also won 108 games in the regular season. And they also beat the Yankees 3-1 in the ALDS. And they also beat the Yankees 16-1 in Game 3 of said ALDS.

I’ll save my ripping into Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner for a blog that soon come but suffice it to say that many Yankee fans, after watching the team get curb stomped by the hated Red Sox, went into this past offseason hoping for a return of the Evil Empire. The Red Sox have won 4 world Series in the 21st century to the Yankees’ 2. The Yankees haven’t won the AL East since 2012. We wanted our swagger back, our mojo back.

Bryce Harper and Manny Machado were there for the taking. It was too perfect. Sign even one of those two future Hall of Fame players, about to enter the primes of their careers, and the Yankees would signal to the rest of the MLB that they were back to being the It team of baseball.

Just imagine a lineup like this:

  1. Torres
  2. Judge
  3. Machado/Harper
  4. Stanton
  5. Didi
  6. Sanchez
  7. Hicks
  8. Andujar
  9. Voit

It physically pains me to type that lineup out.

What could have been.

Just go back and read that lineup over again. Where are the holes?

What is the weakness?

Average, Power, OBP it has everything.

And the only reason the Yankees, the most valuable franchise in baseball at a $4 Billion value, with a 2018 Revenue that might eclipse $700 million when Forbes releases the figures soon, didn’t give that lineup to their fans is because of money. It doesn’t make any sense.

We go to these games and spend $50 on bleacher seats for a random game in May against the Royals, spend another $40 on food and booze, and this is the shit we get in return? We lose out on a future HOFer, one of the best players in baseball, to the fucking San Diego Padres?!

I want to focus on analyzing the Yankees offseason and don’t want to take a 2,000 word detour to touch on how insufferable Steinbrenner is but it is taking every ounce of restraint that I can muster.

Stay tuned for the Hal Steinbrenner takedown blog.

Ok, back to the team. Yeah, some fans had their gripes with Harper and Machado.

Let’s go through the most common objections I heard one-by-one.

“The Yankees are good enough to win without them.”

Ok, agreed. Would signing either of them have made the Yankees a better team and increased their chances at winning the World Series not only this season but for the next several season? Exactly.

“Machado is a dirty player lazy scumbag blah blah blah”

Are we trying to form a non-profit charity organization to tutor underprivileged youth in the inner-city or are we trying to form a baseball team?

Machado spiked a guy and didn’t run out a ball off the wall in the World Series. One time he threw his bat near a player. He also hit .297 with 37 home runs and 107 RBIs last season. Which is a more important factor when it comes to winning baseball games? Where are the teammates saying Machado was a bad guy in the clubhouse? Also, isn’t it more fun when your team is hated? Part of being the Evil Empire is, ya know, the Evil part. The Red Sox and their fans hate Machado.

Machado hates the Red Sox. Watch that video and tell me you don’t wish that guy was on the Yankees. Seriously? Signing Machado would have brought back some of the juice to the Yankees-Sox rivalry while also making the Yankee a way better team. Sounds like a win-win to me.

“Harper is overrated.”

Yeah I agree. He is the Carmelo to Trout’s Lebron. Carmelo is still going into the Hall of Fame and Bryce is too. Is it weird to me that Bryce has went back and forth the past few years as far as his batting average is concerned hitting .330 in 2015, .243 in 2016, .319 in 2017, and .249 last year? Yeah that is weird. But his OBP for those years were .460, .373, .413, and .393. Even when he doesn’t hit for average Bryce gets on base. Also not for nothing his career average is .279. Is Harper a little injury-prone? Yeah he is for sure and that concerns me more than his fluctuating average and more than his defensive woes last season.

The bottom line is that Bryce, for all his warts, is still a perennial all star, with a ROY and an NL MVP already under his belt. His 2015 MVP season, when he posted 10 WAR, is one of the best seasons of all-time for a 22 year old. He would have made the Yankees a much better team.

“Bryce doesn’t fit in the outfield and Manny doesn’t fit in the infield.”

Give me a break. You make room for players of that caliber. You have a DH spot for a reason. Injuries happen. Gritty Brett Gardner and Troy Hasn’t Been Good in Four Years Tulowitzki are the current left fielder and shortstop respectively.

Here’s an idea, sign Machado and trade Andujar, Frazier, and Florial and whatever else it takes for Corey Kluber who the Indians have been floating in trade talks all offseason.

You can afford to clean out the farm system when your team is already this young and this good. Does anybody know where the Red Sox’s farm system ranks in baseball? Does anybody give a shit? No because they just won the World Series. Restock the farm while the team is racking up victory parades.

“You are such a greedy Yankee fan money doesn’t just grow on trees what do you want the team to have a $500 million payroll?”

This moronic take will be covered in the Hal Steinbrenner hit-piece.

