We are less than six weeks away from pitchers and catchers, and unless something dramatic happens, this will be the most unusual off season for the Yankees in some time. The Yankees have made no blockbuster, long-term, over-the-top deals for a big name. We have not seen a single flashy deal for an aging star, trying to catch lightning in a bottle. There is clearly a change in direction from previous years, and one that I believe to be a good one. It is one that I believe some of us will have to become accustomed to. After all, when is the last time you remember the Yankees in a rebuilding year?
Teams find themselves forced into rebuilding years when past stars age out and the team’s performance starts to decline. Usually it is when they realize that they cannot really fix them to with one or two additions to the roster. The Yankees are in that predicament now. Furthermore, they are responding exactly as they should. Instead of selling their future for the hope of a short-term win, they are resisting the temptation of overspending on risky players and focusing on acquiring young, perhaps under-developed talent, on which to rebuild. Essentially, they are rebuilding the core.
It is not unlike what they did in the early 90’s. For those of us old enough to remember, it was a brutal time for the Yankees. They began trading some of their talent for better, younger, and under-estimated talent, like Paul O'Neill. They acquired some veteran talent like Jimmy Key, David Cone, and Wade Boggs – players that were not only good on the field, but ones that could mentor some of the younger players coming up. They developed kids coming through the minors like Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Andy Pettitte. By the mid-90’s, they were contending again.
Here’s the thing that most of us are going to find unsettling. It takes time to develop the talent and chemistry needed for a winning team. Often it takes more than a year. Sometimes things do not work the first time, and you need to adjust. Mariano Rivera did not succeed as a starter, so they moved him to the bullpen. Derek Jeter was sent back down to the minors in 1995. It is that kind of tinkering I expect to see in 2015.
The Yankees have placed some bets. Didi Gregorius is the shortstop of the future for the Yankees, and it is his position to lose. Andrew Miller figures to be a major component of the bullpen. Dellin Betances will have to continue and prove that was not a 1-year fluke. David Carpenter will be under scrutiny. Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela will fight for second base. Forcing youngsters to compete based on their ability, under game conditions – this allows the Yankees to see how they can do in real game situations, handling the pressure. This is the right approach for rebuilding.
Please do not get me wrong – I am not giving up on 2015. I actually believe we are going to have a good year. I am just adjusting my definition of success. For too long, we have trying to find those 2-3 magical players that would get us back into the World Series, and we have paid a heavy price. The Yankees will ride out the bad contracts, they will weed out the players that cannot deliver on their potential, and they will get better. Now we are investing in the younger talent, and we have enough veterans to be respectably competitive. If we have a winning team built around a core of young players that will be around for the next 3-5 years, and we know that they can only improve, we have a foundation for the future.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
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