Challenge The Paradigm

Complacency is the estranged cousin of success.

One of the most dangerous things a team, player or fan base can be is satisfied with their accomplishments. It is the idea that resting on one’s laurels can lead to future prosperity. The reality is no two seasons are alike. The demands and requirements of every MLB team change year to year and the successful franchises set the pace. The worse thing an organization can do is actively work to maintain the status quo. The Yankees have to do everything they can to avoid the status quo this winter. All they need to do is look at their bitter rival.

The 2018 Boston Red Sox were a buzzsaw. Unfortunately, we are all way too familiar with that team. It felt like every player experienced a career year and every move the front office made was the right one. The end result was a World Series title. They entered the offseason in a prime position to maximize a run with their core players. Instead, they went to bed with complacency and woke up the next morning a jilted lover.

Citing payroll concerns, the Red Sox were content with bringing back the old gang. The team brought back Steve Pearce. They re-signed Nate Eovaldi. A damaged Chris Sale received a huge extension. The team didn’t bring in an outside free agent. In fact, more players left the organization than players who were brought in. Boston took a gamble on the past success of their core and believed that was enough to win again. That plan didn’t work.

The Yankees need to avoid the same trap. This is especially true because they don’t have a recent title to fall back on. At the end of the season presser, Brian Cashman repeatedly referred to his roster as a championship caliber one. The current version of the Yankees is extremely talented and despite season ending heartbreaks, has enjoyed an impressive run of success. With that said, there are critical questions facing the team this winter and they need to respond with the right answers.

Last week, I wrote about the Yankees needing to aggressively attack the free agent pitching market, but there are issues beyond the rotation. The roster has a clear need for a lefty bat. Despite the numbers showing the Yankees right-handed dominant lineup could handle righties, it was clear in the ALCS that lineup balance could’ve helped with their offensive woes. Is the team going to address this or will they be content with using the same lineup construction? Will they let Didi walk and attempt to fill his offensive production with the return of Miguel Andújar? Are they willing to look outside the organization and trade for a lefty bat? Is bringing back Brett Gardner and waiting for the return of Aaron Hicks all the Yankees need in Brian Cashman’s eyes? This winter presents an opportunity for the front office to fine tune a well oiled machine. They should take advantage of this chance.

Aroldis Chapman’s potential opt-out will be another test for the front office. If Chapman decides to opt out of his contract, the Yankees should seriously consider using that available money for a run at an elite starting pitcher. As Derek mentioned, it may be time to reconsider how the bullpen is framed in the overall picture of the roster. Looking beyond the game usage of the relievers, the strength of the team needs to shift to the starting rotation. The Washington Nationals are World Series champions today because of an organizational commitment to the rotation. Centering the bullpen as the main weapon of the team isn’t achieving the ultimate goal. It is time to reevaluate that approach and boldly institute a new one.

There are a lot of conversations about championship windows. These discussions largely focus on the amount of time talented players remain on a given team’s roster. The sustainability of these runs goes beyond how long good players remain together. Windows are reliant upon organizations refusing to be content with what they currently possess. Front offices continually need to be honest about how they can improve even if those improvements live in the details. This current group of Yankees are championship-caliber but are not champions yet. Cashman can’t just bring the old gang back for next year. Complacency can’t win out.

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8 Comments

  1. DJ Lemeddardhieu

    The Astros and Nats have done it the right way for years, Randy. Astros went out and got both Cole and then Greinke to get that WS. Woulda had it if Hinch had used Cole after Greinke but he pulled a Buck Showalter waiting for the save opportunity that never came. But at least the Astros went for it. Cashman and the Yankee FO did absolutely nothing at the deadline. Nats signed Corbin in the offseason and Max a few years ago. Hal would never pay that much. Nats and Astros owners want championships. They remind me a lot of George back in the day. Hell, I’d even take Wayne Huizenga over Hal. At least he won a championship before tearing it all down.

    The excuse for not getting Corbin and Max was we didn’t want to go 6 years but we gave an oft injured Hicks 7 years and now he’ll basically miss two straight years. Ellsbury was given 7 years and he’s basically Jimmy Hoffa now. 40 year old Happ was given 3 years to pitch to a 5 ERA. More Strasburgs, less Ottavinos. More DJ’s, less Encarnacions is the key to winning a WS. Look at the late 90’s dynasty. Cone, Wells, Rocket, Andy weren’t 4 inning pitchers. Nelson, Lloyd, Stanton, Mendoza and Rivera were there to back those guys up not be the focal point.

  2. chip56

    I think the Yankees will enter this offseason with two thoughts in mind:
    1. Our new approach to pitching will improve what we have
    2. We will be better next year without having to add a single player

    The Yankees look at Boston potentially moving some of their star players to save money and at the Astros preparing for life without Cole as major blows to their top competition. They also anticipate full seasons from Stanton, Severino, Andujar, and Paxton.

    I could very easily see them using that thought process to justify tinkering around the edges rather than making a full splash

    • Randy

      They would be mistaken if they act on item number 2.

      • chip56

        Couldn’t you argue that was what they did last year though? They watched Boston let their bullpen be depleted and just sat back and tinkered around the outside.

        • Randy

          They signed DJLM, traded for Paxton and signed Ottavino. That isn’t tinkering on the edges.

          • chip56

            DJ became a key because of the injuries.

            In general, when I say “tinkering” I mean not adding the big piece like Cole or Strasburg. I don’t consider Paxton at that level.

          • Randy

            DJ became a key because he’s really damn good. He was excellent from the start.

            James Paxton isn’t at that level, but he’s really good and trading your top pitching prospect for him isn’t a tinker.

      • RetroRob

        I agree. BTW I don’t see the Yankees getting better next year simply believing increased health will lead to better results. The next-man-up (NMU) players were quite productive. Yes, having Stanton back for a full season will be great, but we have to remember that players like Tauchman and Maybin and Frazier were very productive filling in for the injured OFers. Also, Brett Gardner put up yet another 4 WAR season. If he leaves, that weakens them. Or if he returns, and baseball’s father time finally taps him on the shoulder for good, then that weakens them. What I believe is having Stanton back, and hopefully Judge being healthier too, will add greater likelihood they can replace the NMU production in 2020. I wouldn’t want to depend on NMU repeating in 2020. More likely the true talent players like Stanton will carry the team in next season.

        The one exception is Severino. There was no NMU to replace him. Be he a #1 or #2, having him back for the season will be welcomed. Overall though, fans expecting to win more than 103 games next season isn’t realistic, even though they could do it. There’s a better chance they can match the 2019 regular season results with health.

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