Time is not on the Yankees side as they look for upgrades

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Yankees replace Reid Brignac with Alberto Gonzalez
(Ezra Shaw/Getty)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

With last night’s loss, the Yankees have now dropped seven of their last nine and 17 of their last 28 games. They went from 1.5 games up in the division to 3.5 games back during that four-week stretch. The pitching staff has been fine during those 28 games (4.24 ERA and 3.61 FIP), but the offense put together a meager .217/.280/.316 batting line while averaging 3.2 runs per game during the slide. Given all the position player injuries, it’s no surprise they’ve struggled to score.

For most of the year, at least at the outset of the season, the plan was to tread water until the injured guys return. Stay close enough to the top spot in the division — 3.5 games back easily qualifies as “close enough” in my book, especially in mid-June — then make the move when everyone gets healthy. It sounds great in theory, but at this point the plan has failed. They are still in the hunt, but that “get healthy” part hasn’t happened.

Both Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira returned as expected in May only to wind up back on the DL almost immediately. Granderson’s broken hand was a fluke injury, but Teixeira re-injuring his wrist wasn’t surprising. Derek Jeter was expected back sometime in May only to suffer a new fracture in his surgically repaired ankle. He’s out until at least the All-Star break. Alex Rodriguez looks “fantastic” during his rehab work according to Jon Heyman, but a team official said he could start rehab games after the All-Star break. That’s the optimistic outlook, starting rehab games after the break.

None of those injured guys are close to returning, and that’s the problem. There is no offensive help coming from within. Sure, maybe Zoilo Almonte gets hot for a few weeks or maybe David Adams turns back into the player he was when he was first called up, but it’s clear the team needs bats. Not a bat, bats. Plural. Combine New York’s recent slide with the surging Blue Jays — they’ve won eight straight and 22 of their last 34 — and it becomes even more clear they need those bats soon. Waiting a month for A-Rod & Co. isn’t a luxury the team has right now, especially since we have no idea what they can provide when healthy. Granderson should be okay since it wasn’t his lead hand, but Jeter (ankle)? A-Rod (hip)? Teixeira (wrist)? Those are the types of injuries that sap production even after the doctor clears them to play.

“It’s not how you draw it up, there’s no doubt about that,” said GM Brian Cashman earlier this week, after it was announced Teixeira was going back on the DL and Kevin Youkilis would miss at least 10-12 weeks following back surgery. “We’re always looking to upgrade if we can regardless of position. You have to keep in mind too that we expect to get [Alex Rodriguez] back. As of right now we’re going with what we have and if we ever run into something that makes sense then we’ll look at that. We’ll keep going with what we’ve got.”

Patience has been a Cashman trademark since he got his supposed autonomy following the 2005 season — remember, this is a GM who lost both Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield to serious injury in May 2006 and didn’t acquire Bobby Abreu until the trade deadline as he waited out the Phillies and got them to drop their asking price. I remember realizing that it was a sign the team was going to be run differently going forward, and it has been. The number of knee-jerk reaction moves have been largely non-existent, at least outside of Kei Igawa and very minor stuff like bullpen or bench additions. Patience is what Cashman does.

Unfortunately, the Yankees don’t have the same luxury of time right now. It’s one thing to tread water until some injured players return in May, but it’s another thing to do it until after the All-Star break. The guys that helped the team get off to that hot start in April — specifically talking about Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, and Lyle Overbay here — have turned back into pumpkins, and there’s really no reason to expect them to get back to being those kinds of hitters again. April was the outlier for them. I don’t know who is realistically available to help out this lineup right now, but the Yankees can’t afford to sit around, be patient, and play the waiting game again. They have to act soon if they want to continue treading water until some injured players return.

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Yankees replace Reid Brignac with Alberto Gonzalez
  • trr

    Realistically, we’rev looking at 30-45 days before all hands return.
    we could be under .500, 8 – 10 games out by then. This article is spot on. We can’t keep running non MLB players like Romine, Brignac, Neal and Adams out there. We can’t wait for Wells to turn it around
    (if he ever will!). Youklis is through, period. We need to take any reasonable upgrade that’s available to us. This is not like other years. Somebody wake up Cash, wake up the Steinbummers, we need positive action when? Now!

