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Thoughts as the Yankees continue to embarrass themselves

Sums it up, no?

How many of you went to sleep with the Yankees up 7-4 and the bullpen seemingly locking things down? Or during the second rain delay, fully expecting the game to be called at five innings? I envy you all. Much better than staying up past 1 o’clock in the morning to watch that abominable loss.

Hal Steinbrenner is going to speak to the media this morning, and as I noted yesterday, don’t expect him to say anything that will satisfy the masses. He’ll probably state his frustration, reiterate his belief in the current group, but note that this is unacceptable. A bunch of words that won’t do much of anything. Bleh.

So, I have thoughts, rambling ones at that. I don’t know if they are coherent as I’m operating on five-ish hours of sleep, but let’s get to’em.

If Hal Steinbrenner insists that the Yankees can win without paying the luxury tax, then he needs to overhaul the team’s front office. Brian Cashman is a Hall of Fame GM, but tasking him with winning a World Series without paying the luxury tax just isn’t his cup of tea. This is the fourth decade he’s been the team’s GM, and times have changed quite a bit. He’s done a pretty good job of adapting! But if Hal remains adamant about keeping payroll below $210 million, maybe hiring someone in the mold of Chaim Bloom is his best bet. Gross. I absolutely hate it. However, if those are the constraints the Hal wants, sticking with the current front office probably doesn’t work.

The Yankees are 74-66 since last year, which is an 85 win pace over a full 162. And since that 103-win 2019 campaign, Cashman has made a number of moves that clearly are payroll-slashing motivated:

  • Letting Didi Gregorius walk
  • Letting Masahiro Tanaka walk
  • Trading Adam Ottavino to a rival for salary relief
  • Trading prospects for Rougned Odor, who costs nothing towards the luxury tax threshold

I probably forgot others, but I’m tired and not thinking 100 percent clearly after a late night yesterday.

Now, the Yankees signed Gerrit Cole in the midst of that, but Cashman had to do a bunch of things that hurt the roster elsewhere to make it work. He couldn’t bolster middle infield depth with Gregorius gone, he had to roll the dice on Corey Kluber this yea, and he had to hand a bounce-back candidate reliever to a direct competitor, among other things. I don’t think Cashman wanted to do any of this, but he had little choice. Asking him to act in this manner when his front office counterparts are “better” at austerity just doesn’t make sense.

Plus, there are other things that don’t reflect well on Cashman over the last few years. He’s had failure after failure in terms of trading for starting pitching. Whether that’s Sonny Gray, Nate Eovaldi, and now potentially Jameson Taillon (among others), it’s not good. Additionally, Cashman has allocated massive amounts of payroll to the bullpen, which hampers his ability to round out the roster elsewhere. And lastly, he hired Aaron Boone. That decision was simply too cute by half. Seems like a nice guy and all, but Boone was a curious choice from day one. There’s no way he should return as manager in 2022.

Again, to make it abundantly clear: in no way do I want the Yankees to continue down this path of avoiding the luxury tax. I’m in full agreement with what Bobby tweeted out a few days ago.

It just doesn’t seem like the Yankees are ever going to act like the mid-aughts franchise again though. With that in mind, a revamped front office could be in order. That probably means a series of more unpopular moves — trading Aaron Judge would be an absolute embarrassment — but that’s the type of move “smart” teams make nowadays, and Hal clearly wants to be “smart”.

The front office has done a poor job at fringes of the 40-man roster. While there are larger issues at stake, it’s also worth noting that there have been some not-so-great decisions made on the back-end of the 40-man roster over the last couple of seasons.

This was no more obvious than in the Red Sox series last weekend, when Rule 5 draftee Garrett Whitlock absolutely eviscerated the Yankees’ lineup. Meanwhile, Brooks Kriske and Albert Abreu have hung around the 40-man to do what exactly over the last couple of years?

Meanwhile, the Yankees held on to Mike Ford entirely too long while moving on from depth at more premium positions in Mike Tauchman and Thairo Estrada. Not saying Tauchman or Estrada are anything special, but keeping a first base only hitter whose claim to fame is raking in the juiced-ball 2019 campaign looks pretty bad.

