The Yankees are not going to win with this team

Struggling teams beating up on the Yanks
2007 International Signees

Brian Cashman has long been an advocate of roster flexibility. But for all that preaching, he has little to show for it. At the outset of 2007, the Yankees had one of the most inflexible rosters in the bigs — hampered by 12 pitchers, two first basemen, and one full-time DH. That left room for one utility player (Cairo) and one backup outfielder (Melky). So when injuries and ineffectiveness began to plague the roster, there really isn’t (and wasn’t) anywhere to turn. The bench become starters, and the new bench consists of AAA or AAAA scrubs. And, of course, you’re left with a sub-.500 team. It’s easy to think that there’s nothing you can do at that point — that the players on your roster are talented enough to carry you, and that if they don’t do it, it just won’t work. I say horseshit to that. There’s plenty you can do, it’s just that the Yankees are too afraid to make these perceived high-risk moves that, in fact, aren’t high risk at all.

Over the past week, week and a half, the Yankees have been called out for not trying, or just being complacent. Now, when this comes from beat reporters and columnists, I don’t buy it. They may have access to the locker room and might sense some sort of complacency, but they’re only allowed during designated times. And the players are certainly going to act differently when they’re around. Plus, what they perceive as complacency might just be frustration. These beat reporters aren’t psychologists, remember.

However, when a player — or, more accurately, multiple players — start talking about complacency, then you have to start listening. And you have to especially start listening when guys like Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada tell it like it is (and Mike Myers to an extent, given his reputation as a hard worker and clubhouse guy). Players generally don’t call out teammates to the media, so when that’s happening, you know it’s worse than even the fans think. Something or some things are going on off the field that are affecting on-field play. So, as general manager, Cashman must do something about this.

Now, I’m not going to tell you which players aren’t trying; I don’t have the means to do that. But, since we run this here website, and I like to jabber about the Yankees, I’m going to speculate a bit — as well as use a degree of logic — to determine who should just be gone from the roster. We’re four games under .500, and we’re just three games from the season’s midpoint. Our run differential puts us at eight games over .500. So the runs are coming (and being prevented) in bunches, rather than spread over time. This may not necessarily be a sign of complacency, but when combined with the words of Posada and Pettitte, I think we can see that it holds a degree of truth.

Let’s start with who’s safe. This is in no particular order, though I’ll leave the ones with extenuating circumstances (i.e., they wouldn’t necessarily be safe if not for some outside factor).

Derek Jeter: Kicking ass as usual.
Alex Rodriguez: I shudder to think at what kind of team we’d be without him.
Jorge Posada: Turning into a clubhouse leader.
Melky Cabrera: You can never accuse him of not trying. Plus, he’s starting to hit better.
Hideki Matsui: People complain about him, but 1) I’ve heard it takes 18 months the time of the break to fully recover from a wrist injury and 2) he’s the only outfielder with any pop in his bat. Plus that whole no trade clause.
Andy Phillips: You know he’s out there working his ass off every day, even if he doesn’t hit as well as you’d like from a first baseman.
Miguel Cairo: For what he’s supposed to be (guy who can play nearly every position), he’s fine. You’d like to see an upgrade at some point in the future, but now it’s not high on the priority list.
Mariano Rivera: No explanation needed.
Chien-Ming Wang: The ace.
Andy Pettitte: Leader of the pitching staff, and doing mighty fine if you just forget about yesterday.
Roger Clemens: He ain’t goin’ away, whether we like it or not.
Mike Mussina: 10-5 guy signed at a discount to stay in NY.
Johnny Damon: Two and a half years left and plenty of dough on that contract. No way anyone’s taking him, and you’re not going to pay him to play for another team.

Now comes the fun part. Let’s look at the rest of the Yankees and determine their fates. I’m being dead serious in these assessment, so if you have an issue or think I’m a loony, leave a comment or drop an e-mail. I’ll be more than willing to discuss any of these assessments further.

Bobby Abreu: Let’s start off with a bang: decline his option and DFA him. It’s seriously not worth having him on the roster right now. I’m not saying he’s not trying; I’m just saying that he’s horribly inconsistent and it’s hurting the team. Let’s look at his June: .282/.395/.456. Okay, so you think that’s pretty good, right? Now let’s look at his June 15-July 1: .132/.242/.208. I’ve been defending Abreu for a damn long time now, but I’m done. His season averages are .247/.342/.347. He’s been aided by two good streaks — beginning of April and beginning of June. And he’s offset those performances with the worst slumps we’ve seen from a Yankee in a long time. Just cut bait. Stick Damon back in center, keep Matsui in left, and play Melky in right. It’s probably the best solution we have right now.

Robinson Cano: He’s had a while to figure things out, and he’s just not adjusting to the way he’s being pitched. Can he adjust in the second half? Oh, absolutely. And really, I’m not advocating a trade of Cano. I’m just saying that if someone makes a decent offer for him, you’ve gotta listen. His value may be low now due to his performance, so if the return reflects that perception of his value, you obviously don’t pull the trigger. But if you can get a package of young players, you have to at least consider it. Hey, maybe DFAing Abreu will light a fire under the guy’s ass.

