No sense wasting any time.
Essentially, the Yankees season has been over for weeks now, and so Joe Girardi will go ahead and address the media today at noon. It’s his annual end-of-the-season press conference to discuss all that happened in the past eight months and all that might happen in the next four months. And make no mistake, after a second straight season without a playoff berth, this Yankees team is loaded with uncertainty. There are plenty of questions that need answers.
Problem is, many of those questions — about health and expected production, about how much money the Yankees can and will spend this winter — can’t possibly be answered at this point. Not by Girardi anyway.
So today we’ll rehash a lot of what caused the Yankees season to end without a playoff berth. We’ll probably talk some more about Derek Jeter’s career, and Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow, and Alex Rodriguez’s return from suspension. We’ll talk about a lot of things that really don’t have answers at this point.
But on this first day of another long offseason, here are a few things we already know needing the manager’s perspective.
This disappointment wasn’t because of the injuries
Not because of the big injuries, anyway. Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran were rarely if ever fully healthy this season, and that surely contributed to their disappointing seasons, but the Yankees most significant injuries were in the rotation. And the rotation was just fine. Even with Ivan Nova and CC Sabathia on the disabled list almost all season, and with Michael Pineda and Tanaka lost for much of the year, the rotation held it together and gave the Yankees a chance. Hiroki Kuroda was steady, Brandon McCarthy was a strong acquisition, Shane Greene was a terrific call-up, and guys like Chris Capuano, David Phelps and Chase Whitley capably plugged holes for a while. It’s true, the Yankees were beat up this season, and they used more players than last year, but I’m not sure injuries are a viable excuse this time around.
Some problems aren’t going away
Maybe a full offseason will let Teixeira build some much-needed strength. Maybe getting rid of that bone spur will help Beltran hit again. Maybe Brian McCann’s strong September is a sign of things to come. Maybe Sabathia can be more effective with a healthier knee. Maybe Rodriguez is going to come back as a legitimate run producer and passable third baseman. There’s a chance these things could work out, but for now, it’s hard to see the Yankees easily moving on from some of their biggest roster concerns. They’re tied into long-term contracts that aren’t easily dumped on the trade market. If there is lingering concern with some of these guys — and there probably should be — it’s going to be the Yankees’ problem, no one else’s.
The team did, at the very least, make good additions
It wasn’t enough, but the Yankees did improve themselves during the season. The trade for McCarthy was an overwhelming success, and the Yankees also upgraded their lineup and their defense by adding Chase Headley and Martin Prado (Stephen Drew was a defensive improvement, he never hit like the Yankees hoped). Even Esmil Rogers was a useful piece, and Chris Young provided a real September boost. For the most part, the Yankees made moves that made a difference. Granted, it might have been easy to upgrade largely because the Yankees were so bad — or at least so inconsistent — to begin with. Despite the positive impact of the mid-season additions, the Yankees still played barely above .500 in both August and September. And of the additions, Prado is the only one who’s definitely coming back next year.
Pretty good pitching is already in place
Injuries in the rotation really forced the Yankees to dig through their pitching depth, and they were surely happy with what they found. Greene looks like a legitimate big league starter, and Bryan Mitchell emerged as an on-the-verge option who could compete for a rotation job sooner rather than later. There was also the promising first half from Tanaka, and the excellent partial season from Michael Pineda. There’s certainly cause for concern there, but there are also some good signs. It’s also worth noting that the short-term injuries to Dave Robertson and Shawn Kelley helped the Yankees find out what they have in Adam Warren and Dellin Betances (to be fair, Betances likely would have emerged without any injuries around him). There were also flashes of good stuff from David Phelps and Chase Whitley, and Manny Banuelos was pitching pretty well at the end of the year in Triple-A.
Offensive black holes are also in place
At least, that seems to be the case. The problem with having so many problems on long-term deals is that it’s hard to replace them. Can the Yankees find a more reliable first baseman with Teixeira still on the roster? Can they afford to add a pure designated hitter when they know Beltran and Rodriguez might need quite a bit of time at that position. There’s an obvious hole at shortstop, with a handful of options heading for the free agent market, but how much of an offensive difference maker is J.J. Hardy? Is it worth taking the risk of injury prone Hanley Ramirez? The Yankees have already committed long-term to two relatively light-hitting outfielders, which means they have only one outfield spot open for a true power threat, and they might have to fill that spot with Beltran’s uncertain bat.
It’s past time to develop a hitter
The Yankees pitching staff has been supplemented — and the bullpen largely built — by internal options. Young pitchers have shown up and made an impact, which is a big reason the Yankees were able to withstand so many injuries this season. But this season, just like last season, it became clear that the Yankees badly need some sort of offensive impact from their farm system. They have some guys pretty close to big league ready — Rob Refsnyder was in Triple-A this season, Greg Bird and Tyler Austin were in Double-A, Aaron Judge and Eric Jagielo had strong first full seasons — and the Yankees need some of those bats to pan out. At some point, they’re going to need to fill some offensive holes with young, cheap alternatives. The sooner the better.
Associated Press photos