Brian Cashman probably deserves the Executive of the Year Award just for convincing Yankees ownership that it was necessary to sell at the trade deadline. In dealing Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, Cashman has infused the historically dominant franchise with the young talent necessary for a rebirth of the Bronx Bombers. However, there’s still work to do in order to make the Yankees championship contenders once more.
It’s important to maintain historical perspective to outline the future for the Yankees. In the early days of Major League Baseball, the Yankees (0r New York Highlanders, as they were previously called) were not considered to be one of the league’s preeminent franchises. It wasn’t until 1923-54 years into the history of organized professional baseball-that the Yankees won their first championship. It was 20 years after the first World Series, a gap that seems unthinkable now. Of course, this launched an era of dominance unprecedented up to that point and never duplicated by another franchise.
The Yankees latest dynasty culminated in 6 pennants in 8 years and 5 championships in 15 seasons. All five championships were made possibly by the “core four”, a quartet of Yankees legends that ushered in a new dynasty following an uncharacteristic 15 year drought without a World Series appearance. The Yankees need their next “core four”, and the current seller’s market gives them their best chance to do so.
Cashman picked Chapman up for cheap due to his off the field troubles, yet managed to flip him for arguably the best shortstop prospect in the game. Andrew Miller’s true value lies in October, so he was essentially wasted on the Yankees, and Cashman managed to acquire Clint Fraizer, who could be the Yankees’ best outfielder since Bernie Williams.
Gleyber Torres, the centerpiece of the Chapman deal, is crucial to the future of the Yankees. Didi Gregorious and Starlin Castro are actually a nice middle infield duo, especially when you consider the bargains that both players were. The great thing about natural shortstops, who all three players are, as well as fellow top prospect Jorge Mateo, is that they can really play anywhere on the diamond save for perhaps catcher, first base, or centerfield. This gives the Yankees a ton of lineup flexibility. Cashman should consider trading Gregorious right now. His value is peaking in his best professional season and the Yankees have a surplus of young shortstops. A middle infield of Castro and Rob Refsynder isn’t terrible, especially considering that the Yankees are headed nowhere in 2016.
The obvious candidate to be traded is Carlos Beltran, a borderline Hall of Fame player who continues to crush the ball in his age 39 season. While Beltran is a great player, he is vastly overrated due to the short porch in right field giving him several home runs he wouldn’t have otherwise. In fact, Beltran has hit zero home runs as a left handed hitter outside of Yankee Stadium. An interested suitor is the Texas Rangers, who can hide his defense by using the DH and are in win-now mode as they attempt to stockpile enough talent to beat the Red Sox in the playoffs. It’s really a two team race in the AL, as Cleveland doesn’t have enough postseason experience to get it done this year.
It’s critical that Cashman wrangles Luis Ortiz, Yohander Mendez, or Dillon Tate out of a deal with Texas. Giving up a prospect of their own-think Mateo or Wilkerman Garcia-in order to get two of those three would be a well worth it. It’s no secret that pitching wins championships. The Yankees did it with Clemens, Pettitte, and El Duque in the late 90’s and signed CC Sabathia to lead the way in 2009. With none of the current crop of starters who are young enough to still contribute the next time the Yankees are contending profiling above a No. 3 starter, it’s important that Luis Severino figures it out and capitalizes on his vast potential and that the Yankees grab a high profile pitching prospect in this current frenzy.
With Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Fraizer, and Torres all looking like potential high end MLB players, the future is bright for the first time in quite a while for the Yankees. The best part of this is how comically overvalued relief pitchers are in this market. Most of the time an MLB starting pitcher-even a below average one-can get through the first inning without too much trouble. It’s once you get to the second and third time through the lineup that the hitters start figuring out tendencies and timing, and it becomes important to adjust and adapt to continue to throw off the hitter’s timing. So in reality a struggling starter can be an effective reliever most of the time. That’s what starters are so much more valuable than relievers and reliever are usually starters throughout their time in the minors. The best example of this is Miller himself, a former top prospect who owned a career 4.36 ERA as a starter. Not terrible, but nothing to write home about. Yet as a reliever he is the centerpiece of a deal that could revive the Yankees dynasty.
If Cashman gets an opportunity to trade Betances for a high end starting pitching prospect, he should pull the trigger. An elite bullpen does you no good if you’re not playing baseball in October.
This is all extremely necessary because of the recent rise of the Red Sox, who look like World Series favorites this year. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. are all young and look to be All-Stars for a long time. Baseball isn’t the same without the Yankees as a contending force and the longstanding rivalry has lacked the energy and importance of previous years.
Credit to Cashman for getting prospects that will allow the Yankees to contend in less than five years, and doing it while maintaing a league average team. The team still needs to do more if they truly want to return to their glory days.