If you’re an armchair GM or the type of fan who lives on the rumor mill, Hal Steinbrenner shed some light on the potential plan the Yankees might take during this years trade deadline in his interview with Ken Davidoff of the New York Post this past Wednesday.
Interestingly enough, that plan leads back to last years trade deadline that saw the Yankees bring in a series of under-the-radar players through low end trades to bolster both their offense and defense in and attempt to stay afloat and take Derek Jeter to the promised land in 2014. Though that plan ultimately failed, the Yankees managed two things through those transactions; 1. They allowed the Yankees to play meaningful baseball into September and 2. they allowed the Yankees to use their payroll flexibility without sacrificing their top prospects.
According to Ken Davidoff, Yankees part-owner Hal Steinbrenner would like for Brian Cashman to mimic that approach again this season.
When asked whether he wanted to keep his top prospects in tact in hopes that they would take over as every-day New York Yankees in the not-so-distant future, Steinbrenner said:
"“That’s the way I’ve always been. And I think Cash [Brian Cashman] is that way too. We’ve been watching these guys for two or three years. I couldn’t stand here two years ago and talk to you guys about them because they’re at (Class A) Charleston and they’re in (Class A) Tampa. It was what it was. But we knew the talent was there. We knew the potential was there. And now all of a sudden they’re at Double-A, Triple-A. You’re going to see Slade Heathcott as early as (Wednesday night), possibly. And some of this stuff is coming to fruition. But it has to continue.”"
When asked how this newfound philosophy, (which is a world apart from how his dad, George Steinbrenner III ran things) would impact the teams search for mid-season improvements, Steinbrenner said,
"“I’m not afraid to spend money. I never am. You know that. So when July rolls around, the trade deadline rolls around, we’re going to see where we’re really deficient and we’ll do what we can.”"
Half way through the 2014 season last July, the Yankees took on about $36 million in payroll as they acquired 2B Stephen Drew, 3B Chase Headley, SP Brandon McCarthy and infield utility-man Martin Prado in the aforementioned series of trades. If you all remember it correctly, the Yankees gave up just one of their high ceiling prospects, catcher Peter O’Brien to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
As I previously mentioned, the Yankees didn’t make playoffs, but I would grade Brian Cashman’s 2014 mid-season acquisitions as a win. The team did miss out on the second American League wildcard spot by four games, but managed to finish a respectable 84-78.
Ken Davidoff pointed out that this brings up the follow-up question: Which players would fit such parameters this year?
In my opinion, the team will most likely need to improve in the starting pitching, outfield and middle-infield departments.
It is important to note however, that Hal Steinbrenner is very high on SS Didi Gregorius.
"“Didi is everything we thought he’d be,” Steinbrenner said. “He’s an incredibly hard-working, positive guy. Great teammate. Good defensively. We’re starting to see that now. But (the offense by Gregorius and second baseman Drew) has to come around, and I think it will.”"
However, as I mentioned in a previous post, I think the Yankees will eventually feel the need to upgrade offensively at shortstop, even if it means sacrificing some defense.
The Yankees have been linked to the lucrative contracts of Cole Hamels and Troy Tulowitzki, but they don’t fit this new plan. Davidoff points out that guys like Cincinnati Reds SP Mike Leake, an impending free agent, and a corner-infielder like Chicago White Sox SS Alexei Ramirez, another potential free agent, are the types of players with reasonable financial commitments who likely could be had for more money than sacrificing top prospects for. Keep in mind the Yankees were also linked to Andrelton Simmons and Jason Heyward early on in the season as well.
Yes, the season is still young, and yes it remains to be seen how much re-tooling these Yankees will need to do come the 2015 MLB Trade Deadline in July, but the Yankees are coming off a very tough road trip in which they won just two out of nine games. If this is a sign of anything to come, the Yankees might need to do more re-tooling than they did in 2014.
Time will tell.