BRONX, N.Y. — A shrewd organization knows the strength and weaknesses of its system. For the past handful of years, the New York Yankees have cultivated a nice crop of Baby Bombers in the Bronx. Yet, many of these players acquired and or developed have graduated and thus far have come short of a World Series championship.
Now, I’d argue there’s no such thing as a closing window in the Yankee universe but it’s fair to ask if this core group has what it takes to make it to the mountain top. By no means am I saying blow it all up but there comes a point where one wonders if there’s too much prospect hugging with a team that’s built to win now?
We have seen this recently when it comes to the Yankees perhaps swinging deals for more starting pitching or an impact start shortstop like Francisco Lindor.
There are plenty of examples to cite in recent vintage which demonstrates the importance of knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em when it comes to prospects.
After Alex Rodriguez nearly bounced, the Yankees expressed interest in obtaining Miguel Cabrera from the Florida Marlins. Rumored to be headed to South Beach were some combination of Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, and lower-tier prospects like Alan Horne, Humberto Sanchez, Ross Ohlendorf, and Jose Tabata.
Yes, 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. Also, does that remind you of the current state of the Yankee rotation beyond Gerrit Cole?
Sure Hughes and Chamberlain helped the club win a title in 2009 but it was primarily out of the bullpen. Kennedy was dealt in a solid deal for Curtis Granderson and has carved out a decent career.
The other guys? Horne never made the majors. Sanchez pitched two games with the Yankees. 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.
Of course, the other side of the equation is a similar trade the team didn’t make for the Minnesota Twins’ Johan Santana around the same time, right before Santana saw a steep fall with the New York Mets.
Back in the ’90s, the organization seemed to have a knack for knowing who to keep and who to dump.
Those clubs had a plethora of shortstops in the pipeline 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 in 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 A-Rod. Jimenez was swapped for Jay Witasick, so two out of three ain’t bad.
Sometimes you also get lucky and in that A-Rod-Soriano deal, a team like the Texas Rangers selects Joaquin Arias instead of Robinson Cano.
Other instances include trading Sterling Hitchcock (along with top third base prospect Russ Davis, for Tino Martinez, Jeff Nelson, and Jim Mecir) and Eric Milton (Knoblauch trade) in separate deals, instead of Andy Pettitte. Keeping Bernie Williams over Roberto Kelly (traded for Paul O’Neill). Pitching prospect Matt Drews and a disgruntled Ruben Sierra for Cecil Fielder. 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 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.
Whether the Yankees shake it up or ride it out is anyone’s guess at this point.