An Open Letter to Yankees GM Brian Cashman

Dear Yankees GM Brian Cashman,

Today marks the start of the second day of Winter Meetings. While other teams like the Boston Red Sox and the Arizona Diamondbacks have made signature signings, your team and our team, the New York Yankees, has done basically nothing. While other teams have fulfilled their needs this offseason, you have stood still and might as well have been vacationing in the Bahamas. I would hope that you know that there are holes all over our roster, both in the infield and outfield, and in starting and relief pitching. The only reason why we even made the one-game playoff was due to the overperformance in the first half of the year. As soon as the second half came, our team’s lifeline ran flat, while teams like the Toronto Blue Jays ran right over us. We even lost to the lowly Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox to end the season. How pathetic. There are simply too many issues for our roster for you to pick this offseason to not make any moves. I’m not asking for a deal where you dump millions on millions on another failure of a player (we’ll discuss this later), but perhaps a trade or small signing would do. Just something to tell us that you, Brian Cashman, are still alive. Let’s take a look at the current roster and see where the Yankees can make some moves.


Infield
With the current roster, I’ll let you off the hook on catcher and first base. At catcher, with Gary Sanchez performing well in the Arizona Fall League and the need for a fourth outfielder, flipping John Ryan Murphy for Aaron Hicks was a decent move. At first base, it was not your fault that Mark Teixeira got injured. Greg Bird did an excellent job replacing him at first, hitting .261 with 11 homers and 31 RBIs in just 46 games. Bird is not only a great backup but also a trade asset. Although he lacks the infield prowess that Teixeira has in saving [redacted - I will discuss this player later]’s errors, he proved that he could come through clutch in critical scenarios. Parting with Bird and other players may be necessary to trade for someone like Danny Salazar or Carlos Carrasco, but that would be a move that would help the Yankees in a big way. 

Then, let’s talk about second base, the first area where the Yankees could make an improvement. I hope you haven’t talked to Stephen Drew this offseason. I know that Drew is a lovely individual, but he is certainly not a good baseball player. He is very, very, very far from that. So looking forward to next year, we have Dustin Ackley (a decent trade, by the way) and Rob Refsnyder. Let me get one thing straight real quick - please do not say the reason why Refsnyder doesn’t play is because of his attitude. If he can hit with RISP and field decently, he is an upgrade over Drew and he will be welcomed at second base. As long as he doesn’t choke his teammates (I’m looking at you, Jonathan Papelbon), his attitude is a non-issue. Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder will most likely make a decent platoon at second, but here’s the first area in which you can improve. We already lost out on Martin Prado after last year, we look like we’re not in the Ben Zobrist sweepstakes, and now the Yankees are linked with Asdrubal Cabrera. Ugh. 

At shortstop, the Yankees have a decent player in Didi Gregorius, who really improved in the second half and gradually throughout the year. If there’s one thing he needs to learn, it’s to not swing for the fences. Otherwise, his defense is above-average, and as long as he doesn’t start next year like he did last year with those silly errors, he should have a good year. And lastly, third base. Chase Headley, aka “The Bum” in Yankee twitterverse, is going to lead that position for next year and beyond. And there’s really not much you can do about it. I don’t want to repeat what my BBB colleagues have said about how stupid of a move that was, so I’ll restrain myself here. Plus, there’s always Brendan Ryan we can talk about, who just makes me even more mad. Please do everyone a favor; buy him out and cut him. Please.

Outfield
With Carlos Beltran stuck in right field and Jacoby Ellsbury stuck at center field for the time being, let’s discuss our issue in left field, starting with Brett Gardner. Your trade for Aaron Hicks was really meant to solve nothing, besides to hedge the issue with Chris Young leaving and providing a solid defensive replacement for Beltran in the late innings. So now Gardner - Gardner is not going to get the job done. His below-average second half in the past three seasons, both individually (each season) and combined (all three) as a statistic, shows that he is incapable of producing after the Midsummer Classic. Gardner has a friendly contract and has upside, so I know there are plenty of teams willing to hear him out. 

