Perspectives: Poor Planning
by Paul Semendinger
March 16, 2023
The Yankees find themselves in a difficult situation. They're in what I consider to be desperation mode.
Why do I feel they are desperate? It's because they're trying all sorts of things that, to me, make little or no baseball sense.
I'll get to the specifics in a moment, but let me also state that some of these idea might actually work out. And if they do, that's great. I actually hope they do!
There is an old saying, "Necessity is the mother of invention." And that can be true. Last year, with no other options, the Yankees tried Oswaldo Cabrera in the outfield. That seemed to work well enough.
But rather than having to try things on the fly, I would have much preferred that the Yankees planned better over the off-season. They had all winter to address certain questions, but they didn't. Then, in Spring Training, another major concern arose which was made much more challenging because they didn't plan well enough at the start.
Time passes quickly. We often forget the trials and tribulations from the past. Since we live in an age of vast information, all coming at us very quickly, we often forget the worries of even a few days or weeks ago. What was big news yesterday is often forgotten tomorrow.
With that thought in mind, please allow me to take a step back to the start of Spring Training.
This Yankees team, the 2023 Yankees, a team that we're supposed to believe will compete for the World Series, went into camp with questions at the following positions:
Third Base and
To me, that's a lot of questions for a team that is supposed to compete at the highest levels.
There were (and are) also questions about the bullpen, but I'm going to focus on the other positions for now. (To the Yankees' credit, they seem to figure out the bullpen answers every year.)
In addition to the above, the Yankees went all in on Harrison Bader as their starting center fielder. They did this even though Bader is a player who does not stay healthy. He has never played in 140 games in a season. In addition, each year (not counting the shortened 2020 season), Bader has played in fewer and fewer games:
2018 = 138 games played
2019 = 128
2021 = 103
2022 = 86
Harrison Bader seems to be extremely talented, but he has never been a bastion of durability. It was a poor plan, from the start, to assume that the team should be built around him as the starting centerfielder.
The fact that Harrison Bader got hurt in Spring Training could not have come as a surprise to anyone. And, because the Yankees never figured out left field, they are now in a situation where they are taking desperate measures to figure out who will actually play two of the three outfield positions to begin the 2023 season.
The Yankees brought in a lot of non-roster players. Maybe it'll be one of them.
The Yankees keep running Aaron Hicks out there even though he looks to be a shell of the player he once was - many years ago - and he, too, is not a person who has proven to be durable.
This desperation now includes trying out Oswaldo Cabrera and Isiah Kiner-Falefa in centerfield to try to replace Bader for at least a few weeks.
And those moves might work. They just might. But, they also might not. None of those moves are ideal. None of those moves scream, "This is a championship team!"
For the record, before last year, Oswaldo Cabrera never played in the outfield in his entire professional career. He only played there last year because the Yankees found themselves without any other options. Necessity, again, was the mother of invention. The Yankees tried it with the hopes that Cabrera could make it work.
And, he did. Somewhat. It looks like Oswaldo Cabrera could be a decent outfielder. I hope he is. But now they're asking him to try out the most important position in the outfield - centerfield.
Right now, a little more than two weeks before the start of the season, Cabrera is one of the players the Yankees are auditioning for centerfield. He's never played center before this year's Spring Training.
That's one of the options the Yankees have been reduced to.
The next option they plan to try in centerfield is also an infielder, Isiah Kiner-Falefa. This is also a desperation move. IKF has never played in the outfield as a Major Leaguer.
As a professional, IKF did have some (very) limited outfield experience. I'll list it all here:
2015 - 8 games in left field, Single- A: He had 4 chances and caught them all.
2016 - 1 game in centerfield, Double-A. He played 4 innings there. He made a catch on the only ball hit to him.
2017 - 1 game in centerfield, Double-A. He played 9 innings. He made two catches...and he also made an error.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa has not played the outfield as a professional since 2017. Or, put differently, he has not played in the outfield since Aaron Judge's rookie year. And yet... and yet, the Yankees are going to give him an audition to see if he can play there.
That desperation came from poor planning.
The Yankees were never able to address left field this winter. That was a problem. They compounded that problem by not figuring out a good back-up plan for centerfield knowing the player they chose to play there has never stayed healthy.
Does that seem like good planning?
To me, it does not.
And, yes, the Yankees could put Aaron Judge in centerfield, but they also must know that that makes the team weaker in right field. To address one spot, they'll weaken another.
The same is true with the idea of moving Judge, out of position, to left field, as they've also played with, again, because they never acquired a legitimate left fielder.
Think back to the championship Yankees teams. Go through them one-by-one in your head. Think of the players at each position.
How many of those teams had this many questions to start the year?
Looking at shortstop, the Yankees also find themselves guessing more than they should. They have looked at IKF and Oswald Peraza, and Anthony Volpe. They have still not announced a starter.