    ***”My name is trr and I approved this message***

    • Robinson Tilapia

      We could also be seven games out, six games out, five games out, four games out. We could be two games ahead, or even twelve games out.

      I don’t like the way the team is trending. I also think there’s limits to what they should be doing about it.

  • mitch

    Definitely agree with this.

    Is the current squad a playoff team? No

    If they get 2-3 of the injured players back are they a playoff team? Possibly

    Can the current squad keep them in the hunt for the next 6 weeks until some guys come back? Honestly I don’t think so

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Six weeks? Oh, I think it’s conceivable they could stay within distance. I’m just not sure we’re talking six weeks.

      • mitch

        I just threw that guess out there. Putting a time table on any of these injuries is asking for trouble so i’m obviously speaking hypothetically..

        They’re 1.5 out of the WC right now. Let’s say within within 40 games they get Granderson and one of Jeter/Arod/Tex back. Do you think they will stay within 4 or 5 of the WC with the current roster?

      • LarryM Fl

        This is a marathon. The front runners can be seen by the trailing pack but there is no hope of catching the front runner.

    • The Doctor

      There are really two options. Go out and upgrade now in the hopes that it gives them a better chance to hold on waiting for the injured players or stick with what they have and hope the returning players all produce enough to cover a lot of lost ground. Both carry their own risks: neither guarantees they field a post-season caliber team, but the former makes it more likely while also maybe hurting the future of the team a bit. It’s not the easiest decision.

  • LK

    The one thing they have in their favor is that the worse a position is, the easier it is to upgrade, and they’ve got several black holes right now. It should be possible to find some warm bodies without mortgaging the farm who can help bridge the gap to the injured players. They don’t need Giancarlo Stanton, they need a guy who can hit at a league average rate.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    I get it. However, I do not know the proper recipe for “turnaround player,” and I don’t see one out there we can get.

    Perhaps two parts bourbon, one part vermouth, and a call to Tony Bosch?

    • LK

      We can’t know who’s available or how much they would cost, but there has to be someone out there’s who above replacement level, and that’s enough to qualify as an upgrade.

      • mitch

        Agreed. There are multiple guys in the lineup producing below replacement level. A couple random warm bodies could be an upgrade.

  • LarryM Fl

    Mike, your article is to the point. The Yankees 25 man roster is not competitive to tread water. The offense is non existent. Ichiro has done as much as anyone can expect of a 40 year old. I declared him toast a couple of weeks ago but to his credit has performed with all he has to give.

    Wells,Overbay, Hafner, Brigiac on the offense are just an out waiting to happen. There are no hits in those 4 guys. I rather watch Adams and Zolimonte play with the same results.

    The pitching is heading South for the summer which is not good. You can not expect them to hold teams to 3 runs every night as we score our 3.97 in whatever a game. Its not a lineup capable to achieve more.

    The span between now and 7/31 is just more time than the Yankees can hold out if we are playing .500 ball at the trading deadline I would be surprised. It is what it is. The perfect storm has hit the Yanks and there are no saviors available for this year. There are way too many holes in the lineup to patch-up.

    On another note Robbie Cano has me again frustrated by his play. His actions the last two nights are more with a player having his mind elsewhere. His lack of hustle on the attempted double against the Dodgers. Thinking there three outs when he struck out. Unable to comprehend the strike zone, swinging at everything and anything is sad. The Yanks must think long and hard about the years offered in his next contract.

    • The Doctor

      He’s swinging at fewer pitches out of the strike zone than he ever has in his career and has the highest walk rate of his career.

      The lack of hustle when he got thrown out was bad, yes, but he genuinely didn’t seem to expect there was a chance he’d be out. The throw had to be absolutely perfect and he just didn’t respect Ethier’s arm. It’s not excusable, but it’s not the kind of thing that you reconsider signing a player over.

