Yankees Problems Center Around A Single Player
by Cary Greene
August 12, 2022
Earlier in the week, I predicted that the 2022 Yankees are going to win 94 games. I even went so far as to suggest that the Orioles have the best shot of catching the Yankees (and it would take a Yankee collapse to facilitate that).
What is the problem with the Yankees? How is it possible to go from being so good to being so bad?
Are the Yankees going to win the World Series this year? Will they even get out of the first round of the playoffs, considering they have a .429 winning percentage since July 1st? (pssst: don’t look now but the Orioles are playing .697 since then and are now 6 games over .500 for the season, tied with the Rays in the standings and only two games behind the Blue Jays!).
There is a player we can single out, so we can at least point a finger somewhere! The story surrounding this player actually does summarize why the Yankees haven’t won and won’t win this either. The player's name is Aaron Judge, he’s of course not the problem - but rather, he’s the evidence that a massive problem exists.
Judge is the only home-grown star-player on the Yankees current roster and that is probably the real problem. The Yankees just haven’t gotten much from their farm system in the past several years - the minor-leaguers just aren’t translating, but why? Is the reason that the system is filled with bad prospects? Are the Yankees horrible at scouting and drafting talent? Well, hold your horses there, not so fast…
Granted, Luis Severino is out with an injury, but he’s a star right? If not, he’s a successful front third of the rotation big league pitcher. Jordan Montgomery was also a home-grown, legitimate big leaguer and Miguel Andujar is still riding the ol' shuttle still. The Yankees do have few home-grown players, but the tally seems a little light - as if someone was skimming, right? Somebody’s got to be taking players out from under Cashman’s nose! They must be! Let’s look at this a little bit closer.
One-thing Brian Cashman is really good at is hoarding depth. He can stockpile the Tim Locastro's, the Shelby Miller's and the Ender Inciarte's of the world like nobody’s business but unfortunately, all that mediocre depth often blocks young Yankees prospects who the jury is still out on. I sometimes play a game in my mind, testing myself to see how many players Cashman has brought in over the last 5 years, in the name of providing depth. Once a prospect is properly blocked ala-Cashman’s moves, then Cashman sends the prospect packing prematurely and the vicious cycle begins anew, blocking the next young prospect. He often leaves it up to other teams to figure out if a Yankee prospect is any good - apparently because he simply doesn’t know.
Reassuring Yankees fans is something I wish I could do, for I’d love to tell them that the Yankees have a light’s out reliever coming off the DL soon, who’s got a 0.00 ERA with K-Rate of over 29% and pinpoint command and a 1.68 FIP, but for Exhibit A, I have to inform Yankees fans that Cashman gave J.P. Feyereisen to the Brewers in 2019 for….Brenny Escanio, I’m so sorry! Oh, and now the Rays have him by the way.
Wouldn’t it be nice if I could brighten up the moods of Yankees fans by saying the Yankees have a young reliever they could deploy tonight in a high-leverage situation who has a 2.03 ERA with a 30.2% K-Rate and an LOB% of 82.7%? Unfortunately, for Exhibit B - I have to sadly inform Yankees fans that Ron Marinaccio was sent down to make room for a newly traded for reliever with a 5.75 ERA named Lou Trivino. Again, I apologize for sharing this news, but it appears Albert Abreu is out of options, so Marinaccio isn’t presently a big-leaguer, but Trivino and Abreu are, so they should suffice! Right?
It would be amazing if I could refresh Yankee fan’s enthusiasm for this 2022 team, who’s pitching can’t seem to hold a lead these days, by saying that the Yankees developed a different stud high-leverage, other than Marinaccio, and this guy can also spot start! He owns a 3.03 ERA this year and has gobbled up 63.1-innings and has a 24.7% K-Rate and a miniscule 4.8% BB-Rate, who just pounds the zone and eats-innings and who is only 26. Speaking somberly, I do need to mention, in the interest of establishing Exhibit C, that Brian Cashman gave Garret Whitlock to the Red Sox in the 2020 Rule-5 Draft and got, well, um - I mean, that is - nothing in return. Reports are that Yankees batters are slashing .136/.200/.205 against Whitlock with a .406 OPS. Oh, and the Yankees play Boston nine more times this year and then possibly again in the playoffs, so it shouldn’t matter that much, right?
