The mark of a smart organization is knowing not only the strengths of your players but their weaknesses as well. In other words, just because you have an abundance of prospects, doesn’t mean you should keep them all. Most fans would agree that having a stockpile of young prospects is more exciting than an aging, costly roster. However, it can backfire too.
A lot of the New York Yankees prospects are still raw and in the low minors, like Gleyber Torres for instance. Hence, they don’t have to make these decisions immediately and can afford to be patient. Where it gets tricky is knowing who to trade and when to trade them.
As my Bronx Pinstripes colleague, Andrew Rotondi opined, if you have the organizational prospect depth to land a Mike Trout and he’s available, you make the move.
About a decade ago the Yankees were inquiring about obtaining Miguel Cabrera to replace Alex Rodriguez. A NY Daily News report from 2007 had a combination of Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, and lower tier prospects like Alan Horne, Humberto Sanchez, Ross Ohlendorf and Jose Tabata going to the then Florida Marlins.
I know hindsight is 20/20 but you do that deal every time. Those first three names lasted about a year in the rotation before the Yankees bailed on that plan. While Hughes and Chamberlain helped the club win a title in 2009, it was primarily out of the bullpen. Kennedy was dealt in a solid deal for Curtis Granderson and has carved out a decent career. As for the other guys, Horne never made the majors, Sanchez pitched two games with the Yankees and Ohlendorf and Tabata got the Yankees a half season of Xavier Nady and a spotty (save for the 2009 postseason) few seasons of Damaso Marte.
The Yankees now have a plethora of shortstops in Didi Gregorius, the aforementioned Torres, Jorge Mateo, and Tyler Wade. Such was the case in the 90’s with Cristian Guzman, Alfonso Soriano, and D’Angelo Jimenez playing behind Derek Jeter. The Yankee talent evaluators made the right call with Jeter, who is going to Cooperstown. Granted Soriano and Guzman carved out solid careers and Jimenez was a decent utility player. Yet, that’s where the team made shrewd deals.
Guzman was flipped for Chuck Knoblauch and Soriano helped the club by switching positions and was eventually dealt for Alex Rodriguez. Jimenez was swapped for Jay Witasick, so two out of three ain’t bad.
Other instances include trading Sterling Hitchcock and Eric Milton in separate deals, instead of Andy Pettitte. Keeping Bernie Williams over Roberto Kelly. Pulling the trigger on Ricky Ledee for David Justice and Ruben Rivera for Hideki Irabu and Homer Bush.
Again, these questions become more relevant as the Yankees build back to perennial title contention but it’s fair to ask if the group of Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier, and Tyler Austin sticks or if they each become some combination of those mentioned above.
Yes, there are those who remember the 1980’s and have the scars of seeing the team deal the likes of Fred McGriff, Willie McGee, Jay Buhner, Jose Rijo, Doug Drabek, Hal Morris, and Bob Tewksbury. That of course, is the opposite extreme of the non-deal for Cabrera in 2007.
The Yankees may be a year or two away from having to deal with this conundrum. When they reach that point, those will be the moves which dictate the future of the franchise.