The decision (2018-2019 and beyond)

Any red-blooded American sports fan remembers the LeBron James “Decision 2010.”  Along with my undying allegiance to the Yankees, I am also (and unfortunately) a staunch Knicks supporter. I’ll never forget being in a musty dive bar on 2nd ave. waiting to hear where the greatest basketball player since Michael Jordan would be taking his talents. As history goes, the Knicks and other NBA hopefuls cleared payroll and prayed LeBron would choose them and change the future of their franchise forever. As we all know, this didn’t quite work out for the Knicks and the team has been basking in futility ever since. But, what if I told you New York had another chance at the decision? What if I told you it’s actually like the decision times 10?
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Baseball is different now. Revenue sharing allows small market teams to compete every year. As we all know the Yankees are also different now. Gone are the days of rampant free agent spending and ignoring the luxury tax. Now it seems our management wants the team ran more like a business instead of a franchise hunting for a title year in and year out. Or is it? The free agent class of 2018-2019 includes names like Dallas Keuchel, Yu Darvish, Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, and Bryce Harper. Yes, you read that right. I could name 20 other superstars who are or potentially could be free agents after 2018 (Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Matt Harvey). Could this supposed youth movement all be a ploy to dominate the free agency season?

Maybe ploy is a strong word, but it certainly seems like the stars are aligning for the Yankees to make a splash after the 2018 season. Let’s take a look at the lineup based on current contracts for 2019.

1B- None
2B- Starlin Castro (under contract through 2020)
3B- None
SS- Didi Gregorius (Under contract through 2019)
C- Gary Sanchez (Under Contract through 2021)
LF- None
CF- Jacoby Ellsbury (under contract through 2021)
RF- None
Masahiro Tanaka (Under contract through 2020 with an opt-out after 2017)
Dellin Betances (Under contract through 2019)
Aaron Judge (OF)
Gleyber Torres (SS)
Jorge Mateo (2B)
Clint Frazier (OF)
Greg Bird (1B)
Luis Severino (RHP)
Blake Rutherford (OF)
Justus Sheffield (LHP)
There are obviously other role players and lesser prospects to add, but based on the current state of the team, these are the guys the team is looking at as “MLB” level players.
As you can see, the Yanks are in as good a position as anyone to be a player for the big names of 2018. There isn’t much money tied up in aging players and they have a bevy of young players they can lean on who are making next to nothing by MLB standards. The only real immovable contract is Ellsbury, but then again anything can happen. What the Yankees do now and next year will be both extremely telling of what management's long term plan is for the team and crucial to setting up this team for another decade long run at championships.

How will they bridge the gap from now until 2018? The obvious mistake the Yankees want to avoid is investing in an aging one-dimensional player (i.e. Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo). Don’t get me wrong, this lineup needs to add power, which may come via addition by subtracting by shipping Brian McCann out of town and clear up the DH spot for a short-term, home run heavy guy. I think their heavy investment in the next two off seasons will be pitching, both starting and relief. It makes sense because of the current holes in their lineup and also because most of their top prospects are NOT pitchers.
The most intriguing angle of all this is what they do with all these high end prospects. I was all in on the youth movement and stockpiling young studs, but what happens now? Who develops and who doesn’t? If there really is a pipe dream of a team with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in one lineup, then guys like Torres, Judge, and Mateo are expendable. A trade for Chris Sale may not be as far-fetched as it once seemed. It also might make a lot of sense to make such a move. Again, these are the things you need to keep in mind when criticizing management’s personnel decisions. Each move will be calculated and made with a much bigger picture in mind. Regardless, it feels like after a few years of folding before even seeing the flop, the Yanks are once again a franchise holding all the right cards.

Article by: Jesse Bartley
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