The amount of players to regress this season is alarming. I don’t know who or what to blame, but seeing so many players take steps back in 2021 reflects poorly on the entire organization. From coaching to player development to the players themselves, it’s bad.

Three players, all supposed to be important to the 2021 club, come to mind: Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, and Deivi García. All of gotten notably worse.

Even with three hits in his last two games (none hit particularly well, by the way), Torres is at .242/.325/.313 (82 wRC+) this year. His defense has been bad. The glove has always been a concern, but that his bat has evaporated is the real killer here. His power is gone.

Frazier’s at .186/.317/.317 (83 wRC+) and has had a ton of poor at-bats. Not to mention that his fielding has been bad after what was a revelation in 2020. He deserved the starting left fielder role entering the year, and now, he doesn’t belong in the lineup.

Deivi has a 17.4 percent walk rate in Triple-A this year after making huge strides with control in 2020. The Yankees really could have used his arm once Kluber went down or with Domingo Germán struggling currently, but now, García isn’t a real option.

As the saying goes, development isn’t always linear. It just doesn’t bode well when three guys who were supposed to be important contributors to the 2021 major league team become unplayable! I mean, there’s a case for Torres and Frazier to join García in Scranton right now. The problem is that the Yankees alternatives to those two aren’t great. Are we sure that Hoy Jun Park or Trey Amburgey provide a boost? Do we want to see more Tyler Wade? Can Miguel Andújar really play left field? Is there any hope for Brett Gardner? Oof.

It’s past time to make a change on this roster. People like to say that you shouldn’t make a change just for the sake of it, but really, what more do the Yankees have to lose? Their dignity? That’s already gone. They keep trotting out the same roster and expect to turn things around. Doesn’t look like that’s happening!

I know I already stated that players like Park or Amburgey are unlikely to actually help. That was Cashman’s commentary recently, too. But again, the Yankees have already lost their dignity. Would it be so bad to cut Odor loose and put Park or Amburgey in his place?

Internal options aside, the Yankees can’t wait until the trade deadline if they want to salvage their season. The wait-and-see approach will result in the team having to be sellers as presently constituted. Then again, maybe that’s for the best.

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30 Comments

  1. Jack H.

    This is THE BEST analysis of what’s wrong with the organization. You hit all the points, including the maddening decision making at the fringes of the 40-man roster.

    Great job.

  2. Wire Fan

    I don’t understand the fire Boone movement. He is clearly just a puppet to execute what the front office analytics wants to do. Lineup, rest days, rotation, what relievers are available on a given day… I assume it is all the analytics group with Boone merely carrying out the orders. They could fire him for PR, but the next manager in will also just be a yes man for the FO.

    Other casualties to the LT:
    – An absurdly long contract to an always injured Hicks to lower the AAV
    – A far too long contract to DJL (again, to lower AAV)
    – Stanton trade as opposed to making a run at Harper (Stanton had a good AAV #)

    The issue is the front office and the analytics group. It is good to use and embrace advanced data, but the Yankees have become a slave to it. There is more to pitching than spin rate. There is more to hitting than aggregate exit velo. And there is more to platoon splits and lineup construction than “what side of the plate does he stand on?”

    • dasit

      it’s possible for a manager to be a front office puppet and still have a basic knowledge of in-game strategy. i just want a manager who doesn’t actively hurt the team’s chances of winning

      • MikeD

        Yes. The front office is feeding the analytics, but the in-game decisions are made by Boone, and they have not improved at all from his first season.

        I’ve been watching baseball long enough to still have hope they’ll turn this around, but I suspect they won’t, and Boone will be replaced as will the coaching staff, but it won’t happen until season end.

    • Esteddardban Florial

      That’s why they have to fire the FO too. Completely clean house and hand the reins over to an old baseball mind like Buck. Or if you are going to go new school go with someone smart like Coney. The analytics group should be fired too. Michael King has a 20 ERA in the 1st inning and a 2 ERA after. He should have had an opener months ago. Gleyber Torres has been one of their worst hitters all year and bats 5th. Odor routinely bats 3rd. The analytics group didn’t want Eovaldi, Ottavino, Whitlock, Kaprelian and they instead wanted German, Abreu, Kriske and Taillon. They need to go.