Kei Igawa: He melts down with more efficiency than Mussina. Seriously, this guy is not going to help us win games. When one bad thing happens, the flood gates open — and he’s demonstrated this throughout the season. He needs everything to go perfectly for him to be effective (see the Boston game). That’s just not going to happen. Whatever they thought they fixed in the minors is still a problem. Send him down, bring up Steve White until Phil makes a return.

The entire bullpen: Other than Mariano, every single pitcher in the bullpen is expendable. It’s hard to knock Villone after his performance on Sunday, but I’d still DFA him; you know he’s just going to come out next time and screw things up. That leaves Farns, Vizcaino, Proctor, Bruney, and Myers. It’s time to cut bait with Myers, and I think that’s pretty obvious to everyone. Good guy, ineffective pitcher. As for the rest, I’d listen to any and all offers for them. They lead the league in bullpen walks, and that just isn’t going to fly.

My new roster
So there are a few moves there. The time to act is now. There are 84 games left to play, and it looks like 95 wins will be needed for the Wild Card. That means the Yanks will have to go 58-26 (.690) over the rest of the season. The team as currently constructed has demonstrated that they’re not going to do that. A shake up might not help, but it’s damn better than coasting for the rest of the season. This is how I’d like to see the roster by the All-Star break — though I’d take July 31 for the bullpen moves.

1B: Phillips
2B: Cano
3B: Alex
SS: Jeter
LF: Matsui
CF: Damon
RF: Melky
BN: Cairo
BN: Thompson
BN: Shelley Duncan
BN: Omir Santos (can’t be worse than Nieves)
BN: Basak
BN: TBA (because we don’t need 13 pitchers)

SP: Wang
SP: Pettitte
SP: Clemens
SP: Mussina
SP: White/Hughes
RP: Mo
RP: Edwar
RP: Britton
RP: Brower
RP: Henn
RP: Vizcano (because he’s been doing well lately)
RP: Bruney (because when he’s on, he’s money)

It’s not a huge mix-up, but it’s damn better than what we’ve got now.

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Struggling teams beating up on the Yanks
2007 International Signees
  • The Scout

    Interesting ideas and hard to disagree with them. But I suspect Cashman won’t make wholesale changes like the ones you recommend. To do so would mean admitting he had screwed up badly in the first place. In one respect, he reminds me of the Bush administration: neither one ever admits a mistake until long after the rest of the world has seen it.

    Although I am NOT urging a change of managers, it also seems evident that the team has ceased responding to Torre. I have no idea whether his message or approach has changed. No matter. He hasn’t been able to reach these players.

  • batty

    I’d like to see Abreu go but who to put in his place? Damon gets beat up in the field and tends to be more effective as DH. Can Thompson do what Melky did last year?

    They need a shakeup like Boston did in ’04. They showed already this year what a good run can do with the standings especially the way Boston is playing.

  • LovetheSocksNottheSox

    I think you got it pretty close with your analysis and line up. Bobby Abreu needs to go, like now. i don’t think there is anyone out there (besides Sleeping Joe Torre) who would disagree with that. I did see that Proctor didn’t make it on the pitching list. Are you trying to virtually give him the break he so badly needs or do you really think he is all washed up for this season?

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

    LTSNTS,

    I left him off because I think he could fetch more value than anyone else in the bullpen.

  • Stuart

    I love your moves. They are not going to make the playoffs unless a miracle happens but these moves get them younger and save some money. It also accelerates the development of the young guys..

    The Yanks will never do this, they hate guys under 30 only play them if they have no other option.

    Maybe Giambi is the last player….

    Damon in CF is a huge liability on D

  • George

    I agree with your assessment that Cashman dropped the ball on the teams roster and depth this year, yet too a degree, Torre also, needs to be held accountable as well. Torre along with Cashman, knew their teams strengths and weaknesses from last season. I believe that all your real Yankee bloggers, have a clear presence about them when we all went into this season, whether it came from gut-to-keen baseball observation, that the Yankees lacked depth.

    Torre isn’t a rookie manager, neither is Cashman for that matter. If you all recall, we had our share of injuries last season. We also, had a much older team. I know full well that in sports, injuries are a part of the game to both young and old. Yet they happen, and both Cashman and Torre did a bad job in preparing for what “ifs'”…

    Regardless on how they are or not producing as of late, I was thankful that we traded Johnson and Sheffleld. Still when Cashman was asked by the Dodgers and Padres, if he would consider in trading any of those minor league players they received, in return for Penny or Linebrink, he said no. I know the issues that revolve around NL pitchers in the AL. The point I am getting at is that Cashman need to continue building that foundation by looking into further every day position players. He stopped after the trades.

