What a time to be alive. My day job has taken me overseas to Europe, as it often did prior to the start of the pandemic. Such travel has become more frequent in the last year, and my old work rhythms have largely returned. On one level, that brings me a great deal of satisfaction, as this has always been part of my job that I both enjoy and at which I’ve generally excelled. The flip side of that coin though is that it upsets my rhythm elsewhere, chiefly at home, where I have a young daughter who is at the stage of infancy where she is an entirely different person every few days. Far less important, but only marginally less upsetting, is the fact that I’ve missed much of the last week and change of Spring Training. We all have our traditions, and this is right at the point where I pay closer attention to what is happening with individuals who could be of importance to the Yankees this season. So you won’t get any interesting new insights about the kids, like Volpe and Peraza, or Non-Roster Invitees with a shot, like Willie Calhoun or Rafael Ortega, in this week’s SSTN Mailbag. However, my travel schedule has brought something interesting into stark focus aside from Spring Training.
Our Editor-In-Chief, Paul, and I have spoken frequently in recent months about the myriad of ways in which the Yankees seem to intentionally quash any goodwill they have generated over their years as an iconic franchise. In fact, many of our writers, Paul included, have openly wondered when the Mets will overtake the Yankees as baseball’s preeminent team, particularly now that the Mets seem to spend and act like the Yankees of yester-year. However, during my travel, I noted an uptick in baseball hats and various other merchandise being worn primarily by Italian people. What logo was affixed to all of these articles? The Yankees’ interlocking NY. Now, I fundamentally agree with the point Paul and others have made: the Yankees too often do everything they can to ruin their standing in fan’s hearts. However, while Yankee management might be very different and corporate compared to others in the modern game, trips abroad often remind me that it remains a Yankee Universe. That’s not to say that they can’t still screw it up pretty royally, but seeing all of those Yankee hats make me miss baseball all the more.
As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week’s SSTN Mailbag, I answer a single question: how would I configure the Yankee roster on Opening Day? Let’s get at it:
David asks: What would your lineup/roster look like on Opening Day? This includes assuming that Bader, Kahnle, Rodon, etc are all out to begin the year.
I have agonized over this question. In fact, had I been asked this question a couple of weeks ago, I might have answered very differently. The most recent Bronx Beat Podcast, on which I appeared with our own Pat Gunn and host EJ Fagan, actually managed to change my mind on a major point: Gleyber Torres. I still believe that if he sticks around in a Yankee uniform, he will have a Renaissance at the plate, but he’s also in the difficult position of standing in the way of two prospects who are quite clearly ready for the Majors. It’s scary, but I think the youth movement should arrive right now for the Yankees. The below is not what I necessarily predict will happen, but what I would do if I were GM right now. The team starts with the following moves:
1. Josh Donaldson is DFA’d. The Yankees are emphasizing defensive versatility, and if Donaldson doesn’t start, which I don’t believe he should, he is a useless part of the roster. Consider him a sunk cost and get rid of him.
2. Gleyber Torres gets traded. I’m not going to predict the return, and it is of course possible that additional pieces are on the move in this scenario as well, but I think it is entirely possible to deal Torres for a left-handed bat in LF. No, not someone of Bryan Reynolds’ caliber, but someone who fits this roster quite well as a lefty with pop, maybe with untapped athleticism. I personally like someone like Seth Brown, who I wrote about this offseason. I have no idea if he’s available, but that’s the type of hitter I want for Torres. It also would likely clear just enough salary to give the Yankees some salary breathing room at the Trade Deadline.
With that out of the way, here’s my Opening Day lineup:
1. Anthony Volpe, SS/2B, RHB
2. Aaron Judge, CF, RHB
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, LHB
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH, RHB
5. DJ LeMahieu, 3B, RHB
6. Oswaldo Cabrera, RF, S
7. Oswald Peraza 2B/SS, RHB
8. Seth Brown****, LF, LHB/S (****That type of player in return for Torres)
9. Jose Trevino, C, RHB
C Kyle Higashioka
OF Aaron Hicks
UTIL Isiah Kiner-Falefa
OF Willie Calhoun
1. Gerrit Cole, RHP
2. Luis Severino, RHP
3. Clarke Schmidt, RHP
4. Nestor Cortes Jr., LHP (first start might get pushed back a hair…)
5. Domingo German, RHP
CL Clay Holmes, RHP
SU Mike King, RHP
SU Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP
MR Ron Marinaccio, RHP
MR Wandy Peralta, LHP
MR Greg Weissert, RHP
MR Jimmy Cordero, RHP
LR/LOOGY Matt Krook, LHP
That’s the roster I’m taking North to begin the season. Hopefully, Rodon, Bader, Kahnle, and Trivino are all back by mid-late May, but even if they all came back at the same time, there are plenty of moveable bodies on the roster. Calhoun, Cordero, Krook, and Weissert are likely the first to be jettisoned, likely in that order, though I really think Krook is a dark-horse piece for the bullpen long-term. Additionally, the current 40-man roster doesn’t really have a logjam with multiple 60-day IL candidates and one or two near-certain DFAs (Florial, Abreu, etc.), so the Yanks are in good shape as well.
Dare I say…this roster looks pretty good and…fun?!?