As an organization, they do not seem to know if their shortstop of the future is Peraza or Volpe. Both are highly touted. Both could be stars. But they both can't play shortstop.
Wouldn't it have made sense for the Yankees to have a better plan there?
Did the Yankees try Derek Jeter in different positions as he ascended to the big leagues, or did they keep him in one position so he could develop there?
Shouldn't the Yankees know by now which of the two players, Peraza or Volpe, they wish to invest in as the shortstop? Shouldn't a long-term plan been part of this process? Does it serve either of these players' long-term interest to keep moving them as the Yankees try to figure it out who should play there?
To me, again, I don't think it serves a future shortstop, one who might be great, to be working out at second base. The Yankees should put their shortstop of the future at... shortstop. Keep him there and let him develop. Then move the other guy.
I discussed this a lot last year, but the Yankees wasted the opportunity to truly see what Oswald Peraza can do at the big league level when they did not play him regularly at shortstop last season when he was called up. That was a huge opportunity cost. They wasted valuable time and lost valuable information. They'd know better today what to do at shortstop if they Peraza last year.
But they didn't.
It was, quite simply, poor planning. Bad planning. They had one of the players they thought might be their shortstop of the future, and they glued him to the bench.
This same fact holds true for Estevan Florial.
Might he have been able to play centerfield in Bader's absence? Maybe. But the Yankees never gave him an extended opportunity. He might have failed. He might not be any good, but he never had the chance to show his abilities one way or the other.
For years we heard about how great Florial was going to be. Then, as soon as he got close, the Yankees never gave him a chance.
And this is where we are.
Might it all work out? Sure. It might. But it seems like the Yankees are staking their season on a lot of hopes and prayers.
The Yankees, already, are to the point where they're using duct tape to patch problems that with better foresight and better planning should have been better addressed months ago.
(I also didn't address the Montas injury here, one they should have seen a mile away.)
But these things weren't addressed. And, here we are.
One reason the Yankees didn't go for some players to solidify the questionable positions was that it was reported that they wanted to stay under a certain luxury tax threshold.
Yes, the Yankees spend money. But I have argued they don't spend wisely. The spend big and then they go small. We've seen this for years.
It makes little sense to buy a Ferrari if you can't pay for the gas to drive it. That's how I feel the Yankees approach their payroll. "Of course we spend." And they do. They are spending a ton on Josh Donaldson, for example. But they don't have a legitimate left fielder. And they're trying infielders in centerfield. They're doing that because their roster decisions have left them with no financial flexibility.
Hal Steinbrenner just said that the Yankees shouldn't have to spend $300 million to win. He's correct, of course, in the abstract. But once certain decisions are made, like acquiring Donaldson, or paying Aaron Judge $40 million a year, in order to address future concerns, you have to spend.
I have said this about Aaron Judge's contract from the start. Judge's contract will eat up a large percentage of the Yankees salary cap space. (And yes, it is an imposed cap.) That will prevent them from acquiring other needy players if they are unwilling to spend beyond a certain point. Since this is the case, by definition, Judge's salary could be a barrier to their ability to win.
Instead of hearing the owner talking money, I'd rather hear the him say, "I'll spend whatever it takes to win."
Along those lines, please take a guess on what the Yankees earned last year in ticket sales alone. This does not include any of their other lucrative revenue streams.
According to a report, how does $345 million sound?
The Yankees earned that just in ticket sales. How much do the earn from beer sales? And hot dogs. And for Yankees shirts and hats and all those products. How much do the Yankees earn from YES, MLB-TV, and WFAN (among others)?
When I say the Yankees can afford a larger payroll, that point is obvious.
The Yankees charge their players for wifi on the team's private plane. You read that correctly. The Yankees, baseball's most valuable franchise by billions of dollars, don't give the players free wifi. Here's the story: Playing for the Yankees Has Its Perks. In-Flight Internet Is Not One of Them. Of the 30 MLB teams (according to the article), only two don't give this "perk." Those two teams are the Reds and the Yankees. It just seems kind of foolish. Are the Yankees that much in need of cash?
Mets and Yankees:
Finally, I have often also said that when it come to Public Relations, the Yankees don't do a very good job. I've also noted that the Mets do. The Mets are more energetic. They're more fun. They engage their fans more. I have also said that because of this, the Yankees could fall to becoming New York's second baseball team. It has happened before. And when it does, my worry is that the Yankees will have less money to spend, and the budgets will get tighter and tighter.
The Mets have an owner that most often talks of winning. What we hear from the Yankees is, The Mets talk the way the Yankees used to talk. They say, "We will do whatever we need to do to win."
The Mets are doing a great job getting people excited about their team. See this article : NY Mets Announce March 25 as First-Ever Amazin' Day: How to Get Free Stuff, Events and More. When have the Yankees done something fun for their fans like that?
I know Satchel Paige warned to never look back because something might be gaining, but the Yankees should look back because, for fun, and popularity, the Mets might be passing them soon.