    Personally, I would like to see them trade Mussina and Farnsworth (Wishful thinking… possibility to the Phillies towards the end of July for Joe Savery), and Igawa and bring up either Alan Horne or Ian Kennedy along with Daniel McCutchen, Henn and Britton. I understand the 10-5 that Mussina has and money they will possible need to eat up, but I would prefer freeing up an addition starting pitchers slot sooner for either one along with Hughes. Personal, I give the ball to Kennedy. Past and present baseball resume tells all. Plus he has been hitting 94-to-95 on the gun the past three starts. Joba turn next year with David Roberston in the pen.

    My Personal Minor League Pitching Favorites: Phil Hughes (no question), Joba Chamberlain, Dellin Betances, Ian Patrick Kennedy, Alan Horne, Dan McCutchen, Davis Robertson, George Kontos, Hario Heredia, Mark Melancon (DL), and Jesse Hoover.

    I agree with mostly everything you have suggested, even with a heavy heart, the Cano factor. Question. Would you trade Cano, Fans and one minor leaguer for Hanely Ramirez?

  • Luddy Bazcej

    Good article. DFA of Abreu would be the equivalent of a ton of bricks falling on his psyche. He’d be crushed, but what can you do? He’s stinking up the joint. I bet we can get a few prospects out of a team that needs some pop, maybe San Diego or Minny. I dont think he has zero value, we’d get something back but probably not anything spectacular.

    Cant argue with the other moves. At this point if you cant make deals at a good price, then look to our kids and let them loose. Surely someone has to pan out. Duncan could be a great surprise. Or he can suck. But let’s at least take a chance because we know the guys we have on the field are shite, lax and uninspired.

    I’m holding out a sliver of hope that Cashman is posturing right now in the trade market to strengthen his position if he wants to deal. Clearly, the Yanks will get hosed if they cry out for help and trade from a position of panic in potential deals. Maybe Cashman has a grand strategy up his sleeve and will make a bunch of slick moves before the deadline. You can never know I guess.

  • Mike NYY

    To be honest, I`d keep Abreu. He’s a type A FA right? That gives us a 1st round pick right? That’s more valuable than anything we can trade him for. Also who plays DH until Giambi gets back if Abreu is traded? Shelley Duncan?

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

    No, Abreu wouldn’t net us a draft pick. We’d have to offer him arbitration, and that makes no sense if you’re not going to pick up his option. Plus, he’d gladly accept arbitration (only a 15% cut from his 15m salary), meaning we’re stuck with him.

  • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

    Call me crazy, but I think you could work out a deal to trade Abreu. He’d certainly want his option picked up to waive his NTC (if not get an extension), but I think some team out there might go for him.

    If the Yanks get a grade B prospect for him – say a Brett Gardner type – isn’t it better than getting nothing for him at the end of the year (and having to watch him the rest of the year)?

  • The Scout

    Abreu only goes if the Yankees pick up a large portion of his contract.

  • dan

    Is duncan the DH in that scenario? or is a rotating DH with whoever needs a day off? and I don’t like white in the rotation, he’s been pretty bad in AAA (11-12 K/BB ratio in 22.1 innings). Looking at the roster though, you can’t call up Horne or any of the AA guys, that’s too big of a jump. Clippard is still shell shocked. Try Henn maybe? i just think white would be a disaster

  • Ron

    “Question. Would you trade Cano, Fans and one minor leaguer for Hanely Ramirez?”

    Question: Why would the Marlins even consider this trade, when they have Dan Uggla? And as you know, Ramirez is a SS, and we already have 2 of them in our infield.

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben

    Ron

    I think we actually have no short stops in our infield. We have a third baseman and a quote-unquote Gold Glove short stop who should probably be playing elsewhere in the infield.

  • Rich

    Developing roster flexibility for a team that has had the Yankees’ payroll is a process that takes time.

  • David

    Here’s a radical idea – move Jeter to center. I know you can’t do it midway through a season, but there’s no reason Jeter can’t be a great centerfielder – he runs well, throws well and wouldn’t have so many groundball issues in center. Ahh…it’s wishful thinking, I know…but it would solve a lot of issues.

    “Cano, Fans and one minor leaguer for Hanely Ramirez?”

    Why would the Marlins possibly make that trade? There is no advantage for them at all. Farnsworth is a lousy veteran reliever and Hanley is a way better player than Cano. Unless the prospect you’re talking about is Hughes or Chamberlain or Tabat, no way that deal is equitable for the Marlins.

    And also, Shelley Duncan isn’t a “kid.” He’s a 27-year-old career minor-leaguer. While I’d like to see him get a shot since he’s having a “career year,” he’s probably no better than Phelps/Hillenbrand/etc. Rather see the Yanks move on Pena or (gulp) Dmitri Young.

  • George

    Ramirez came up as a second basement in the Sox organization, and was later moved to short. Cano was originally a short stop at one time, who was then converted to third base, turned second baseman. And no, I would never recommende trading Hughes, Joba, Kennedy, Tabata etc… for Hanely.