If the Yankees Are Really This Bad, Embrace the Stink
Let’s start this out by acknowledging the fact that, yes, it is still very early in the 2016 season.
And based on the résumés of some of the players on the team, the Yankees very well could right the ship and make us all forget about their awful end to the month of April. At the same time, however, the Yankee brass has to think practically and be prepared for all scenarios. When push comes to shove, if the Yankees wind up being bottom-feeders this summer, the team must do something they haven’t done in over two decades; Embrace the Stink.
When the Yankees had both Robinson Cano and David Robertson as impending free agents during the 2013 season, Brian Cashman chose to hold onto both players for the stretch run. The team was still technically within reach of a wild card spot, but it had been clear for much of the summer that the team wasn’t going anywhere. Remember when George Steinbrenner said that thing about putting fannies in the seats? With the Yankees being the Yankees, there was a fear that trading away their star player would cause even more of an attendance problem. And to be fair, they probably thought there was a chance they would be able to bring both players back. And certainly, as far as Cano goes, they gave it a good try. But the Yankees missed a chance to move one or both at a time when the farm system was extremely barren and the future not so bright.
The franchise is in somewhat of a holding pattern, operating in the dreaded gray area between rebuilding and serious contention. Until their large contracts come off the books, there is only so much Cashman can do to improve the Major League roster be it by trade, free agency, or minor league promotions. The Yankees have been a winning team for the last 23 years, so needless to say, the franchise is not used to the type of results put forth on the field in April. While the team did reach the postseason in 2015, they failed to make it in 2013 and 2014. So maybe this great run has finally met its end, and if it has, that’s okay, but Cashman has to turn it into an advantage.
The greatest strength of this club is the back end of its bullpen. Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman are all players any team in need of relief help would love to have. If they’re out of contention in July, Cashman can start here in looking to rebuild the team. Betances is probably the one the Yankees would most like to hold onto, since he’s the youngest and still not eligible for arbitration until this coming offseason. But perhaps that makes him the one that would net the best return. The Yankees turned down an offer from the Astros for Miller this winter. The package turned out to be the one the Phillies got for parting with Ken Giles. Chapman is an impending free agent, and his suspension is over in less than a week. All the baggage will be gone and the all suitors would line up. Two years ago, when Miller was in Boston, the Red Sox traded him to Baltimore for top pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. This was before Miller was a dominating closer. The precedent is there for the Yankees to cash in on one or more members of their flame-throwing trio.
There are other pieces the Yankees could look to move, as well. Carlos Beltran is in a contract year and the Yankees would likely be able to find an American League team that could use another bat. Clear Beltran’s roster spot, if you can, and that opens a spot for Aaron Judge to get a look in the big leagues. Mark Teixeira is also coming up on free agency, but he has stated that he’d like to come back next year, so chances are he would not waive his no-trade clause.
If moves are made, the only thing left for the Yankees to do would be to play their youth. Beyond Judge, there are Rob Refsnyder, Gary Sanchez and a host of speedy left-handed hitting outfielders that could get looks. The Yankees ought to see what they have in Refsnyder. Take a page out of the Red Sox book and give him a shot at third, just as Boston did with Travis Shaw last year. Chase Headley isn’t wowing anybody at the hot corner (that’s putting it nicely), and neither was Pablo Sandoval (also putting it nicely).
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Cashman and the Yankees need to accept what they’ve become. If they are as bad as they’ve looked so far, they would be wise to use it as a means to making the club better in the long-term. Embrace the Stink, and in a few years the Yankees will be sniffing the roses.