The 2015 Yankees are starting to come together. Maybe not necessarily in the way I hoped they would be coming together, but at least they are coming together and some of the questions are being answered and the holes being filled.
Before the winter meetings started, I wrote The State of the Yankees: Winter Meetings Edition and commented on Brian Cashman’s recent comments to Mike Francesa. Now that the winter meetings are over, I thought it would be good to look at the current state of the team now that it’s more of a team by looking at three Yankees-related players to sign in the last week.
Let’s start with the worst part of the past week and work out way up, so that we can end things on a positive note.
David Robertson should have never been a free agent. He should have been taken care of prior to the end of the 2014 season and therefore he shouldn’t be the White Sox closer right now. But the Yankees gambled and lost with a homegrown impending free agent and decided to make a lateral move by bringing in Andrew Miller, who is pretty much a left-handed Robertson. I wanted both Robertson and Miller this offseason and if I had my pick between the two, I would have picked Robertson, but the Yankees got only one and now their bullpen is in the same shape it was in last year. It’s currently Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller and then the Goof Troop, which features a combination of Shawn Kelley and Adam Warren, neither of which I would trust to tell me the day of the week. Maybe Justin Wilson ends up being reliable or someone else steps up and becomes a trusted commodity for 2015 since the majority of relievers work on a year-to-year consistence basis. But if no one steps up, on the days when Betances or Miller are unavailable, it’s going to be another mental and emotional grind watching the Yankees’ latest collection of misfits try to navigate their way through the final outs of games the Yankees are winning.
The idea of having Robertson and Betances and Miller to lock up games after the sixth and asking a rotation that aside from Masahiro Tanaka has trouble going past the sixth inning anyway is such a beautiful idea that it makes me physically sick to think that it could have happened and now it won’t. And it could have easily happened. The White Sox gave Robertson four years and $46 million. The Yankees gave Andrew Miller four years and $36 million. So for $46 million, the Yankees could have had the best on-paper bullpen in the entire league and arguably their best bullpen since … well, ever. If you think $46 million is a lot of money to give to someone to pitch about 65 innings, just remember that last year, the Yankees gave a five-year, $85 million deal to Brian McCann with catcher being the deepest position in their farm system, three years and $45 million to a then-36-year-old Carlos Beltran and oddly enough he broke down, couldn’t throw a baseball and played in only 109 games and seven years, $153 million to Jacoby Ellsbury, which was money that could have been used to re-sign Robinson Cano. The Yankees could have re-signed Robertson, they just didn’t want to, and I’m not sure why.
So, goodbye, David Robertson. I will remember him becoming David “Copperfield” Robertson (it has always worked better than those who use “Houdini”) in Game 2 of the 2009 ALDS when he escaped the bases-loaded, no-out jam to extend the game before Mark Teixeira’s walk-off home run, which to date is one of only about two or three positive things Teixeira has done in four postseasons with the Yankees. Robertson proved himself as a middle reliever, the go-to seventh-inning guy, the best setup man in the league and then one of the most reliable closers in the game. Goodbye, David Robertson. You will be missed.
I wanted Brandon McCarthy back and thought the Yankees should have extended him before the end of the season, so that like Robertson, we never get to this point. (The same goes for the next and last person in this column.) But I understand the Yankees not wanting to invest in a multiyear deal with a pitcher with a history of varied success in the league and injury problems. So McCarthy hit the open market and got paid (four years, $48 million from the Dodgers) more than double what he has made in his career to date. I don’t have a problem with the Yankees not signing McCarthy, but I have a problem with Cashman saying the Dodgers “went to a level we couldn’t play on” as if the Yankees suddenly became the Rays or A’s. Maybe instead of “couldn’t” he could have said “didn’t want to” so that I didn’t have to worry that the Yankees are suddenly poor. It probably wouldn’t have been in the Yankees’ best interest to give a 31-year-old, coming off his only full season as a starter in the league, a contract that will end he’s 35. Then again, the Yankees’ current rotation is Masahiro Tanaka, who could be out for at least a year any time he throws a pitch (though I guess you could say that about any pitcher), Michael Pineda, who has made 13 starts in three years a Yankee (all last season) and CC Sabathia, who was rumored to have a career-ending injury last year and hasn’t looked like CC Sabathia since the end of 2012. When you look at a rotation that is full of question marks, a $12-million-per-year starter isn’t that outrageous, even given McCarthy’s spotty history.
The Yankees have to bolster their rotation. Chris Capuano is a good insurance policy and Hiroki Kuroda would be a nice addition and certainly provide stability, but those two aren’t going to take the Yankees to where they need to be. With Jon Lester off the board, that leaves Max Scherzer (yes, please) and James Shields (ehh, OK) as the only two free-agent starters left that can change my comfort level on the 2015 Yankees.
Welcome back, Chase Headley! If I had done a Yankees’ Offseason To-Do List, Headley might have been No. 1 because he allows the Yankees so much more flexibility when he’s in the lineup. Here is the Yankees’ Opening Day infield without Headley:
1B – Mark Teixeira
2B – Martin Prado or Rookie
3B – Alex Rodriguez or Martin Prado
SS – Didi Gregorius
And here’s the Yankees’ Opening Day infield with Chase Headley:
1B – Mark Teixeira
2B – Martin Prado
3B – Chase Headley
SS – Didi Gregorius
Headley being back on the Yankees means that both Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela will get more time in the minors, Martin Prado can play second or wherever he’s needed and not be forced to play only third base with A-Rod being an unknown and A-Rod can continue to be an unknown and not someone who is needed to be healthy and productive.
The four-year, $52 million deal for Headley might be too much, but as I always say, “It’s not my money,” and sometimes you have to overpay for things in the time of need. Last week I bought a Christmas tree in the Upper East Side and if I were to build a village around it with those light-up figurines, people might think the tree is part of the village. But my apartment needed a tree, that was the going rate for a tree of that size since the next size was double in price and then an additional fee or a stand that I wasn’t going to save, so I bought that tree. For the same price, outside the city, I could have bought a 12-foot tree or a forest of similar trees. But like the free-agent market this offseason, the Christmas tree market isn’t exactly a bargain.
I think we can all agree that there was never a four-year, $65 million deal on the table for Headley and that was a negotiating ploy. I know Cashman said, “Chase wants to be a Yankee,” and if he did take a 20 percent pay cut to be a Yankee then he is a legend in my book and I will buy a Chase Headley shersey right now, but I have a hard time believing the guy who was born in Colorado, grew up in Colorado, went to college in Tenneessee and California and played 908 games for the Padres before playing 58 games for the Yankees wanted to be a Yankee so bad that he was willing to leave $13 million on the table. But like I said, if he really did, I think I found my new favorite player in the post-Derek Jeter era. He did say he took less money to be a Yankee and maybe that $13 million is the difference he is talking about, so for now, Chase Headley is my favorite Yankee as usher in this new era.
Where is that era taking me? I have no idea. A little over a week ago, I said that on a scale of a 1 to 10, I was a 10 before the Yankees traded for Didi Gregorius and signed Andrew Miller and then that 10 became a 7. The Yankees didn’t re-sign Robertson or McCarthy and the rotation still scares me more than the thought of the Yankees relying on A-Rod to provide middle-of-the-order power, but for now I’m a 5 and with a couple of months to go until spring training, a 5 isn’t the worst place to be.