Bradford William Davis: The Yankees can fix everything that went wrong with this team, if they want to
The Yankees have as promising a core as baseball, which is defined by towering engines and radar cannons. But despite the success on the field during the regular season and the near misses in the playoffs, time is running out to achieve their ultimate goal. And while no one can predict the effects of a fraud scandal and global pandemic, the main blame rests on their shoulders.
In Gerrit Cole, the bombers were scrambling for a real ace, something Luis Severino's brilliant 2017 and early run of 18s hadn't secured enough in terms of free hand, trade or internal development.
A year later, Cole was the right move and dominated when it mattered most in his stellar Game 5 against the Rays. Giving him a blank check, however, was the team's only important step.
Her pre-season expectation of a deep and dominant staff - which included Severino, an electric arm in James Paxton, and the dependable clutch Masahiro Tanaka - was understandable. In January.
But when the coronavirus hiatus lasted well into June, they knew Domingo German was unlikely to be available due to his suspension of domestic violence and open flirtation with leaving the game. Paxton, never a prime example of health, recovered from surgery, struggled with loss of speed the preseason and was injured again. Thanks to his pre-pandemic operation with Tommy John, Severino was no longer on duty.
The same story happened with her bullpen. Allowing Dellin Betances to leave was an understandable move given his injury history - though his own career embodies the Yankees' cheapness with their most talented players - but not gaining any other talent to replace him meant depending on too many ifs. If Adam Ottavino could reverse his year-end trends or find a workable approach against left-handers. If Jonathan Loaisiga became a relief ace when Tommy Kahnle needed elbow surgery. If no one else is caught in the virus pandemic, especially any closer to Aroldis Chapman. If.
Given the tremendous resources the Yankees had at their disposal, walking into October with so many question marks and zero upgrades was a huge tactical mistake.
The Yankees decisions could just as easily have included a prayer for better luck in 2020.
The Yankees have had no trouble creating an exceptionally talented lineup, but they're in no rush to reinforce a weak spot either. At the end of August, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton were at the IL, as was Gleyber Torres, who started slowly but continues to be her young top hit talent. But instead of addressing potential vulnerabilities - namely the lack of threats from the left side of the platter - the team chose to rely on the fairly unproven RPG players of 2019 instead of buying upgrades or at least buying redundancies.
Mike Tauchman and Mike Ford were two nice impulses for last year's club. But given their limited track record, it should come as no surprise if they have struggled to hold their own on the plate this season.
Allowing depth of position like Austin Romine, Cameron Maybin and, critically, Didi Gregorius - one of the few threats to left power on the team as a whole - to be left in the free hand was possibly a justifiable decision in a vacuum. Taken together, the lack of depth left them prone to prolonged break-ins and fire-breathing legal assistants, which ultimately doomed the team that retreated into the extended playoffs. First Base Platoon Sluggers are a dozen, but Ford was somehow the only thug Aaron Boone trusted to get on base in an playoff game. He had only been on the base three times in September.
Behind the record, Gary Sanchez, once the franchise gamer who could be Judge, beat under 0.200 for the second time in three years. Even its All-Star-worthy 2019 got off to a hot start - it reached .183 / .290 / .394 from June 24th to the end of the year.
Despite his offensive fights and well-documented defensive flaws, Sanchez is known to work incredibly hard on his craft, good reason to think very carefully before giving up. If they still believe that Gary will return to his 2016-17 shape or even 2019 accumulated production, that shouldn't stop them from looking for additional redundancy.
And if they don't think Sanchez should start for the ball club in 2021, they'll be looking for Phillie's free agent J.T. Realmuto as an upgrade? Recent history, especially A-list bats like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, suggests otherwise.
The lineup was supposed to be a fully functional Death Star, and it was absolutely at its best. But against the Rays bullpen, the Death Star's lack of dangerous left-handers was something like Darth Vader's unfortunate thermal vent. But hey, what are the chances of finding that one bug in the system?
So that leaves us floating for an off-season. With the Yankees, their entire mid-rotation either recovers from the operation on Tommy John (Severino), reaches the free hand (Paxton and Tanaka), tries to prove that they are productive members of society (German), or flirts with their 40s (Happ). Reinforcements like Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt and Loaisiga are talented but not yet proven. DJ LeMahieu is also a free agent. He's also in his thirties but makes a lot more than the savvy, frugal two-year contract the Yankees gave him - though the Yankees have rarely played at the high end of the free agent market.
Aside from Torres, their established bats and weapons are either in or out of the typical 26-30 major years. There are few projections on the current roster, down rather than up. Then there are the injuries, undoubtedly in large part due to the lack of a traditional run-up, but still persisting with their main clubs. And the 2020 season showed that the team was surprisingly thin.
The Yankees, like any team in sport, are worth billions according to public estimates. However, your roster investment is deceptively high in terms of total dollar amount and small when compared to other teams when estimated earnings are factored in. This is a problem of its own design, but one can be fixed. Otherwise, they could be like so many talented teams in history - including the wildcard opponents in Cleveland who defeated them - who ran out of time before taking the elusive title.
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