The 2016 Yankees really feel like the reason we’ve gotten to this point in 2017. The idea that addition via subtraction was a rare change that this front office has done, but here we are.
Brian Cashman has come under endless scrutiny over the years for adding players with no success coming from it. But in 2016 when his team no longer was really a factor he set out to remake the face of the organization that would lead it back to the playoffs in 2017. I think about how 2016’s moves were the linchpin to making this team successful and relevant this year. In 2016 the most relevancy the Yankees had during the first half was the performance of their bullpen. Subtracting from this made tremendous sense once the package was completed and players like Clint Frazier were added to the roster.
The 2016 Yankees made the decision that the future of the catcher position should no longer be in question. The emergence of Gary Sanchez made it possible to subtract Brian McCann from the team. While the move put much of the financial burden on the Yankees moving forward, it made too much sense. From this subtraction came the trust of this team’s pitching staff being put in the hands of Sanchez.
The 2016 Yankees brought Aaron Judge into the minds of baseball fans. For some, Judge was simply a cool story but an obviously faulted player. His swing had a tremendous amount of holes in it that were quickly exposed by the league. But this failure permitted Judge to recommit himself over the winter to perfecting his swing, leading to what would be the greatest rookie season in the history of the league. Judge’s struggles returned after the 2017 All Star Break, but after six weeks of work he broke out of it to finish the season with 52 home runs. By permitting failure at the Major League level in 2016, they permitted Aaron to work through his struggles.
Of course, there is Luis Severino. While we had to see him take quite a beating last night in the first inning, it’s not far off from the Severino we saw in 2016. In 2016 we saw the “Reliever or Starter” question come back for yet another Yankees power arm. Rather than simply allow him to fail as a starter and move into a relief role permanently, the struggles within 2016 gave Severino enough chances to fail to understand how to bounce back from failure. In 2017 as the playoffs continue, you can only hope that this continues to be the norm. Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was mechanics, but at least he has the knowledge from past failures to adjust and carry on.
Finally, the subtraction of Aroldis Chapman in 2016 gave the Yankees a better idea of how their bullpen should be composed in 2017. It’s hard not to love Dellin Betances, but the end of 2016 did serve as a minor precursor to the potential issues the pen could have without adding additional members in 2017. While this did serve as a good warning, the greatest add via subtraction here was Gleyber Torres. It’s true his injury has put much of the future in question, the talent is there. He remains one of the most important pieces in the Yankees farm system and could be the future of third base as Chase Headley’s contract continues to dwindle down to zero.
Bringing back Chapman was controversial due to his sizable contract and personal issues in the past, but there’s little doubt that his return to form was critical down the stretch. His subtraction from the Yankees in 2016 and to the Cubs gives him the experience that hopefully helps him continue to dominate the way he did at the end of the season.
Then finally, the subtraction of Vets that just didn’t have much to offer the team anymore. Alex, we love ya but the A-Rod Yankees years just had to come to an end. Teix? Thanks for knowing it was time to hang em up. CC Sabathia’s subtraction was a bit different. His was more in relation to his stuff and learning how to fail with this lesser stuff. By 2016 we started seeing the progress, but by 2017 we saw the success.
What’s next for this group? Well it could see more subtraction in the winter as the younger talent continues to force the issue for the Yankees at the MLB level. With a only a few more sizable contracts for the vets on the team, it’s interesting to wonder what will help the Yankees move some of that talent along and allow the kids to flourish. The one thing that’s good to know is that regardless of who is moved along, they have the core of players who have seen this team fail and succeed. It can only be to the benefit of the younger players to have this experience to build off of, reminiscent of those young Rays and Royals clubs recently that saw success.