The Tuesday Discussion – How Would You Fix the Yankees (Just One Move)
This week we asked our writers:
If you can do one thing (and only one thing) to turn the Yankees around, what would you do? Be specific.
Their answers are below:
Mike Whiteman – There’s not a lot of options out there for this team. Aaron Boone isn’t getting fired, there are no good trading partners in April. Aside from the return of Luke Voit, the team we see now is the one that will (or will not) get the team out of its funk.
That’s not to say there isn’t a bold move that can send a message and improve the team: the Yanks should make Kyle Higashioka their primary catcher. In limited action, Higgy has outperformed Sanchez in both 2020 and the early part of 2021.
Now, I’m aware that Higashioka hasn’t caught for an extended period at the major league level, and this may need to be reevaluated as the weather gets warmer, but I think there’s a potential short term spark in making this change. Will it hurt Sanchez’s feelings? Maybe. Will it push him to better performance when he gets back in the lineup? Maybe? Maybe not.
Lincoln Mitchell – The first thing I would do is recognize that the nonsense about trying to win the World Series every year handcuffs the Yankees into constantly trying short term strategies that make it very hard to win in the long term. So, for example the Giancarlo Stanton trade made sense for 2018, but now leaves the team saddled with a massive contract that cannot be moved. Similarly, the contracts to players like Hicks and LeMahieu make, or made, sense for the short term but not even the medium term. So, in my view the Yankees need to build a championship core that can win in 2022-4 not 2017-9. That means figuring out what to do with Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Devi Garcia and others who might be able to contribute in those years and holding on to good players in their prime like Cole and Judge. It also means trying to move other players who are in the decline phase of their careers but might have value elsewhere. The Yankees farm system, again despite what the local media claims, is about average. They need to bring in players that are or will be good before their 27th birthday and phase out players who are unlikely to be good after 2022 or so.
Paul Semendinger – I think it is time for the Yankees to recognize that Aaron Boone was not the man for the job. He’s a nice guy. He’s a good guy. I only hear good things about him. Right now, he’s not a great manager. Might be be a good manager someday? Yes. If he a great manager now? No. Not at all. The Yankees have been flat. There is no life and no energy to this team. The thing fans want to see, most of all, after winning (at least) is passion and fire… fight. These Yankees have none of that. They just seem like they’re going through the motions. Game after game.
I don’t see many roster moves that can be made. Will another starting pitcher spark the offense? If the Yankees could get a batter, who goes? This is the problem. The Yankees locked themselves in when they built this team. If it worked, it would have been amazing. It didn’t work. And they have no financial flexibility to address any problems. Thus, the only hope to turn it around, if a move has to be made, would be to change the dynamics of the team – how it functions on a day-to-day basis. And the only way to do that is to change the manager.
There is one other change that is THE thing that has caused the Yankees to make poor personnel decisions is letting the luxury tax be a hard cap. That cap dictates how the Yankees use their finances and it has led to them making poor decisions continually. The big change that would change everything would be for the Yankees to acquire the necessary talent when it is available to assure a winning team is put on the field.
Derek McAdam – There are several options, but I would create a lineup that is more focused on getting on base instead of swinging for the fences every time. The Yankees took three of four from the Indians, but they struggled to get runners across from hits other than home runs in the final three games. This might get the offense to have more rallies and score more runs as opposed to just relying on the home run ball.
Chris O’Connor – If I could do one thing to turn the Yankees around, I would do everything I can to trade for another starting pitcher. There are two avenues that the team could take with this: trade for either a pending free agent who might be expensive now but will come off the books after the playoffs or a younger starter under team control for a few more seasons. Max Scherzer fits the first condition and Luis Castillo of the Reds the second. While Scherzer may seem unrealistic, if the the Nationals stumble until the trade deadline, they would have to consider moving him. Remember, they came close to moving Bryce Harper to the Astros at the 2018 deadline when he was a pending free agent. I would strongly consider giving up young talent and/or an impact bat (like Clint Frazier) in a trade like this that can get the Yankees over the hump.
Andy Singer – As frustrating as April has been for the Yankees, I’m not sure that there’s a single silver bullet that will magically make the Yankees an unstoppable force. The reality is that this is a team whose players have massively underperformed relative to what the backs of their baseball cards say they should be. The law of averages dictates that an overcorrection (and likely a lot of wins) are coming someday soon for the Yankees. I was excited by the team’s outlook in the offseason, and I’m not ready to abandon that hope after an April that I expect to be an anomaly rather than the rule.
However, I have said numerous times that Aaron Boone frustrates me as a manager. I’ve said it numerous times, but I really needed to see some growth from Boone in 2021, and thus far, I see no evidence that he’s learned any lessons from previous mistakes. I know the perception exists that he is merely a puppet for the analytics staff. I don’t particularly subscribe to that point of view, however I do believe that both the Yankees’ analytics staff and internal scouting department have significant input regarding pre-game lineup cards and general pitching strategies – this is true of all good organizations in the modern game. That being said, games go off-script with regularity, and regardless of game plans formulated pre-game, all managers have to deviate from plans when the game throws a curveball. Boone consistently falls short when asked to make a call in-game, particularly with regards to pitching adjustments. Additionally, while I understood going with a personality that was more relaxed than Girardi (though I really liked Girardi as manager), we’re now four years away from the Girardi era, and there is some evidence that the team no longer responds to Boone’s laid back attitude. Combine that with the sloppy brand of baseball the Yankees have often played during the Boone era, and I wouldn’t be upset with a managerial change.
Unlike some, I am not a fan of some of the big name managers out there on the market – hiring a big shot manager in the New York market is more eye wash than it is an actual baseball decision. In fact, I think the best choice for Yankee manager may already be in the dugout: Bench Coach, Carlos Mendoza. Mendoza is a baseball lifer who played minor league ball for 13 seasons, speaks multiple languages fluently, has coached in both the minors and majors for the last 13 years, has been lauded for his leadership qualities, and most importantly, he has multiple years of experience actually managing baseball games. As we’ve witnessed with Boone, actual experience managing baseball games matters. With Mendoza’s extensive minor league experience, I expect that he is able to thread the needle between tough love and nurturing talent, as needed. Mendoza could prove to be the perfect melting pot of the Girardi and Boone schools that this team needs. I think Mendoza is about to become a hot commodity on the managerial carousel, and I’d be thrilled to see him become Yankee manager.
Patrick Gunn – I would increase the starting pitching depth. The Yankees need more consistent starters behind their core group. The lineup will score runs once it breaks its collective slump (as shown this weekend). Gerrit Cole is an ace and the bullpen has surprised me with Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa stepping up behind Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Darren O’Day, and Justin Wilson. The Bombers need more starters, plain and simple.