I paid very little attention to the final 3 games. Between birthdays and weddings and the subsequent recovery time, I wasn't even near my computer all that much. I caught up on what I missed last night and now that I've had a chance to sleep on it, here are some of the thoughts I would have expressed. - The send-off for Derek Jeter over the weekend was nice, even if the idea of Boston fans and players showering him with this much applause seems a little weird to me. The level of "Re2pect" being paid to him throughout Fenway Park came off as little more than Red Sox ownership making their attempt to squeeze a few extra bucks out of the Jeter retirement teat, but the sentiment of the players on the field was genuine and that's the coolest part anyway.
- Nice to see Jeter do something positive in his final at-bat yesterday too. It wasn't as dramatic as the walk-off hit on Thursday night, but it set the stage for the final applause and that's really all that matters. Props to Joe for how he handled it, props to Jeter for following through and giving the Boston crowd a couple of last chances to see him play, and props to the crowd for showing him love. Cool final moment all-around.
- Now the issue becomes where the Yankees go in 2015 to fill the void left by Jeter. For the first time since I was in 4th grade, the Yanks will have to field a new starting shortstop and there are plenty of viable options that are going to be out there, although none of them are in-house. If you want to criticize the Yankee farm system, I think this is the easiest target. The complete absence of any real replacement shortstop candidates anywhere in the system and the failure to develop one that could even come close.
- That was a pretty tough way for Masahiro Tanaka to end his first season in the Majors. If he would have come out and pitched like that in his first start back, I would have understood. To see him bomb after pitching well in that first start back really surprised me. Who knows why Tanaka was so bad on Saturday? All I know is that I'm going to be concerned about his elbow every time he does have a start like that from here on out.
- Thinking about next year's rotation, I'm curious to see how the Yankees will approach this offseason. They'll have Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC, David Phelps, and Shane Greene back, Brandon McCarthy has said he loves pitching in New York and would like to come back, Ivan Nova will be returning eventually, and guys like Bryan Mitchell and ManBan will be in Triple-A. The depth is there, but the talent level might not be. Is the depth enough to keep Cash out of the running for the big free agent fish? I think it might be.
- I've heard rumblings about using a 6-man rotation next year as a way to manage the injury risk of guys like Tanaka, Pineda, and Sabathia. I think it's an idea worth considering giving all the injury problems the rotation has had in the last 2 years, but ultimately I'm not sure it's worth willingly giving up starts for your best starters. If I have to put a little more risk on CC's bad knee to get more starts from Tanaka and Pineda, that's a risk I'd be willing to take.
- Very small sample size against very watered down late-September pitching competition, but still a nice little MLB debut from Jose Pirela. 8-24 with 3 XBH, 6 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB, and 4 K in 7 games. His 40-man roster spot should be secured heading into the offseason. He's worth keeping around over guys like Zelous Wheeler and Antoan Richardson as a bench role candidate next spring.
- On the pitching side of that debate, guys like Chase Whitley and Preston Claiborne may not be so secure in their 40-man spots. We saw enough from both of them over the last 2 seasons to know that they've basically already peaked as Major Leaguers. With the Yanks in need of spots eventually for their returning starters and in possession of a nice cache of upper-level relief prospects, I wouldn't be surprised to see Whitley or Claiborne traded or DFA'd to clear some extra space at some point.
- Kind of a quirky, not necessarily meaningful stat, but another way of illustrating how poor the production was from the team's positional players this year: 4 of the Yankees' top 8 in fWAR were players that played less than half a season in a Yankee uniform. Chase Headley (2.7), Martin Prado (1.4), Yangervis Solarte (1.1), and Chris Young (1.1) all out-WAR'ed guys like Teix, Jeter, Beltran, Ichiro, Roberts, and Soriano in hundreds of fewer plate appearances. That shouldn't happen.
Now for a much more meaningful and simpler stat. The Yanks finished 84-78 this year with a -31 run differential. They finished 85-77 last year with a -21 run differential. All those signings, all those trades, and they ended up being a worse ballclub than the really bad 2013 team. Injuries in the rotation are going to be the easy excuse here, but the fact is this represents everything that's wrong with the Yankees' model these days. They aren't getting better through free agency, they aren't getting younger, they can't keep players healthy, they don't have any MLB-ready internal talent to replace all the lost injury production, and their organizational focus is more on honoring the past than building for the future. Clearly something needs to change in how this organization operates if they're going to be successful in the new MLB environment.