In Baseball, the death sentence for a franchise in the short-term is being too good to be sellers but too bad to be buyers. When you find yourself good enough to win 80-85 games every season, you can’t buy or sell and then get stuck in mediocrity.
Mark Teixeira‘s disappearing bat, Alex Rodriguez‘s age, Chase Headley‘s shortcomings and the New York Yankees lack of a productive middle of the order in general are reasons New York finds itself stuck in mediocrity, a team not good enough to seriously compete, but not poor enough to justify selling its parts.
It’s clear the Yankees are rebuilding while trying to stay good enough to make it seem like it’s trying to compete, but if the team finds itself around .500 by July it needs to evaluate its own potential rather than its proximity towards the playoffs in the standings. If the team decides to sell, this is how it should operate with its infield players:
Chase Headley: Keep
The same reason it’s obvious to trade Headley is the same reason the Yankees need to keep him. He has little to no value. Headley has improved of late, raising his line to a still-terrible .218/.299/.584 with two home runs and four extra base hits in 119 at bats. With about 20% of the season’s opportunities over, Headley is on pace to challenge 10 home runs and 20 extra base hits over an entire season, making him possible the worst offensive player aside from some catchers.
However, nobody is taking his final 2+ years on his contract given this information and Headley is still useful in the field. The Yankees shouldn’t hesitate to take away his at bats and his starting job, but as money comes flooding off the books, New York should simply consider him expendable or a backup corner infielder, unless it can find someone to take on his contract or trade something of value, neither of which seems realistic.
Didi Gregorius: Keep
This one is pretty obvious. Gregorius was acquired to be the heir replacement for Derek Jeter and is under team control long-term. As a slick fielding shortstop with occasional hitting abilities Gregorius is the ideal modern day shortstop entering his prime. The Yankees will want to move players, but not the exact description of one who fits their definition of the “future”.
Starlin Castro: Keep
Similar to Gregorius, the Yankees gave up Adam Warren to acquire a young middle infielder with some solid defensive ability who is under team control long-term. Both players won’t see free agency until after 2020 so will be Yankees when the team is officially rebuilt. Castro isn’t as good of a fielder as Gregorius but he is a better hitter and the duo will be the Yankees’ middle infield combination at least through the end of their contracts.
Mark Teixeira: Move
A little more ambiguous, Tex needs to be dealt, but it’s unclear when or how. It was unscripted the former All Star would be hitting .211 with three home runs heading towards the final week of May, otherwise the obvious decision would be to hold onto the switch-hitter and make him a qualifying offer in the winter, resulting in either an extra pick or a one year contract. Now, Tex isn’t even justifying a one year commitment and he has killed all of his value for a deadline deal as well. The Yankees need to find a way to get value from him one way or another, but right now he’s not giving them the option. We will have to stay tuned and see what kind of June Teixeira has to figure out what to do with him.
Brian McCann: Keep
Buster Olney recently suggested the Yankees should trade McCann for a prospect like Joey Gallo from Texas, which sounds great in theory. Gallo has Giancarlo Stanton type of power and would represent a deadlier version of Aaron Judge, but he is still a prospect with a high strikeout rate. When you’re talking about large players with power who strike out a lot the results can range from Adam Dunn to Jack Cust, which presents a level of risk.
Of course, Gallo isn’t the only name in town and the overall meaning was McCann has trade value and the Yankees have Gary Sanchez waiting in the wings. The Yankees could try to break Sanchez in at the MLB level with veteran, Austin Romine sharing duties until Sanchez is up and running, but if Sanchez flops (and he has not proven he can hit major league pitching yet in a very small sample size), the Yankees are taking too many steps backwards. McCann is still in his prime and a major insurance policy. He also brings the value of time to the table to develop Sanchez. It’s enticing to trade someone who will surely be the next DH after 2017 but the Yankees have plenty of time to still get value and too many question marks to move him now.
Alex Rodriguez: Keep
Nobody is taking A-Rod and at this point, there’s no point in trying to move him. Rodriguez will retire a Yankee and New York is better off hoping he finds some power left in the tank than eating almost all of his remaining contract in the hopes he plays on the bench somewhere in the AL.