    • The Original Drew

      He can’t get the players to actually play for him. They aren’t ready to play and rise up and meet the challenges facing them in big spots. You blame the players first, but Boone isn’t putting guys in the best position to win.

  3. David

    I lived, breathed, and ate Yankees baseball for decades. I live in Seattle now and don’t really have any interest in going to a game when the Yankees visit next week. Such is the result of watching a team ran by a person not really interested in winning.

  4. Luke

    I think the Yankees need to clean house up top for a new voice and some fresh perspective in leadership. Yankees haven’t done anything all that meaningful since the WS in 2009. That’s over a decade.

    Cashman should go.

    Levine should go.

    Boone should go.

    How can you build a lineup with no lefties with a short right field porch in your own ballpark?

    How can you spend $40M combined on Severino, Kluber, Hicks, and Britton who never play? 3 of whom had a reputation for never playing before you gave them a new contract (option in Britton’s case).

    The rotation to start the season was Cole, three players coming off serious injuries: Severino, Kluber, and Taillon, Monty, and a guy who was suspended last season because of domestic violence. Meanwhile, you’re paying Chapman + Britton like $32M combined for your bullpen? Is either guy even lockdown right now? You let Garrett Whitlock go to the rival Red Sox? You traded Ottavino to the Red Sox so he can demolish our all righty hitters?

    You brought back an infield where three of the players: Voit, Torres, and Sanchez are below average defenders. You won’t play Stanton in the OF. You added no outfield bats in the offseason (i.e., Brantley) despite knowing that between the injury prone Hicks being hurt, injury prone Judge being potentially hurt, 37 year old Gardner regressing, and Frazier coming back to earth, that a permanent spot would’ve probably opened for someone given the law of probabilities.

    It’s an all or nothing ‘swing for the fences lineup’ with no speed and athleticism that cannot manufacture runs and isn’t consistent enough with making contact to compensate for it.

    The team is horrible fundamentals wise. Can’t run the basepaths. Catch. Or successfully hit the cut-off man. There’s no accountability. When players mess up they get a warm glass of milk and a rub on the belly, instead of being reprimanded or benched.

    Just a hot mess right now. It’s time to clean house.

  5. Rich

    I wonder if Cashman is going to ride this out and hope some of the starters can rebuild trade value. Just because he’s been at it for a month don’t believe the current version of Sanchez is what you’ll get going forward. Next year is his final year of team control plus he’ll be 30 in 2023. Trade him in the offseason for a defense first catcher who can hit .230-.250. Also hope Gleybar and Frazier can rebound. If they can, they’re both young and controllable and could fetch something really decent. Perhaps a young starter? If some of this, or hopefully all of this materializes (I know, pipedream), then go and sign Corey Seager. He provides you with an upgrade at SS and injects a legitimate left handed bat into the lineup. With DJ signed long term where else are you going to put Gleybar? The Diamondbacks seem like logical trade partners and I’d love to see them land Carson Kelly, but as he’s only 26 he might be part of the rebuild for them. They’ve had a man crush on Kyle Schwarber for years. He has a mutual option with the Nats which I’m guessing he’ll turn down considering his numbers this season. No, how he’s performing right now probably isn’t the true version of him, but at this point I’d take him over Stanton as a left handed bat who plays half his games at Yankee Stadium.

    • Esteddardban Florial

      He just made a blockbuster trade for Tim Locastro, a 28 year old center fielder hitting .180 from the Dbacks. Ninja Cash has done it again!

    • dasit

      i don’t believe this is who torres and frazier are going forward. i look at 2018 as the most likely baselines

  6. dasit

    the roster is poorly constructed, but torres and frazier forgetting how to play baseball and the de-juiced baseball could not have been anticipated. it’s possible to survive a crappy rotation with a dominant line-up and bullpen, but unfortunately 2021 is the Year of the Starting Pitcher. if they’re not going to buy at the deadline, the best way to improve is to fire boone. it would send a message to the players and a competent in-game manager might result in a few extra wins

  7. Esteddardban Florial

    And today’s ballgame has thankfully been postponed but that just delays the inevitable. The Mets are the toast of the town and a good example of how to run a franchise. We’ll be lucky to take a game from them. And they don’t need $500 million or even $200 million to do it. I don’t know why Bobby thinks we need that much. Look at the current division leaders. Red Sox, Astros, Mets, White Sox, Giants, Brewers all do more with less. Even some of the other contenders like the Rays, Jays, Indians, Padres, A’s all do it with nothing. Why can they do it and Cash can’t?

