Yankees: The 2017 Season Will Be A Benchmark For The Future

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Yankees future hinges on two seasons: This one and the next one in 2018. But, it’s the 2017 season that will provide the framework for what the team looks like in 2018 and beyond. And by this time next year, few, if any, questions should remain regarding the construction of the team

The Yankees enter the 2017 season with more questions than answers. This is not unusual for any team at this point in a season. But the good news is that, in a few months, answers will be forthcoming. We’ll know if Greg Bird has completely shaken off the injury that caused him to miss all of 2016. We’ll know if Michael Pineda can put together three consecutive quality starts, instead of one brilliant one followed by a bomb and a so-so effort.

Nearly all of the early predictions call for the Yankees to be a .500 team in 2017

We’ll know if Aaron Judge, with the help of Alan Cockrell, the Yankees hitting coach, has found the adjustment in his swing that will lead to fewer strikeouts. And we’ll learn if there’s a spot on this team as a regular for Tyler Austin, or will he be groomed as a utility player. And speaking of utility players, where, if anywhere, does Rob Refsnyder fit in with the team?

Yankees Decision Time On Luis Severino

Will Luis Severino grow up? That’s harsh, but there is no other explanation for his inability to adjust to what it takes to be an effective starting pitcher in this league. No one doubts his “stuff,” but that’s what they said about Joba Chamberlain too before he self-imploded. Much like they did with Chamberlain, the Yankees could decide to use Severino as a set-up guy in the bullpen, moving him out of the rotation. But, the Yankees did the back and forth dance with Chamberlain, and look what it got both sides.

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2017 will also decide which of the Yankees veterans make the grade for next season. C C Sabathia is on the bubble with no contract after this season. Jacoby Ellsbury gets the upcoming season to prove his value, and if he doesn’t the Yankees will give him away, even if it means eating a good portion of his remaining money through 2020 when his contract is finally over and done with.

2017 will also decide which of the young and coming starting pitchers will get the first call when a short or long term replacement is needed. James Kaprielian, Chance Adams, and Justin Sheffield will all be in competition to get the call.

And then, we have the questions surrounding Gary Sanchez, who if he had a played a full season with the team last year would have hit 59 home runs based on his output, however, brief in 2016. Sanchez is already being crowned the next captain of the Yankees in some quarters, and that kind of pressure on him will only increase.

Yankees Face Front Office Decisions Too

The contracts of both Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi expire at the end of the 2017 season. A handshake agreement to extend the GM’s contract between Hal Steinbrenner and Cashman (now) would be a wise move for the franchise. Cashman has earned an extension and, assuming he wants to return, needs the time this season to make the moves necessary to construct a team for 2018.

Girardi, on the other hand, should begin making some calls beginning in mid-summer if he wants another job as a manager in the big leagues. Or, the Yankees could reward him for his years of credible service as manager of the team with a boost upstairs to the front office. In any event, he had served the team best when it was stocked with veterans, who needed little if any, direction and oversight.

Ditto the coaching staff with the possible exception of Alan Cockrell, who seems to have found a niche with his ability to communicate and teach.

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Nearly all of the early predictions call for the Yankees to be a .500 team in 2017. We hope for better results. But if that’s the way the season shakes out, 2017 will not be a total loss because all of the above questions will have been answered, paving the way for 2018 and beyond.