Hal Steinbrenner is excited about the young players coming up from the Yankees farm system. He said so a few days ago in comments to reporters at this year’s MLB Owners’ Meetings. As well he should be. The experiment seems to be working, exactly as it should. Investing ion young players doesn’t usually pay immediate dividends. It takes time and patience, but can produce some really good runs with the right players. It also requires the right mix of youth and veterans.
If you look at the most recent dynasty, you might think it started in 1996, since that was the first World Series win. I believe it started in the off season prior to the 1993 season when Roberto Kelly was traded for Paul O'Neill. In what I believe to be the greatest trade for the Yankees in the last 35 years, they gave up a decent center fielder for an 8-year veteran right fielder in O’Neill at the time and made room for Bernie Williams to take over in center. Both outfielders have plaques in Monument Park – enough said. The point is, they knew that it wasn’t enough to just promote the rookies. They had to get veterans to build around, to mentor the younger players. So while rookies like Williams, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, and Andy Pettitte were huge for them, they also needed proven veterans like O’Neill, David Cone, Wade Boggs, and Jimmy Key to round them out.
They also needed patience. It took 3 years from the aforementioned trade to the World Series ring, including a very frustrating playoff elimination in 1995 to build the foundations of the dynasty. The Yankees have some really promising talent coming up. Luis Severino is by far the most promising young talent on the team, posting an ERA of 2.89 and 8 Quality Starts out of 11 (QS% of 73%). Nathan Eovaldi, at age 25, matured quite a bit last year as a pitcher and has tremendous potential. Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka, both at age 26, can also become major factors if they stay healthy. Greg Bird surprised everyone with his clutch performance at the plate, hitting 9 of his 11 home runs when there was a run differential of 2 or less and 6 of 11 home runs in the 7th inning or later. Rob Refsnyder, age 24, hit over .300 and hit a pair of home runs in his 16 games. Gary Sanchez has been hitting the cover off the ball, and Aaron Judge is making waves on his way up the minor league levels. The Yankees have a lot of options here.
The thing is, you cannot expect to win big without a core group of veterans to build around. Alex Rodriguez has been an extraordinary resource for the younger players, spending time with some like Didi Gregorius and Aaron Judge to help them improve their game. Brian McCann shows some real leadership in the clubhouse and is expected to be part of the foundation. CC Sabathia has also been spending time with the younger players helping give guidance. Do they have enough? It’s not clear that they do, so a trade for some veteran talent in a key spot might be the right move for the team.
The Yankees’ recent history has looked like they were one or two players away from a championship team. They need more than that. They definitely need to invest in the kids, and Hal is right to be excited about their prospects. But let’s be honest. They need another strong, veteran presence with the credibility of a success story to add to the mix. Maybe it could be that pitcher Hal is determined to acquire.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row
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