    • Bartholomew

      I don’t know maybe we should ask “Steve”. He seems to have a crush on Cashman maybe he knows him well enough to get the truth out of him. Like when did he really know about spider tack and why did he give a huge contract to the king of tackiness himself. It seems whenever he gives out a long term deal things fall apart, like sevy, hicks, cole, let’s see what happens with DJ and Chapman’s isn’t looking great right now without stick. Imagine if Chapman had the real good stuff that Cole brought over when he blew those games in the post season. Then he picks up Stanton from his old friend who as a gift steals the best minor league coach the Yankees had.

  8. Rory Shortell

    You can’t make a deal like the Stanton one AND stay under the cap. That’s all I’ll say, because you could go for days.

  9. Esteddardban Florial

    I turned the game off after it was 2-0 in the 1st, Bobby. I knew it was over and last night confirmed what many of us have known for months, that this season is over. It’s time to clean house in the GM’s office, the coaching staff, the training/medical staff and start seeing what we can get for what few assets we do have. Send Boone back to ESPN where he belongs. Hire a real manager like Buck that can actually get something out of their ballplayers.

    Unfortunately, Chapman was one of those assets and now he ain’t. I said a few weeks ago that Chappy was struggling because of the ban on sticky stuff and got laughed at. Now what say you? He clearly was using spider tack, as was German, and now they can’t throw a single strike. It’s pretty obvious that’s the case. And I’m getting so sick of seeing Cole “The Professor” schooling the other pitchers in the dugout. If he was so smart why are these guys struggling so much? It was the sticky stuff that made him look good.

    I thought Kay got the better of you in that exchange. A $500 million payroll is ridiculous. In ’09 we won with not even half of that and so has every other ballclub since. We’ve had one of the top one or two payrolls for 20 years and only have 1 WS. It’s a lot more about who the money is spent on and the hitting philosophy. When so much is tied up in Stanton who can’t play a position that limits flexibility, and when he’s hurt half the time it’s not a good use of resources. The Ellsbury contract, the Hicks contract, spending so much on a few relievers instead of bringing them up through the farm, there’s just so much inefficiency. The boom or bust approach to hitting always goes bust in October because you’re facing better pitchers and it’s 40 degrees instead of 90. I never understood putting so much stock into these boom or bust type hitters and then telling them to just swing for the fences all the time. Gary finally ditched that approach and has been a much better hitter ever since, and with more power.

    Not signing Didi was the biggest error they’ve made in the last ten years. He was a rock at SS and gave them LH pop to balance out the righties. It moved Gleyber to SS where he’s a below average defender at best. Trading Ottavino to the Sox for a salary dump was a close second. If they wanted to dump him, fine, but don’t do it to the Sox! I didn’t have a problem with letting Tanaka walk. He wasn’t that good last year and nobody else wanted him either. It was not having a backup plan, except the oft injured Kluber, that was the problem. This organization has never been able to develop great young arms. Monty is the only one that has had some success since Andy. The best arms like Kaprelian are developed in other better organizations. And how bad was that trade for the awful Sonny Gray.

    This is just a bad bad roster that needs to be blown up. Their best chance to win a WS was the first year they were together in 2017. Girardi had a young and upcoming ballclub on the precipice of greatness. For some reason they fired Girardi and tore it all apart to hire a TV personality. I’d see what we can get for Judge, Gio, DJ, Gary and even Cole. There’s no point of having those ballplayers in a rebuild. Unfortunately, nobody is going to take Stanton or Hicks and now Chapman off our hands.

    • Marek

      Totally agree about DiDi, letting him walk was a disaster.