There are players like Justin Upton and Alex Gordon out there that could easily replace Gardner and do a better job. I understand that money is an issue (who thought I’d ever say that), but you must replace Gardner. There are several potential landing spots for Gardner who would yield great trades - the Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels come to mind. I grew up watching Gardner and thought he would blossom into a great player, but seeing his struggles increase month-by-month into the season, illustrated by his decreasing batting average as the year went on, and his speed yield into very few steals, is very frustrating. The Yankees would become a much better team if you could ship Gardner out and bring in a new outfielder. I don’t see Upton or Gordon wanting Heyward money; I know they will cost a lot, but the return on investment will almost certainly be great. 

Starting Pitching
Our rotation is basically filled with question marks. There’s Masahiro Tanaka with his elbow issues, CC Sabathia with his personal health issues, Nathan Eovaldi (who is currently being mentioned in trade talks) with his reliance on run support and inconsistency, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda who pitched terribly in the second half, and Luis Severino who is arguably our most consistent pitcher but still young. With Tanaka and Severino as our 1-2, our rotation order is unclear after that. Sabathia isn’t a trade asset and I certainly don’t want to speculate on him because of his personal health issues. First, it’s possible that you can trade Nathan Eovaldi, who came around in the second half, striking out more players in the second half, gave up fewer hits, and pitched to a 3.40 ERA in August and September. His reliance on over seven runs of run support per outing will simply not happen again next year and his 14-3 record is unbalanced with his 4.20 ERA. He has upside that could help the Yankees in a trade package for a more consistent starter. 

Next, Nova and Pineda are tradeable assets and I am dearly hoping you are able to trade one or both of them. Ivan Nova has not recovered from Tommy John surgery well, pitching to a 5.63 second-half ERA and a 6.17 ERA at Yankee Stadium. There’s also Michael Pineda, who was even worse with a 5.80 second-half ERA. Even though both pitchers performed well in the first half, keeping them in the second half and during a playoff run will hurt the team immensely. There’s no doubt that the Yankees need a more reliable starting pitcher, fitting nicely into a #3 or #4 role in the rotation. Starting pitching is actually the biggest need for the Yankees this offseason and the one that could be solved the easiest.

Relief Pitching
Our current strengths in this area are Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Justin Wilson. I’m hoping Chasen Shreve becomes an asset again because he certainly pitched well in the beginning of the year. With Miller’s name popping up in trade rumors, I was surprised because of the struggles of Betances toward the end of last year. Betances threw too many pitches every time out, rendering him unusable the next one or two games. His 1.50 WHIP, combined with walking two or more batters in several outings and allowing 22 baserunners in 14.2 innings in September illustrated that if he were to close, he would put too many baserunners on base and this could potentially lead to many blown saves. Additionally, Betances definitely did not perform up to his standards when Miller went down to injury in the middle of the season, pitching to a horrendous 6.06 ERA in the 3 weeks that Miller was out. Unless Miller was traded for a dominant pitcher like Jose Fernandez, do not trade him. 

The Yankees could use a solid 7th inning or 8th inning middle relief/set-up man, because this would take the pressure off of Betances and Miller to pitch every day if there were to be a close game on consecutive game days. We saw last year that your manager, Joe Girardi, had immense struggles with balancing the usage of these pitchers. When Betances came in during the middle of an inning, he often struggled. We also saw the usage of unreliable pitchers such as Branden Pinder in key scenarios because Betances and Miller were either already used or unavailable. The Yankees do need another solid 7th or 8th inning type pitcher in order to balance out our average starting rotation.

Summary
In terms of reasonableness, I think the Yankees could definitely acquire a solid 7th/8th inning setup man and also a starting pitcher via trade. Acquiring a new outfielder via the trade market or free agency is going to be difficult, but it can be done. The Yankees have to make some moves if they want to contend in the postseason next year. The American League East is going to be much more competitive, with the Red Sox signing David Price and trading for Craig Kimbrel. Mr. Cashman, please do something to show us Yankee fans that your cell phone is functioning and you are capable of creating trades and bringing in improved players when the wallet isn’t as big as it usually is. We are waiting for you.

Article by: Bryan Peng
Twitter: @bpeng7
Follow the BBB @bronxbomberblog

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