      • LarryM Fl

        If you believe his lack of hustle was just related to this one play. I beg to differ with you. He does not hustle on most ground ball outs. I do not believe that he can be counted long term with his mental focus in a constant battle to stay focused. Could it be the lack of assistance with keeping the team winning. Maybe, but that is what the Yankees will be paying for 20-25 million and will not get from Cano. They know him better than I do. That kind of money means a guy can carry a team. I have not see this aspect in his play without the injured team mates.

        More intentional walks have occurred.

        • The Doctor

          Please, show me the last time a guy “carried the team” in the way you’re talking. Guys can put up huge seasons on bad teams, but teams are never truly carried by one player. You can’t win with only one good batter.

          Oh so now we’re just going to ignore getting IBBs as a positive? Fine. Take those out and he’s STILL on pace for the most walks he’s ever had in a season.

          His hustle, or lack thereof, may cost him a few base hits a year and increase his durability. This whole “Cano’s lazy” crap is just clinging to old school values and failing to understand what really makes a player great. Even in this down year (and using Fangraphs, who use UZR, detracting from Cano’s value despite all other advaced defensive metrics rating him out as a good defender) Cano is on pace for 4.5 fWAR, which is All-Star production. Using bWAR, which doesn’t use UZR, he’s on pace for 6.1 WAR. Last year, he was worth 8.5 bWAR, which is safely MVP caliber production.

          His down season is, in my opinion largely linked to sole combination of a lack of production and pressing to do more than he has to because there’s no one else who can do it. He could sit back, take a ton of walks, and pad his numbers, but he likely feels he has to be coming up looking for XBHs every time. It’s not a good mindset to be in, but it’s somewhat justified.

          • Preston

            Bobby Abreu was maligned for his reluctance to make plays near the wall. Johnny Damon was maligned for his willingness to crash into the wall. Some guys can play in a controlled way and keep their bodies healthy, some guys need to play all out and risk the injury to be effective. Neither is right or wrong. They’re just different kinds of players.

  • Mikhel

    Alfredo Despaigne (age 27) is ready to play in México as we speak, I received info about his arrival a few weeks ago and now its a reality.

    The guy is the best cuban hitter in recent history with numbers that couldn’t be matched by Puig nor Céspedes, well, Céspedes broke his homerun record but Despaigne quickly broke it again (he hit #34 on a broken bat and sent the ball about 420 ft).

    Despaigne
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pEbBcDypsE

    Cuba authorized Despaigne, Michel Enriques and Yordani Salmon (also an OF) to play in México.

    They are ready to play in Campeche’s Pirates, but if for some reason they can’t be activated, they might as well report to my birth city’s team Marineros (Mariners) in the city Ensenada (in Baja California, about 2hrs south of San Diego, California).

    • Mikhel

      OOPS forgot to add the link:

      News about Despaigne
      http://www.purobeisbol.mx/?not.....tro-lmb-83

      The other info was relayed to me in a facebook group in spanish dedicated to baseball where I am an admin together with various baseball periodists, columnists and reporters in México (La Peña Beisbolera).

      Cheers

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Good stuff. Thanks.

  • Rolling Doughnut

    Not to be overly pessimistic BUT…this year is probably a washout. Let the baseball sages debate how the rebuilding process should go moving forward and hope it doesn’t take 10 years like it did when they went from the World Series in 1964 to an eight game under .500 finish in 1965.

    • b-rar

      Just for context, the 2005 Yankees were 39-39 on July 1. Then Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small carried them to first place. I’m not saying that wasn’t a fluke, just that Yankees teams comparably worse at this point in the season have been wrongly written off.

  • steves

    I agree Mike. Yanks can’t afford to wait any longer to better the offense. The schedule immediately following the All-Star game is brutal (15 of 18 on road against Bos (3); Tex (4); LAD (2); SD (3); CHW (3) with 3 home games against Tampa). Failure to make moves now is akin to running up the white flag.

