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  • Writer's pictureAndy Singer

Hal Steinbrenner's Untouchables

By Andy Singer

February 24th, 2024


Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Hal Steinbrenner faced the media down in Tampa this week for the first time since the 2023 season's post-mortem press conference. For an owner that many of us have considered absent in recent years, I suppose we should be happy that he's taking ownership seriously enough to appear in public to talk about the team more than once per calendar year. The big news that came out of Steinbrenner's comments was both his confirmation that the Yankees were both over the last luxury tax tier, but also willing to add salary to the roster if it meant improving the team. Steinbrenner was cagey about what that meant, exactly, but after an off-season in which the Yankees went over the last luxury tax threshold for the first time in a long time, it was refreshing to hear.


While that statement got all of the press, another set of comments got buried by the tabloid news cycle. Steinbrenner mentioned his concern about starting pitching depth, which many took as a veiled overture to Blake Snell's agent, Scott Boras. However, in the same conversation, Steinbrenner specifically mentioned other team's high prices in trade talks this off-season. Again, this flew under the radar, but Steinbrenner very clearly drew a line in the sand on trade talks (odd for an owner who has always appeared to be a finance guy more than a personnel guy, but I digress): Steinbrenner named three Yankee prospects who were not available via trade. The names of the prospects Steinbrenner called out as untouchable? Spencer Jones, Chase Hampton, and Will Warren.


I found this statement both enlightening and confounding. Let's start with the low-hanging fruit. Doesn't something/someone seem to be missing from that list? Let's take a look at some of the most reputable industry prospect rankings for guidance:



One of these is not like the others. Jasson Dominguez was conspicuously absent from Hal Steinbrenner's untouchables list. We've had discussions about Dominguez as a prospect numerous times here at SSTN, ranging from whether he's over-hyped as to how soon he'll be an All-Star. The real answer usually lies somewhere in between. Dominguez is an excellent prospect with a couple of identifiable flaws that may or may not smooth out with additional development or game reps. What is undeniable is that if you aggregate all of the most reputable prospect lists available to the public, Dominguez averages out as the Yankees' best prospect, and it's not particularly close. Spencer Jones has shot up prospect lists this winter, and he hangs around in some of Dominguez's spots on some lists, but he's on the back-half or "Just Missed" section of other Top-100 lists. Dominguez is pretty clearly a better prospect right now than Jones, regardless of how you judge the ceiling.


There's another lens through which we should think about Steinbrenner's untouchable list: these guys are untouchable?!? I can understand Spencer Jones, to a point: the tools are huge and some evaluators think he'll be a 40-homer capable centerfielder at maturity...but Will Warren? The Yankees have always been higher internally on Warren than the rest of the industry, but are you telling me that if Will Warren was the last piece to the puzzle on a trade for an ace-caliber starter, Hal wouldn't approve the deal?!? Or Chase Hampton, who is an excellent prospect, but clearly not one of baseball's inner circle prospects?!?


This is truly the public iteration of prospect hugging, something the Yankees have been accused of previously. Yes, this is the best crop of prospects the Yankees have assembled since the Baby Bomber group of 5-8 years ago, but that doesn't mean almost anyone should be untouchable, as long as the price is right. I don't think it was smart for Steinbrenner to publicly declare that anyone, besides the obvious, is untouchable, but if he was going to name untouchables publicly, he pretty clearly highlighted the wrong guys.


Maybe he doesn't consider guys like Jasson Dominguez or Austin Wells (who also ranked above the group above on a couple of prospects lists) to be prospects anymore, despite their remaining rookie eligibility; maybe Hal was just throwing random ideas out there; or maybe Steinbrenner is so uncomfortable speaking publicly that he just blurted out the first names he could remember from conversations with Brian Cashman. However, I seriously worry that Hal was dead-on with the Yankees' current thinking on prospect untouchables.


I have been accused in the past of being a prospect hugger, and it is certainly true that my proclivity is to value prospects highly, as a good farm system is the key to producing consistently excellent rosters year-over-year. However, I recognize the difference between the very small group of untouchable prospects that exist across baseball at a given time, and everybody else. Dominguez and maybe Jones are the only potential untouchable prospects in the Yankee system right now; everyone else should be available, even if the Yankees set a high price.


The 2024 Yankees need to be all-in on a championship, and they shouldn't allow the inclusion of the Will Warren's or Chase Hampton's of the world in trades to stop them from making clear win-now moves. Let's hope that Hal's public comments on this front were just misinterpretations from internal conversations...you know, like when he said that the Yankees could fix the offense by bunting more.

20 commentaires


jeff
25 févr.

I also think Hal doesn't think of Dominguez and Wells as "prospects" since they have both already made their Major League debuts.


As far as Chase Hampton and Will Warren, they will be much needed depth pieces, as those are the two who will suddenly find themselves as regular members of the Yankees pitching staff. Take away Hampton and Warren, and the Yankees are left with Clayton Beeter, who is more projected to be a reliever than a starter. Otherwise, all the Yankees will have are a few "not ready for prime time players" and their starting pitching will once again become a major weakness after injuries occur.


As far as giving one or both of them up for a…

J'aime

jjw49
24 févr.

The number of home grown players playing in the Bronx... so far...I count 3.. Voloe, Judge and Wells... if I miss someone my bad!

J'aime
Melfman1
Melfman1
24 févr.
En réponse à

Even more if you count relievers:

Loaisaga

Gil

Marinaccio


Plus

Cortes (drafted by the Yanks)

Kahnle (drafted by the Yanks)

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Melfman1
Melfman1
24 févr.

I think you’re right in thinking that Hal doesn’t really consider Dominguez and Wells “prospects” any longer considering they were already promoted and performed well in their debuts. It is semantics, I suppose considering they are both still “rookie” eligible in terms of playing time.


Additionally, considering that the team has traded away 9 or 10 of their top minor league starters in the past 2 seasons, labeling Hampton and Warren as off-limits is not really that surprising. Think about it, we’ve already lost King, Thorpe, Brito, Vasquez, Wesneski, Sears, Waldichuk, Sikkema, Way, Medina, etc. I believe the point he’s trying to make is that he’d be more willing to trade position players or relievers than their near MLB rea…


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fuster
24 févr.

it sometimes transpires that good and honest people believe in the sincerity of other people


even when it's likely that those others are engaged in what's known as 'puffery'.


a salesman determined to pass off some lemony-scented used car will proclaim the car's many virtues and tell the rubes that he will not part with the thing

unless it's to a person oof high morals

and clean practices

who will give it a good home

and gentle treatment

and pay a price that demonstrates a true commitment

J'aime

Alan B.
Alan B.
24 févr.

I do agree with the premise that he no longer considers Wells nor Dominguez prospects, but rookies on the Yankees. I am not surprised by Hal mentioning Jones & Hampton (remember, he did OK trading away Drew Thorpe this off season), but the inclusion of Warren surprises me. I know he finished his season in SWB in similar fashion to what Montgomery did in 2016, and I know Monty continued to turn heads from his first throwing session in 2017, so is it possible with Warren having about 3/4 of a season in AAA, that Warren is showing he really is just about ready? Personally, I liked the kid, so I watched at least parts of of all his sta…

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