  10. Steve

    I feel sorry for Hal. All the poor guy wants is to be a small market owner, yet he’s cursed with the largest of the large market teams.

    And because this is the internet, yes, this is sarcasm.

  11. Cary

    Nice article Derek. I would absolutely hate to see the Yankees operate with the highest payroll and baseball so I’m kind of in the Michael Kay camp I guess. Buying championships is not the way to go. Thinking back the latest Yankee dynasty, the core was developed through the Yankee farm system. The Yankees need to get back to that strategy. I actually think Brian Cashman is best at focusing on the farm when makes a concerted effort to do that.

    It’s hard to believe that the Yankees can’t even play DJ LeMahieu consistently at 2B. I think it will be pretty easy to focus on shoring up the defense as a main objective for the remainder of the year.

    Releasing Odor & Gardy, then demoting Frazier & Miggy creates four open roster spots. Promoting Park , Amburgey & Gittens and holding off on a big trade until the off-season is the way to go. Voit should become the primary DH. Stanton should be moved to right field permanently and Judge to left field. Park & Amburgey could handle centerfield in Park can also play 50% at shortstop. Gittens becomes the primary first baseman based on his defense alone and DJ consistently play a second base. Meanwhile Amburgey is used as the fourth outfielder when he’s not in centerfield. He could be a late game replacement and he could spot start.

    I’m also 100% supportive of getting rid of Brian Cashman and most of Cashman’s advisors and of course Boone as well & absolutely bringing in Buck Showalter as a GM. All these changes should have been done by noon today, seriously. The fact that Hal Steinbrenner is an inept leader is creating massive amounts of inconsistency. I need to say it but it starts with him. He needs to act now & remember who his father was.

    • I am on the total opposite end of the spectrum from you regarding the payroll. I really don’t care what their payroll is, I’m not their accountant nor do I have financial stake in the team but I have to ask because I am generally curious and never bothered to ask someone this-why do not want them to have the highest payroll? What is your reasoning? Where would you prefer the money go if not to player salaries?? I hear people use the term “financial flexibility”, well the Yankees have the best kind of financial flexibility-its called having more money than the rest of baseball! lol

      I get that higher payroll doesn’t equal WS titles but paying the best players what they’re worth to play FOR you and not AGAINST you certainly increases your team’s chances of winning your division and being in the best position to succeed in the playoffs. Small payroll teams winning the division are great storylines until they have to blow the team up when its time to pay them and then start all over again and hope you catch lightning in a bottle again. It’s not fair to the players and its not fair to the fanbase IMO.

      • Steve

        I think Hal and some fans recoil at being called Evil Empire or hearing “bought a championship”. I’m with you…I have no concern with payroll. Win with $100M or $300m…just win.

    • Nick

      I think I’m going to pass on the idea of a AAA SS and a AAA RF platooning in CF while flanked by a career RF playing left and a guy who currently seems incapable of getting prepared to play 1 game in RF as your RF.

      Things are bad, but that all sounds objectively worse than Miggy-Gardy-Judge.

      And why even talk about demoting Miggy? He’s young and he’s hitting OK after a few lost seasons. I’d rather play him daily and hope he continues to improve.

  12. Kansas

    And now we sell. Who? A couple of relievers, maybe. Judge? Voit? Imagine what we coulda received for Devi, Gleyber, Frazier, or Chapman in the spring. Now they have no value.

  13. In your head, in your head, GIAMBI

    What a painful season. I really do think the Yankees should utilize the best resource available to them: their ability to spend.

  14. MikeD

    I went to sleep last night after the second rain delay, confident a rested bullpen would hold the lead. I awoke to disaster news. Chapman hasn’t shown any real reduction in spin rates, so I suspect this is not sticky-stuff related, but it is a sticky situation.