  • Fin

    I still don’t expect the Yankees to make any big moves or trade any big names from the minor league system. They have too many needs to fix it during the season. Bringing on some marginal players I don’t see helping all that much this year and could damage the long term outlook for the team. I also think the Yankees are not going to bring in anyone making any kind of real money this year as the Yankees payroll is now at $230m I believe. For example I saw the Nate S. post and I would be surprised if they took on his money and traded someone like Austin for him. This team needs so much more than 1 or 2 decent players. You never know what the Yankees are going to do, but I cant see the Yankees spending money and or prospects to add a few wins to this very lacking team.

  • Improbable Island’s Dirty Midget Whores (formerly RRR)

    One thing about Cashman: He is notorious for his under the radar moves, as we all know.

    Everybody here talks until they’re blue in the face that there’s nobody available, and it’s true that it seems that way. But what the Hell do we REALLY know? We’re not GM’s. We’re not scouts. We don’t have the luxury of knowing what the baseball minds are REALLY thinking.

    What I’m saying is, even though we all believe, with good reason, that there’s no way to update the team realistically, in reality we have no idea is that’s really the case because we don’t know what “realistic” actually is. So I’m not giving up hope yet.

  • Improbable Island’s Dirty Midget Whores (formerly RRR)

    Also, we don’t even need to upgrade with star players. If we get league average guys for most positions and our stars/genuinely good players (e.g. Cano and Gardner) play like they’re supposed to then we actually will end up with at least an average, possibly above average offense.

    The problem is a lot of our players aren’t even replacement level or league average. They just suck.

  • fred robbins

    Doctor—- Cano has been pretty much either uninterested and bad or just bad since the playoffs during which he quit entirely and never had more than 3 pitches per at bat. He is a quitter and has only energy for himself when he is the focus of all attention– like the home run derby– he is not character type player and not a player with heart and guts. You could almost pick anyone off the Arizona roster and have at the least a player with guts and desire to win. Cano is only good when everyone else is good. He looks like he is bored and the games are a waste of his time— it’s hard for me to imagine anyone looking with open eyes can see anything else about him. He could end the year at .250 the way he is going and if the Yankees had any guts they would trade him now — that is, if his value has not eroded too badly. There are at least 2 players on every major league roster who are better than Cano or at the very least- more fun and exciting to watch.
    I’ve been a Yankee fan for 50 years and have never seen a player who tries so little… Pedroia makes his effort look so weak- and do you remember a game against Tampa last year when Cano hit a fly ball and just stayed in the box because he thought it was foul… it was fair, and all the Tampa players were looking with their mouths open in disbelief. Price could be seen mouthing the words— wow- he is still in the box… Girardi does not have the guts of a Charlie Manual who would sit him down regardless of who he had to replace him
    fred

    • The Doctor

      If you want to ignore the plethora of statistics which show that he has been and is a very good player, I can’t stop you. A 124 wRC+ hardly screams uninterested. Even in a down year, he’s one of the league’s best 2B. When he’s on, he’s the best 2B in the world. For all the Pedroia praise this year, Cano’s basic offensive numbers (OPS, OPS+, wRC+) are better than Pedroia’s, except wOBA which is identical. This is while Cano looks bad. All it takes is a hot week or two for his numbers to suddenly look a lot better.

      All this intangible crap is great when we’re talking leadership, but Cano’s there for production. Leadership isn’t his job. Maybe some day he’ll be that type of player, but with older guys around all these years, he’s never had to be. You can’t criticize him when he’s gone in and done his specific job better than anyone in the world the last few years.

    • TomH

      You’re wasting your “breath,” Fred. The Doctor’s gaze seems to go from box score directly to calculator and from there to RAB. I don’t think he actually watches Cano.

      • The Doctor

        Oh, I certainly watch. Not every single game because there are other things I like to do, but a very good number of them. I just think what you’re paying attention to is overrated. Cano’s lack of plate discipline drives me crazy and he needs to get back to using the gaps, particularly to the opposite field. His splits against lefties are alarming as well. Lack of hustle, however, is not a major concern. He stays healthy and gives up maybe a couple of base hits a year and is still one of the league’s most productive players. There’s really no other way I can explain this.

