The Yankees started their organizational meetings this week, conveniently discussing the state of the organization just as the World Series was getting started. What specific lessons can the Yankees take from each World Series team? We looked at the Cardinals yesterday. Now we’ll handle the Red Sox.
If you build it, you can rebuild it
Just last year, the Red Sox were the worst team in the American League East. They dealt with some injury problems, and their manager didn’t seem like a great fit, and their pitching didn’t hold up, and so the front office blew it up. They traded away Kevin Youkilis mid-season, traded for Craig Breslow at the deadline, and completed a massive August salary dump by sending Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto to the Dodgers. It was a drastic overhaul that let the Red Sox give playing time to prospects and spend money on guys like Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew and Mike Napoli. The rebuilding effort took one offseason and largely redefined the team by filling holes around a few cornerstone players. One lesson to take away would seem to be about properly defining the foundation. The Red Sox picked their guys — Pedroia, Ortiz, Buchholz, etc. — gave up others, and then largely redefined themselves with relatively small-money players like Jonny Gomes and Koji Uehara. The roster’s biggest names were there for the bad times, but putting a better cast of characters and role players around them made all the difference.
Some short-term risks pay off
The Yankees have taken a bit of a beating for the short-sighted signings of guys like Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner, a pair of veteran players who were coming off down seasons and carrying significant injury risk. Those signings blew up in their faces when they struggled and wound up on the disabled list. Thing is, the Yankees have seen that sort of signing pay off in the past with Eric Chavez, and the Red Sox saw it pay off in a big way with Napoli. There were also performance risks that came with a three-year deal for Victorino, and a guaranteed starting job for Drew, and a relatively minor trade for Mike Carp. Had those moves not worked out, there would have been a lot of I-told-you-so reactions. But the risks worked, and the Red Sox were better for having those risk-reward players on the roster.
Prospects require patience, even at the highest levels
The Yankees shouldn’t need a reminder about this. They shipped off Tyler Clippard before trying him in the bullpen, then saw him emerge as a terrific reliever in Washington. They did the opposite with Dellin Betances — moving him out of the Triple-A rotation this season — and might have discovered their own potent young reliever. Brett Gardner went through some growing pains. So did Dave Robertson. And Ivan Nova still might be going through them. Some young guys take time, even at the top, and if the Yankees needed a reminder, they can find it in Boston. Will Middlebrooks had a strong rookie year, then hit so poorly this season that he was shipped to Triple-A. He returned in early August and hit .276/.329/.476 the rest of the way. Jose Iglesias hit .118/.200/.191 in 25 Major League games last season (and his .624 OPS in Triple-A was hardly impressive). Then he emerged as a Rookie of the Year candidate this season.
Bullpens require options, alternatives and backup plans
The Yankees had a fairly consistent group of relievers this season, but let’s not forget that Shawn Kelley was barely even supposed to make the team, much less emerge as the go-to seventh-inning reliever. And let’s not forget Adam Warren spent roughly the first half of the season constantly on the verge of a demotion before solidifying himself as a reliable long reliever. Bullpens are hard to map out in the offseason. Plans are put in place, but there have to be alternatives, and the Red Sox certainly proved that point this season as they went through a series of late-inning relievers before settling on Koji Uehara as their closer. As the Yankees try to rebuild their bullpen this offseason, it will be important to think well beyond seven names in defined roles. The good news for the Yankees is that they have quite a few young relief options already waiting in the wings, guys who might not be counted on going into spring training, but guys who could emerge as essential pieces during the season.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia might have figured it out
The Yankees lived through this season with light-hitting catchers. It was more or less according to plan — the names changed, but the Yankees knew they were playing with defense-first catchers — and that lack of offensive impact proved costly when a few other positions were less productive than expected. Now the Yankees could stick with the same plan behind the plate, or they could go shopping for a catcher who can hit. And there really aren’t a lot of those. Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, though, is an offense-first catcher who’s still in his late 20s and might have taken a real step forward as he’s entering his prime. He showed his power during his previous two seasons in Boston, but now he’s heading into free agency having just had a career year with a much-improved batting average and on-base percentage. He wasn’t as much of a one-dimensional hitter this season (though he is still best as a platoon bat). It’s not a lesson in how to run a franchise, but it might have been an up-close audition for a player who could fit for the Yankees next season.
Associated Press photo