    As for the roster construction, this is a mostly Hal issue. It’s certainly a front office issue also, but it’s driven by the financial structure and restrictions Hal’s put in place. He has decided to remain beholden to the luxury tax during a win-now window, when he should blow past it. I will note that the Red Sox and Dodgers weren’t afraid to spend during their win-now windows, and they have a championships to show. The Hal-led Yankees, meanwhile, either pulled back on spending, or simply stood pat. Adding a Cole is great, but that cost them elsewhere. We’re living with the Odor and Wade types getting too much playing time. Tanaka’s off playing in Japan because the richest team in MLB decided not to afford him. They have a misbalanced lineup because they didn’t want to spend. Michael Brantley, as one example, would have been a nice lefty bat to add this offseason, allowing them to move Frazier, whose trade value was fully restored, so they could have added another piece. There was a point when Cashman preached improving on the fringes. Now he simply has fringy players in those positions.

    A number of my Red Sox friends (I have a few) were upset with Bloom, but Jon Henry regularly turns over his GMs based on where he sees the market going. Need a Money Ball approach?
    Epstein was the man. Need a strong farm? Cherington was the man. Need to cash in the farm for a championship? DD was the man. Want to emulate a Rays approach? Bloom is now the man. Keep bringing in new GMs. The result? Four championships for him. Maybe 2021 will have a fifth. Hal is trying to have it both ways. Appear to be a big spender, but really not willing to go the extra mile.

    Kick Cashman upstairs and bring in a GM from the outside for a different perspective. Or, let Cashman run operations without worrying about a hard luxury tax. It doesn’t need to be a $500M payroll. The additional flexibility of $30-50M could have gone a long way during this now-closing window. Resetting the luxury tax makes sense under the rules, but doing it during a potential championship window is idiocy. Thanks, Hal.

    • Nick

      I agree with a lot of what you said, but I think you’re ascribing too much genius to Henry’s GM changes. Like serious… you’ve crafted a narrative about a masterful series of well planned out GM hires intentionally designed to fill a specific purpose. In reality he generally hired smart guys and got good results.

      Epstein was hand picked by Larry Lucchino to be the GM so it wasn’t Henry “wanting a money ball guy”. He hired Lucchino and Lucchino brought along Theo.

      Epstein left because he got bored after winning twice in Boston and wanted a new challenge. They just promoted one of his lieutenants in Cherington. Cherington got some nice draft picks courtesy of two 5th place finishes and built the farm system up nicely, with a WS sandwiched in the middle.

      Then Dombrowski was hired to take Lucchino’s role (not Cherington’s) but Cherington resigned rather than stay on under him… Dombrowski spent heavily and won a WS but was eventually fired because the 2019 was a disappointment, there was no payroll flexibility and there was a looming investigation over the RS cheating.

      At that point, YES. Bloom was hired because Dombrowski had created a bit of a quagmire in terms of the roster and they wanted a Rays-style GM to get the team back on track with smart moves.

      The Red Sox have done well in generally because they hired smart baseball people but the your narrative is kind of nauseating lol.

      One other really big reason they’ve done so well is that they’ve been allowed to selectively suck every few years. Purge the team of weak parts and reload for future runs while grabbing a top 10 pick. They have 4 last place finishes to match their 4 WS wins in the past 17 years. How would a fan base that is losing its mind over being .500 react to finishing 5th?

  15. Oooof!!!! This was a tough read! But man it is spot on. The Yankees’ greatest advantage is their spending ability and yet they refuse to flex that muscle. Hell yes I would rub it in the face of the Rays that we have to outspend them to put together a superior team. Every team in the AL with the exception of O’s puts together their roster with the intent of being better than the Yankees and the Yankees seem content with letting it happen and not doing anything to keep that gap wide. Imagine a team with Machado, Harper, Judge and Stanton? Or a rotation with Patrick Corbin or Darvish or Bauer? I’m not the team’s accountant, I just want one of the most profitable franchises in the sports world to use their financial might to put a powerhouse on the field. That’s all. Is that too much to ask?

  16. Eric S.

    Thanks for your comments – you are devoted to the team and reading fans helps vs. sportswriters.

  17. Kansas

    I went to sleep. I’m so glad.

    • DZB

      The Angels certainly did all they could to lose, so that outcome was just awful. Giving up the DH for a single AB gave them a massive hole art the top of the order. Without Trout and spotted up a large lead, you cannot lose that game.

      I’m ready for Boone to go, and I hope he takes Odor with him. Bring in Carlos Beltran as manger and see if the team can get into a roll.

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