        Player value can be quantified. It’s imperfect yes, but not so imperfect that a player deemed an MVP player in and out is not around that level.

  • mustang (The Has Been & Wannabes Bunch 2013)

    Went to the game yesterday and it was the first time that I really felt what I been seeing the last 3 weeks or so. Once the Rays drop a 4 spot it seem like everyone in the place knew it was over.
    I’m all for trying to fix this thing as long as they don’t completely sell off the future. There just isn’t a realistic trade out there that will bring enough to make this team into a bona fide championship caliber.
    Let not fool ourselves this franchise is in transition and although I like for them to be completive during that transition they shouldn’t deviate from the plan.

    • Fin

      I agree. I think the Yankees went into the season knowing the rebuild was on its way. They had aging stars in Jeter and Arod injured and no sure thing to return to the every day lineup. I think they punted the offseason (let Swish and Martin walk) with a rebuild in mind, and if everyone came back and stayed healthy add some pieces to compete this year. Clearly things have gone as badly health wise as possible, though not a complete surprise with the age of the team. The Yankees cant get anyone worth a crap without giving up good prospects, and I just don’t see them doing that. If they wanted solid players they would have used money in the offseason and not prospects during the year. Mid season is no time to attempt to rebuild a team in my opinion nor is this team worth using prospects on for rental quality players.

    • The Doctor

      I agree, except I don’t really see a plan. The $189M plan is not a plan to benefit the future, no matter how they disguise it. If they truly are interested in getting back to ring a very competitive team, they’ll sign a few big free agents like Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran this off-season to keep them in the race next year while the young players work their way up. Filling holes with crap while waiting for the kids isn’t a good plan. The crap will perform poorly and the kids will be expected to come up and suddenly save the day, which is not a great mindset to be in coming up.

      My issue with the current Yankees isn’t the immediate future, it’s the lack of any sort of plan to get the team back to a highly competitive level that bothers me.

      • Fin

        I see a plan just not sure how well it will work out. The plan seems to be to let support players (Martin, Soriano, Swish) walk as older players contracts expire and see what they have in their minor leagues and start rebuilding based on how things look over the next couple of years. I think they are counting on a few of the top prospects to at least be solid players in the lines of what they let walk. I just don’t have much faith in this plan, because the Yankees have been awful at developing every day players. They have Cano, Gardner and Ajax (who is questionable wether it was the Yankees or Tigers who get the credit) as every day starters at the MLB level over the last decade…that’s 3 players. Now we are hoping for at least that many in the next couple of years, odds seem slim. I think the most likely scenario is this team stinks for a few years with no progress and a new regime will be needed to rebuild.

        As far as guys like Mcann and Beltran go…Beltran will be reasonable as far as years go because of his age, but also with that age and his injury history he is a risk ever year to fall off the cliff. Mcaann is a 30yr old catcher who is going to get a big long term contract, and if people are concerned about Cano, I don’t see how they cant be more concerned about Mcaann who is a catcher and coming off serious injury. Those 2 guys seem to be the opitme of what Yankee fans have been railing against…old guys who will get big contracts.

  • Pat D

    Time is only on Mick Jagger’s side.

    /had to’d

  • Preston

    I’m all for going after Nate Schierholtz or any other corner OFer at this point. I also want to look at the many available BUCs or any SS/3B that can help the team immediately. And if Stanton is made available I go all out for him. But I don’t want to give up a future piece for a Band-Aid. By future pieces I mean Sanchez, Austin, Heathcott or any of our 2013 picks (they could be moved as PTBNL) unless we’re getting multiple years of an impact player. I also don’t want to sell low on Mason, Hensley, Campos or Banuelos. These guys are elite prospects who are struggling or injured and unless the receiving team treats them as elite guys I don’t want to shop them at pennies on the dollar. The fact of the matter is outside of Stanton the best acquisitions the Yankees can make the ROTS are internal. Granderson, Teixeira and even Jeter and Pineda have a better chance of making an impact then most of what is available on the trade market.