LADY AT THE BAT: Get It Straight: Yankees Playing For 2017

Friday, August 19, 2016

Get It Straight: Yankees Playing For 2017

The moment Andrew Miller was dealt to Cleveland, on the heels of Aroldis Chapman's trade to the Cubs, I couldn't help but think the Yankees had just set the match up for the Fall Classic in October. Cubs versus Indians in the World Series. Of course. while that match up is a real possibility, there will be ten teams in the post season, and some still believe the Yankees have a chance to be one of them. The Yankees are six games behind both wild card spots, but time is slowly running out.

And every decision made in the last few weeks was about 2017 and beyond, not 2016.

That is as it should be. In thinking 2017, the Yankees are taking a "let the chips fall as they may" attitude for the rest of 2016.  It's like punting on third down and long and maybe they recover a fumble. Most likely, they just gain some field position.  By acquiring all that young talent the Yankees are gaining valuable "field position" for their future.

It's August 19th, which means pitchers and catchers report somewhere near six months from right now. So there is plenty of time to set the roster for the start of 2017, and the process is well under way. Roster decisions are being shaped as we speak. Some decisions will wait until spring training, some will happen in the off season and lots have already been made. Right now, it's all about the remaining veterans, the unforeseen circumstances and mostly, it's about the youth.

The Veterans
There is no better example than Brian McCann. It's obvious that the Yankees are ready to turn the page. They have anointed Gary Sanchez as the number one receiver, at least for now. McCann has reportedly cleared waivers and can  be dealt any time. Except that McCann has a full no trade clause in his contract. McCann might be exercising his right to veto a trade for now, but don't be surprised if that changes in the off season. Just a hunch, but McCann might be thinking it is much easier to start fresh with a new team in the spring than uproot and move with six weeks left in the season, especially if he is going to a non-contender like Atlanta, as rumored. So perhaps he has exercised his no trade rights for now. On the other hand, the Yankees will have  openings at first base and designated hitter, so McCann could remain in the Yankees plans, playing a mixture of DH, first base and part time catcher.

What We Did Not See Coming
One thing we've learned this year, is circumstances change and often in short order, At the end of May, I said Michael Pineda might not be tendered a contract this off season, based on the way he had been pitching up until that time, but that Nathan Eovaldi likely would be tendered. Now it seems to be the other way around. Eovaldi will miss the entire 2017 season, at which time he becomes eligible for free agency. Should Eovaldi be given a roster spot just to bide his time until free agency? Call it highly unlikely.  

The Baby Bombers
It seems that in Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, the Yankees have two of the next core four. Both have charged out of the gate in the major leagues, but it's a cautionary tale with young players. Remember in 1990 when  the future was going to be built, in part, around a hot shot left handed pitcher? His name was Brien Taylor. He lost his career when he injured his shoulder in a fight. Instead, the real hot shot left hander was a draft and follow pitcher taken much later in the same draft. His name was Andy Pettitte. Pettitte did not sign until just before the 1991 draft, something not allowed anymore in baseball.

A gem can be found in unexpected places.  Remember a year ago how excited the Yankees were to add Luis Severino to the rotation? . Now Severino appears to be fighting for a spot on the roster going forward.  Sanchez and Judge have produced well in very small samples. Severino struggled in the Bronx this year, but there is still hope.  Maybe all three will be integral parts of the success of 2017 and beyond. Severino's struggles prove it's all a calculated gamble the Yankees are taking with going younger.

The Only Way To Go
What's next for the Yankees? It's time to use the rest of the season to evaluate the young talent, not forgetting the veterans still on the team. If a waiver deal presents itself before the end of the month, fine. Otherwise, the off season could be busy, as the Yankees might do a little more selling as well as some significant buying, we hope. So in the six weeks that remain, let the evaluations continue in earnest as we begin to take in some football at the same time. .

But if that aforementioned punt is fumbled, then here's hoping the Yankees are all over it.

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