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What type of team are the Yankees trying to build? – Boston Herald


The Yankees are trying to build a house without several of the necessary components.

They, undoubtedly, have a strong foundation. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole provide that and the knowledge that, barring a disaster, things will not collapse. Players like Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino, DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres are something like load-bearing walls. The bullpen helps keep things in place too, building off the foundation and supporting the things around them to supply useful shelter.

But the Yankees are still trying to build — or in this case, win — with an entire wing of the house still under construction. Though we can assume that they aren’t done building, we can also safely assume that major shakeups aren’t coming. This team as it currently stands is probably 90% of what they’ll bring to the regular season, maybe with a Carlos Rodon or Andrew Benintendi added to the blueprint.

The construction plan is to use the beams that are already in place to stabilize everything, with the hope that a few ornate additions in the form of minor-league prospects can be the finishing touches. That is both a good, proven way of getting things done, but it also ignores some of the current problems in the interest of future value. Right now, the house they’re showing is missing several important features.

For instance, if you were to dig beneath the foundation, you’d find that there’s not a lot of depth on the major league roster. A team with championship aspirations should not hand one-third of its starting lineup to Oswaldo Cabrera, Jose Trevino and Oswald Peraza, which is exactly how the bottom-of-the-order projects right now. Now, re-signing Benintendi or procuring another corner outfielder would help tremendously. Doing so not only bolsters the starting nine, it also shifts Cabrera to a bench utility role or even to Triple-A for more seasoning. But until that happens, it looks like Cabrera and Aaron Hicks will be splitting left field duties, creating one of the uglier rooms in the house.

The bench, a fairly important part of a team that has both struggled with injuries recently and will be one of the oldest in the league, is not much to look at. Hicks, Josh Donaldson (assuming DJ LeMahieu starts at third base), Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Kyle Higashioka were all atrocious hitters last year, now with an added layer of offseason mold sitting atop them.

As for the shortstop position, this is what you’re going to get. Carlos Correa would change the look of the entire house, representing an expensive but helpfully transformative renovation. If the Yankees don’t want to commit gobs of money to that renovation, they’ll have the Peraza and Isiah Kiner-Falefa eyesore reminding them how things could have looked if they weren’t so cost-conscious. Anthony Volpe could be something nice whenever he’s ready, but like an opulent chandelier hanging from the ceiling, that’d really just be more of a distraction than a utility at this point. Perhaps, like a chandelier, Volpe will appreciate in value as the years go by. But for 2023, he’s probably more of a decoration.

There is some precedent for a team winning it all without an entire wing of the house. The 2019 Washington Nationals captured imaginations and the World Series while riding a top-heavy roster to an upset over the Astros, eschewing things like MLB depth and minor league cachet while focusing on winning that year and that year alone.

Those Nationals also had an uninspiring pair of offensive catchers (Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes), a defense-first center fielder (Victor Robles), some late-career veterans getting big at-bats (Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera) and some uber-talented players in their 30s whose bodies were slowly starting to betray them (Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Adam Eaton would be the Nats’ version of Stanton, LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo).

Of course, the Nationals also had a precocious 26-year infielder, a homegrown, do-it-all hitter in the teeth of his prime, and a wunderkind taking the league by storm. In Washington’s case, the first member of that trio was Trea Turner, who is a better player than the Yankees’ version, the mercurial Gleyber Torres.

The Yankees’ homegrown hero, Judge, is miles better than Anthony Rendon ever was though, and unlike with the Nats and Rendon, the Yankees convinced their guy to stick around for a second contract. But Rendon’s injury history in his early 30s — he’s played in just 105 games over the last two seasons — should be on the Yankees’ mind as well, especially because their slugger has the type of body that’s hard to envision aging gracefully. None of Peraza, Cabrera or Volpe will be Juan Soto, because Soto is a baseball alien who slashed .333/.438/.741 in that World Series while celebrating his 21st birthday.

One advantage these Yankees have over the 2019 Nats is in the bullpen. By the time his team reached the World Series, Washington manager Davey Martinez essentially only trusted two relief pitchers, Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle. The rest of the late innings either went to low-leverage options when the games were already decided, or to starters who converted to the bullpen out of necessity. Aaron Boone should have a plethora of relievers, injuries permitting, to choose from by the time the Yankees’ theoretical playoff journey begins.

But the fact remains that the Yankees presently look a lot more like those plucky Nationals — a team that unquestionably outplayed its collective ability — than they do the Astros and Dodgers, the two poster children of MLB dominance over the last six years. When Washington pulled it off, they knew their incoming wave of prospects was not as strong as it needed to be, given how old their roster was. That — plus not paying Scherzer, Turner or Rendon to return or extending Soto — made it easier for them to pull the trigger on the Soto trade, accepting that they needed to replenish the farm.

The Yankees aren’t exactly in that situation. If we’ve learned anything from the last two winters, it’s that the Yankees have a lot of trust in their developing players. The only thing is, the entire house will crumble if the current batch of developing players do not pan out. The Nationals were on the verge of collapse too, and now they’re fully in it, but at least they have a banner hanging eternally in the nation’s capital, giving the fans some joyous memories before falling out of contention.

Barring a miracle, or a couple more unafraid moves on the free agent and trade markets, the Yankees are not in a position to deliver that to their fans yet. Things are a bit wobbly in the Bronx, and they need to shore things up before entering the worst zone possible: owning a house that they themselves don’t want to live in, and doesn’t have a lot that anyone else is interested in.



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