LADY AT THE BAT: Yankees Attempting To Win While Rebuilding: A Tough Business

Friday, April 29, 2016

Yankees Attempting To Win While Rebuilding: A Tough Business

Starting a season 8-12 will get your attention, especially as you simultaneously try to win a championship and try to (let's call it what it is) rebuild following the departure of the Core Four.

Such a stretch at any other time of the season can be looked at as a blip or a hiccup. Starting a season that way is an entirely different matter.

For one thing this slow start makes one wonder if this is how it is going to be all season.

We can all agree that it is too early to panic and that things might get straightened out. We can tell ourselves this is a veteran team that knows how to win. We all know we are approaching the return of Aroldis Chapman who will join Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller forming an amazing trio of lockdown relievers, maybe the best the game has ever seen.

But what about the rest of the club? Rebuilding is a tricky business. Part of rebuilding is trying to anticipate future needs. Player development can be fun to follow and it can also be downright frustrating.

Consider that in 2010, knowing that a shortstop was needed to eventually replace Derek Jeter, the Yankees selected shortstop Cito Culver with the 32nd overall pick. Baseball America and other sources projected Culver to be better suited for a few rounds later in the draft. The Yankees selected Culver anyway, and today Culver in languishing at AA Trenton, with a batting average of about a buck fifty. The very next draft, in 2011, the Yankees first choice was shortstop (but projected third baseman) Dante Bichette Jr. Like Culver, Bichette was projected to go in later rounds of the draft. The Yankees selected Bichette anyway and today he plays along side Culver in the Trenton infield.

Neither is expected to be in the Bronx anytime soon, if at all. To replace Jeter, the Yankees traded for Didi Gregorius, a move that may actually pay off , but was clearly a risk. Bichette was expected to replace Alex Rodriguez at third base, but the Yankees had to deal for Chase Headley, and with no third base prospects in the organization, gave Headley a four year contract. How is that working out?

Because outfield prospects like Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams struggled with injuries and development, the Yankees had no choice but to look elsewhere for outfield help. With the departure of Robinson Cano, the Yankees gave a generously long contract to Jacoby Ellsbury.

It's all about making good decisions on draft day as much as it is about keeping prospects healthy. Consider the pitching. Not many draft picks have made it to the everyday rotation since Andy Pettitte was drafted in the early 90's. Nick Rumbelow and Branden Pinder were among the fast track draft picks who recently had Tommy John surgery, Jacob Lindgren, a top pick in 2014, who saw a short stint in the Bronx, and had elbow surgery, is now on the disabled list at Tampa. Even last year's top pick James Kapriellian is now on the disabled list at Tampa with a "minor" elbow issue. We can only hope that is true. Seems as if the only fast track these young pitchers are on is to elbow problems and the operating table.

So the 8-12 start might be a distant memory in a couple of weeks if the Yankees go on a tear and climb to the top of the standings. On the other hand, starting tonight in Boston, the Yankees season might just continue the downward spiral. It is times like this when bad draft decisions and bad luck with injuries to your better prospects, come home to roost.

Rebuilding is a tough business. Much tougher when you have expectations of winning at the same time and it doesn't work out that way. We could be in for a long season,

But it is still early.

No comments: