They can watch Phil Hughes stumble as a big league starter in 2008, sign CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett the following winter, move Hughes temporarily to the bullpen in 2009, and see Hughes finally thrive as an all-star starter in 2010.
They can watch Brett Gardner go through an uneven debut in ’09, respond by trading for Curtis Granderson — a trade that moved Gardner to the infinitely easier to replace left-field position — then give Gardner another chance to prove himself in 2010, this time with veterans Marcus Thames and Randy Winn sitting on the bench as insurance.
They can watch Jorge Posada battle injuries in 2010, recognize the need for a transition at the catcher position, and respond by going after Russell Martin on the free agent market, a move that bought Jesus Montero and Austin Romine a little extra time to develop, just in case they need it. No need to put all of the New York pressure on kids without a single Major League at-bat.
Patience, it seems, comes in all forms.
It could mean patience within an ugly free agent market, waiting for a deal that makes sense, not making a deal that quiets a fan base and creates the illusion of improvement.
It could be patience with a veteran pitcher, one who’s making the biggest decision of his career, an intensely personal decision that won’t be helped by desperate pleas from a desperate team.
It could mean patience with one of the top prospects in baseball, a kid who might very well be ready to hit at the Major League level, but also a kid who just turned 21 years old and still has some development left in him.
Of course, it could also mean patience with that same 21-year-old if he gets to New York and hits .205 in his first two months on the job.
David was exactly right in his morning post. When it comes time to hand over the keys, the organization has to be prepared for an occasionally bumpy ride. Minor leagues coaches and executives often talk about young players learning to struggle. Players develop when they’re pushed, forced to improve by players who are better than them. Part of player development is witnessing those struggles and accepting them as part of the process.
Check out Felix Hernandez’s year-by-year ERA in the big leagues: 4.52 in his first full season, then 3.92, 3.45, 2.49, and finally 2.27 last year. That’s what development looks like at the Major League level, and it looks the same in Seattle or Kansas City or New York.
But the Yankees have the benefit of financial strength to go with their prospect patience. They can let Gardner take his lumps, because the rest of the rest of the lineup can easily pick up the slack. They can let Hughes find himself in the bullpen, because there are starters ready to fill the innings in the rotation. They can let Montero ease into a big league job, because a veteran is ready to take temporary ownership of the catcher position.
David’s right: If the Yankees want to develop their own, they have to accept the cost of young players finding themselves at the big league level. With very few exceptions, that learning curve is inevitable.
But the Yankees don’t have to go through every bump at once. They don’t have to turn the entire roster over to the farm system, and they don’t have to throw all the kids immediately into the deep end.
The Yankees can build a team from both ends, aggressively signing free agents who fill immediate needs, while patiently adding a few young kids at a time, letting each one slowly test the water before diving in too deep.
Associated Press photo of Hughes