That darn Rule-5 Draft that happens every December! I guess a GM needs open roster spots or he might not be able to protect certain key prospects that he and his crackerjack internal scouting team have pre-identified right? Well I would love to tell Yankees fans to feel solace and proclaim that in that same 2020 Rule 5 Draft, Cashman and his crew of trusted scouts hung onto a reliever who has a 2.28 ERA across 43.1 frames this season, with a 1.92 FIP and a 1.3 fWAR, who owns a 30.3% K-Rate, pinpoint command (5.1 BB%) and is only 26 years-old, but alas, for Exhibit D, I do need to enter, for the record, that Cashman also gave Trevor Stephan to the Guardians for, well, yeah. Nothing.
We’re not doing too well here. One thing that would be really nice for me to be able to pass along to Yankees fans is that they can put their hopes in a young starter who’s rocketed through the system this year and has now cracked the rotation! He owns a 2.30 ERA this year in 27.1-innings and he’s a lefty too! Opposing batters seem to have a very hard time picking up his fastball. There is the matter of establishing Exhibit E though, Cashman just traded J.P. Sears to the A’s, but he’s only got a 1.93 ERA with them so far so it’s probably safe to say he wouldn’t have helped NY all that much - he’s better off in Oakland since he’s only got 3 options remaining and is a pre-arbitration player. They need a young, good, controllable starter more than the Yankees do.
Well, at least it would be fun to talk about how the Yankees developed a good shortstop and how they can now transition stop-gap shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who has massive negative offensive value and only marginally acceptable defensive value, into more of a utility-role! It sure would be nice to have a shortstop who’s hitting for average about the same as Kiner-Falefa, but who owns a wRC+ of 108 (compared to Falefa’s pathetic 79 and a wOBA of .320 (compared to Falefa’s paltry .276) and an fWAR of 1.8 (compared to Falefa’s .6).
Exhibit F demands however that I do need to point out to Yankees fans that the stopgap shortstop the Yankees needed, one who plays fairly average defense and has solid positive offensive value, Thairo Estrada, is now with the Giants. Um, Cashman got "Cash Considerations" in return, so re-upping with Aaron Judge should now be more possible, since the Yankees have some extra-cash, right? Adding up IKF’s .6 fWAR and Yankees utility man Marwin Gonzalez's .5 f-WAR gives the Yankees +1.1 fWAR. Now I know that’s still .7 f-WAR shy of Estrada’s worth, but hey, it’s something Cashman can hang his hat on, right?
There must be something I can say about how the Yankees developed the current 2022 American League’s Stolen Base King, who’s been wreaking havoc on the basepaths this season, to the tune of an elite Fangraphs BsR of 3.6 and who’s already a 1.9 fWAR player! In fact, he happens to have logged 846.2-innings at shortstop this season, posting a whopping DSR of +8, an UZR/150 of 1.4 and who’s 7 Outs-Above-Average as a defensive shortstop this season! Since Cashman gave Estrada away, they could really use a speedster like this atop the lineup! This guy has a sprint-speed of 30.2 is in the Top 1% of MLB so worry not, the Yankees developed a really good shortstop who changes games with the glove and with his speed! Just what they wanted this offseason. A defensive wizard who could run like the wind!
Wait a minute though, We do need to enter Exhibit G, you know, for the record and all. You see, Jorge Mateo is actually with the Orioles these days, Cashman traded him for Sonny Gray back in 2017 because Yankees analytics guys knew Mateo would never make it in the big leagues and besides, Yankees fans were sure to love Sonny! Well, Sonny didn’t make the Bronx too sunny did he? Not to worry, the Orioles only have Mateo for the next 3 ½ years, Cashman may be able to sign him once he’s a free agent in the 2026 offseason.
I’ll stop with Exhibit G, but I’ve mentioned 7 game-changing prospects who Cashman literally gave away for basically nothing. So - yeah! The problem is that Aaron Judge doesn’t have Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, or Jorge Posada playing alongside him in the Bronx. He’d better hit a ton of home runs if wants a ring.
No point in fretting Yankees fans, Cashman’s been very busy wheeling and dealing this offseason and what’s even better, the Yankees still have Anthony Volpe, so maybe by 2024 they’ll have a shortstop who can put up an fWAR equal to or even better than Thairo Estrada or Jorge Mateo - and maybe in a few years Cashman will be able to sign Garrett Whitlock or J.P. Feyereisen, or J.P. Sears, or Ken Waldichuk (who we didn’t even discuss) to shore up the pitching, or… who knows, maybe he’ll nab a big pitcher from outside the organization!
Aaron Judge is the only shining-example that shows that the Yankees can develop a star player, but heck, Yankees fans might settle for a few highly above average players. Well, that’s been too much to ask of Cashman up to this point. The big question is, who else will this guy squander away for nothing?