Yankees Need to Continue Housecleaning this Winter

Jul 31, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury (22) looks on while at bat against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 31, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury (22) looks on while at bat against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The New York Yankees fire-sale before the trade deadline was a great start, but there is plenty of more veteran dead-wood on the roster to clear out for the rebuild to be successful.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman has been rightfully lauded for the job he did at the trade deadline jump-starting the club’s rebuild. He reportedly faced resistance to the idea of selling off veterans from ownership right up until the final weekend before August 1st.

The highest priority for the Yankees at the time was getting something in return for their three most valuable impending free agents, and they did that. New York received a whopping nine players in return for Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova, all of whom were expected to depart following the 2016 season.

Chapman was the only one who was sure to net the Yankees a draft pick, so as difficult as it was to give up on this season while the team was nominally in the Wild Card race, it was the right thing for the future of the organization. The long-term forecast for the Yankees is much brighter because of those moves.

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What Brian Cashman failed to do was rid the team of any of the onerous long-term deals still on the books. There was some discussion with Atlanta about shipping catcher Brian McCann back to his former club, but the Yankees did not want the trade to be a straight salary dump, asking for real prospects in return for the 32-year-old.

Recently, Yanks Go Yard broke down the various August trade candidates on the Yankees roster. These were the guys likely to pass through waivers because they command large salaries. If the team were strictly looking to dump someone’s contract, this could be the time to do it. However, if they want real value in return for their players, they may be better served waiting for this winter.

All signs point to the Yankees committing to a full rebuild at this point. The Andrew Miller trade especially seemed to indicate that the club sees their real window of contention as 2018-2019, rather than this year or next. 

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If that is the case, players like Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Chase Headley, who are likely going to be steeply into the decline phase of their career by the time the Yankees are serious contenders again, should be shopped aggressively this winter.

None of that trio are exactly on bargain contracts, but each has the potential to be a solid regular in 2017, and would fill a hole for an aspiring contender. Trading any of those guys this winter would be addition by subtraction, because it would give the Yankees another valuable lineup spot to audition one of their young players.

Moving Ellsbury and/or Gardner is especially crucial because of all the exciting young outfielders jockeying for position in Triple-A. Aaron Judge, Ben Gamel, Jake Cave, Rob Refsnyder, Tyler Austin, Clint Frazier, and even Aaron Hicks could fill an everyday role for the 2017 Yankees. 

Another necessary move this winter is eating as much of CC Sabathia‘s $25 million option as it takes to find him a new home. He’s been a useful pitcher this year and could probably help a contender at the back of their rotation next year.

He’s only going to take starts away from Luis Severino, Chad Green, Luis Cessa, Chance Adams, or Jordan Montgomery next year. It’s been a great ride, but they need to give CC the Alex Rodriguez treatment. Absorb the cash for the good of the team’s future.

Next: Yankees Transitioning Brian McCann to First Base?

As long as the Yankees are willing to clean house this winter and commit to one year of growing pains in 2017, this rebuild does not need to be as long and painful process like the Cubs or Astros went through. If everyone develops as expected, the club could be back to its winning ways by 2018.