Lets move on from what could have been to what is.

How does this year’s Yankees lineup stack up to last year’s?

Well, Didi stands to miss the majority of the regular season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Judge will probably play more games than last year and thus produce more. Stanton and Sanchez will probably play better than last year. Hicks you would expect more of the same from. Gardner is another year older. Voit and Bird who knows what you’re going to get (I do think Voit will be able to hit .260 with 20 home runs over a full season which is good enough) but I think first base production for the Yankees one way or the other will be better than last year because it is hard to be worse. You figure Torres and Andujar will at least combine to produce at a level in-line with last season. Maybe Frazier pops. Maybe Ellsbury does anything. Maybe Tulowitzki rises from the dead. Free agent signing Dj Lemawhtoomanyvowels adds some nice depth and improves the infield defense.

I feel confident in saying that the Yankees offense will be on par with last season if not slightly better.

What about the bullpen? Well I have one major concern when it comes to the Yankees relief pitching.

Is there room for improvement?

According to FanGraphs last season the Yankees got, “9.2 WAR from their bullpen, the second-best mark in the modern era, tied with the 2017 Yankees and just behind the 9.6 WAR of the 2003 Los Angeles Dodgers.

All I hear about is how dominant the Yankees bullpen is. I have no doubt that with Chapman, Betances, Ottavino, Britton, Green and even Holder and Kahnle as wildcards, this team has the best bullpen by far in the MLB.

But what if the bullpen this season is amazing, best in baseball, but not quite as good as last year?

Or do we think they are going to get 10 WAR out of these guys? Maybe, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Sure, Britton is healthier this year and he will have a full season with the team but Betances is already hurt with an achy shoulder.

Also, I would have preferred bringing back Robertson over signing Ottavino. You know what you’re getting with Robertson, he is used to the spotlight of NYC, and has a longer track record of being a great reliever than Ottavino does.

Not saying there is no chance Ottavino will outperform Robertson this season. It is possible, he did last year. 2019 Ottavino has a higher ceiling and a lower floor than 2019 Robertson. Fangraphs has Robertson projected for 1.6 WAR this year and Ottavino for .9 WAR. It is a minor nitpick all things considered so let’s hope Cashman and Co made the right move.

Finally, we get to the starting rotation. The 2018 Yankees Starters were a much maligned cast of characters what with Luis Cessa, Johnny Lasagna, and Domingo YourMahn playing prominent roles and TheSonnyGrayExperience going off the rails entirely. But with all that being said, they were the 4th best staff in the MLB last year.

I always thought concerns with the rotation were overblown especially if they were going to be used as a reason for eschewing Harper and Machado.

“Pitching is the team’s issue, we need to focus on that, they have enough offense!”

Tell me how many times you heard that refrain this winter if you’re a Yankees fan.

And if the pitching was the main priority for the front office this offseason, then why is Patrick Corbin, the best free agent pitcher that was available, on the Nationals? I thought the Nationals overpaid, but one of the benefits of overpaying is, ya know, actually having the player that you overpaid for on your team, and helping to win games.

So where does the rotation stand as we look ahead to the start of the season (just ignore that the Yankees have already played two games bear with me here this blog is a couple days late)?

The James Paxton trade was a great move. Once it became apparent that it was THE move for the Yankees this offseason though, some of the luster of the transaction wore off.

  1. Severino
  2. Paxton
  3. TanakaTime
  4. Happ
  5. CC

Very solid, no doubt about it.

If everything goes right, you have two quasi-aces in Severino and Paxton, Tanaka is overqualified as your 3, and Happ and CC perform in line with last year, which all teams in baseball would be thrilled with for the back end of the rotation.

But what if Severino is just not an ace? What if he’s a 2 starter? And what if Paxton picks up his usual couple injuries. Last season was the first time he cracked the 160 IP mark in his entire career. Happ is 36, CC is turning 39 in July, and Severino is already on the shelf with shoulder inflammation. Seems like we could be seeing a lot more of the Cessa/German/Lasagna/Chance Adams brigade than we would like. I think Lasagna has the most potential out of that quartet. Jordan Montgomery is recovering from Tommy John and asking him to contribute much this season is unrealistic.

My ideal scenario would have been to supplement the Paxton trade with the power move of trading for Kluber. THAT is what prioritizing the rotation would have looked like. Alas.

So here we are. Yankees as the preseason World Series favorite in the last season for them to win 28 before the 2010’s go by the wayside with nothing to show for. The last decade with no Yankees championship parade was the ’80s.

I can’t shake the feeling that the Harper and Machado non-signings will haunt the Yankees for years to come. Maybe they will win another ring over the next decade, maybe even two, but they had a golden opportunity for another golden generation and they went in another direction.

Maybe it will all work out. I guess we will have to wait and see.

That’s baseball Susan.

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