All The Little Things: Building The Yankees Roster
By Matt Mirro
A lot has been made lately about the New York Yankees not throwing around the fat stacks of $100 dollar bills to sign the big name free agents. I’m talking about the Jon Lesters, the Max Scherzers or the James Shieldses. The Yankees haven’t been the free agent superstar machine they were just one year ago and many fans have expressed anger at this fact (I’m looking at you good folks who love Twitter just as much as I do). But here’s the thing… acquiring the best of the best doesn’t usually equate to success.
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But what the Yankees are doing is acquiring pieces that fit their specific needs and building off last off season’s victories. The team had a catching surplus and they still do which is always a plus when it comes to making trades. After John Ryan Murphy received rave reviews about his ability both at the plate and behind it, the Yankees felt it was time to move on from Francisco Cervelli. What they acquired is a young, talented left-handed reliever in Justin Wilson, a rare thing to have these days.
After two and a half years of an aging and rapidly declining Ichiro Suzuki as the backup outfielder, the Yankees decided to sign the 30-year old Chris Young to a very team-friendly contract. Young has a power bat, can play all three outfield positions and when used in the right role (That means off the bench unless you’re the Mets) he can be a very valuable part of the roster.
The Yankees acquired an heir to Derek Jeter‘s throne at shortstop in Didi Gregorius. While there are plenty of questions about his bat, the Yankees, as well as many evaluators, are confident that he can elevate his hitting to a respectable level. His defense is superb and at only 24-years-old, he has the chance to become a real piece to the Yankees future. Let’s face it, the Derek Jeter love fest was fun but when all was said and done, the 40-year-old Captain didn’t do the team many favors with his bat or his glove. Gregorius has a lot of potential (Decent pop I might add which goes underrated) and could really blossom while in pinstripes. Signed until the 2020 season, he’s someone fans should be excited about.
As much as fans may detest it, David Robertson leaving to go to the Chicago White Sox was what was best for the Yankees. They received a draft pick for him leaving which is great because it will enable an already-rising farm system to keep improving. The Yankees chose wisely with left-hander Andrew Miller, who can be a downright lethal weapon out of the bullpen especially when paired with Dellin Betances. With the Yankees still exploring free agent relief options like Sergio Romo and Jason Motte, their bullpen will still be one of the best in baseball. With the young and supremely talented left-handed prospect Jacob Lindgren on his way to the big leagues, they have a lot of options as far as relievers go.
After trading staring pitcher Shane Greene to the Detroit Tigers, General Manager Brian Cashman is almost certain to be active in the market for starting pitching. Whether it be resigning Brandon McCarthy or grabbing someone of Max Scherzer‘s caliber or a lower level arm like Justin Masterson, it’s hard to imagine the Yankees not grabbing at least one starter this off season. They could also be set to give some of their own youngsters, like 23-year-old Manny Banuelos, a shot at the Major League rotation.
Here’s the thing; the Yankees have not been involved in a lot of talks for the big time free agents and that’s because they don’t have to be. A roster is not a compilation of 25 superstars who all by themselves create a winning formula. No, that’s not how it works and it may be baseball’s most common misconception. What a major league roster should be is 25 players who find a way to win together by playing smart, fundamental baseball and doing all the little things that allow them to win. Fans saw this last year when the Kansas City Royals did just that and made it all the way to the World Series.
When the trade deadline rolls around, the Yankees always seem to find a way to pick up the right pieces to help the team succeed down the stretch. Last season they acquired Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres and Martin Prado and Brandon McCarthy from the Diamondbacks. Still under contract, Prado is set to be an extremely valuable piece for the Yankees in 2015. He can play a lot of positions on the diamond and play them well. While he figures to be the third baseman if Chase Headley leaves, he could also be the team’s everyday second baseman if other things come together. Prado is a leader in the clubhouse, a gritty lead-by-example type of player who is one of the more consistent players at the plate as evidenced by his career .292 batting average. He is also an above average defender.
The mentality of buying up the right fits like they do during the middle of the season is different for the Yankees. But, after such big acquisitions last off season and during the mid season, they don’t need to make huge splashes like they did a year ago although a Max Scherzer deal is still well within the realm of possibilities. Let’s not forget that the team is getting younger with Gregorius now at shortstop and some other rookies destined to break in with the club. Rob Refsnyder, the second baseman who put himself on the map last year, is MY favorite to start at second base next season. Paired with Gregorius, the 23-year-old Refsnyder gives the Yankees a young and athletic middle of the infield, something they haven’t had in awhile. The other option is the more seasoned Jose Pirela, who impressed in his brief audition this past September.
Look, these small moves aren’t flashy, and not many of these players are going to make you want to rush out and buy t-shirts and season tickets. But that’s exactly the point. The Yankees are acquiring pieces that they feel will mesh together to create a well-rounded roster. This is a better team than last year. This is not the same team that had Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson in their starting lineup on Opening Day. This a roster that is already more athletic and more fundamentally sound than last year. A roster needs to be a collection of players who know their roll and do their absolute best to support the team. The Yankees are not buying players this off season they are buying players they feel can be the best cog in the larger machine.