Twenty-seven. That is a number fixated in the brains of all New York Yankee supporters. Twenty-seven World Series championships. Go look at the official team website. "Our History. Your Tradition." Much of that recent history has been tied to one man, the "captain", Derek Jeter.
Following this 2014 season, after he receives gifts from every stadium in the league, Jeter will ride into the sunset in a similar fashion that is predecessor Mariano Rivera did last September. Both Jeter and Rivera were products of the Yankees farm system. They came up through the same avenues as the likes of Jorge Posada , Bernie Williams and Andy Pettitte. These players enabled them to win four World Series' in the span of five years.
But what has happened to that farm system? The Yankees have two current players, outside of Jeter, who are well-known, productive pieces, that they raised. Those would be outfielder Brett Gardner and new closer David Robertson. Not exactly names that a scouting department can hang their hat on. Sure, there was Robinson Cano. He is a stellar talent but packed his bags for Seattle during the winter.
In Keith Law's top 100 prospect list he mentions three talents from the Bombers; catcher Gary Sanchez (68), outfielder Tyler Austin (85) and outfielder Mason Williams (87). By comparison, AL East foes Baltimore had five players in the top 100, Boston; seven.
Even their top prospects have had issues. Austin and Williams were injured much of 2013. Sanchez's bat was disappointing. Not to mention that the Yankees just gave out huge contracts to veteran major leaguers at each of these prospects positions.
Brian McCann was inked to a five year deal worth $85 million. Carlos Beltran was given three years at $45 million. And Jacoby Ellsbury broke the bank with his mega-pact for seven years and $153 million, absolutely bonkers.
It has been said time and time again that the Yankees are turning over a new leaf. They would avoid the luxury tax and, rather than spend money short-sightedly on free agents, they would focus on scouting and international talent. Oh, they set their sights outside the country alright. They gave Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka just a little bit more money that Ellsbury at $155 million over the same seven years.
However, despite all of this spending, no one really seems to be buying New York. (Yes, I'm aware of the pun) It could be that, depending on who is playing, the Yankees have one of the oldest rosters in Major League Baseball. Jeter will be 40 this season. Brian Roberts is 36, Mark Teixeira; 34, Beltran; 36, Ichiro; 40.
Some of these players can't play defense. Jeter has never been a great player in the field. His five Gold Gloves may be the most deceiving in history. FanGraphs gives him a career Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 innings (UZR/150) of -6.9. In his last full season, 2012, Jeter cost the Yankees 18 runs in the field.
He's not alone, McCann has his struggles in the field. He rates highly in terms of blocking the plate, framing pitches and dealing with balls in the dirt. But he is not a good catch and release guy. The league average for catchers throwing out base runners is around 27 percent. McCann sits at 24% and has only thrown out one of six in 2014.
And the biggest reason no one believes in them is that they can't all stay on the field at the same time. Jeter missed nearly all of 2013 with injuries. Teixeira lives in the training room. And we all know that you can never use permanent ink when writing Brian Roberts' name on a lineup card.
But why do Oriole fans care about this? "Let em get old and injured. It only helps us.", you say. I actually think it only causes the fire to burn more in their belly. Twenty-seven World Series championships. It's been five seasons since their last appearance in the Fall Classic. They will do whatever it takes to get back.
Don't think for one second that the process will begin and end with improvement of the minor league system. Sure, that is the company line. They will talk about their large number of international scouts. It's impressive, no doubt. But these are the New York Yankees. Today, they are known for their ability to put a blank check in front of an accomplished player, spout off names like Ruth, Maris and Gehrig, who have each donned the pinstripes, and get professional ball players to salivate. And the top three names on their list in the coming years may very likely be a trio of current Orioles.
Someone will have to fill they humongous shoes left behind by Jeter. The upcoming free agent class has three notable names to do so; Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera, Los Angeles' Hanley Ramirez and Baltimore's J.J. Hardy.
Cabrera is by far the weakest of the group. His offensive numbers have plummeted recently and, even though he is prone to the "Web Gem", sabremetrics rate him as a well below average shortstop (career -11 UZR/150). Ramirez is interesting. His power is off the charts for a shortstop, slugging .506 in his career. But he is only slightly better at short than Cabrera (career -8.1 UZR/150) and there has been a loud roar that most teams see him as a third baseman as early as next year. The Yanks need one of those too.
As sad as I am to say it, Hardy makes the most sense. Offensively, he hits home runs with the best shortstops in the game, tied for first with 25 bombs in 2013, and in the field, there is no one better. The Arizona native has won back-to-back Gold Glove awards and boasts a career UZR/150 of 9.9; light years ahead of the other two candidates.
The other two Orioles that may be up for grabs have been widely discussed. Both first baseman Chris Davis and catcher Matt Wieters are schedule to hit free agency following the 2015 season. They both share an agent in Scott Boras. He is notorious for encouraging his clients to hit the open market, allowing them to get the most money they can.
But New York just signed McCann to be the backstop and Teixeira is inked through 2016.
Yeah, so what?
The Evil Empire has showed it's not afraid to sit high-priced veterans on the bench. That's where Ichiro and his $6.5 million salary finds himself. A-Rod may join him, or be paid more than $20 million a season to go away. I would expect much of the same for Tex. Age has seemed to catch up with him rapidly.
Imagine Crush with Yankee Stadium's short porch in right field. He could could put on a show.
As for McCann, after two more seasons of catching, his abilities behind the plate may be further diminished, but his bat will stay productive. A move to designated hitter seems likely, paving the way for Wieters.
With these three acquisitions, New York would swiftly improve their defense at three positions, keep McCann's pop in the lineup and push Teixeira to a role of late-inning pinch hitter.
None of these moves solve the pinstripers issues with pitching. They may be able to solve that by poaching other team's talent. I mentioned that New York does have three highly regarded prospects that may be stuck in a logjam. Send 'em out for arms.
Or, do it the Yankee way: sign David Price away from Tampa Bay the same year Davis and Wieters hit the market.
It's not likely that all of this happens. Even the rich have limits on what they can spend and the Orioles have spoken ad nauseam about their desire to re-sign each of these men. My brain tells me the O's will bring back at least one with Davis being the most likely.
Davis is a power hitter and power hitters get paid in the majors. It doesn't matter what team it is or how you measure it, guys who can hit home runs and drive in runs are valuable. Not to mentioned that the guy is downright lovable with some of his antics. He will be priority numero uno.
Baltimore may want to get Manny Machado to shortstop sooner rather than later. He just doesn't have quite the power for the position and Hardy is aging at a position that is not kind to that sort of thing. Not to mention, J.J.'s award cabinet is getting pretty full these days. Another season like we saw in 2013 and he may play his way right out of the O's price range.
Wieters has been on fire to start the 2014 campaign, but can he maintain it? His work behind the plate is extraordinary and a valuable asset. However, his bat has been a disappointment. A good glove is not enough reason to be paid like Buster Posey and that is what Wieters will be looking for.
The O's won't go down without a fight. They have showed a willingness to spend money and will likely see Nick Markakis' and Nelson Cruz's sizable salaries come off the books as Hardy is hitting the market.
Sorry to bring ya down Camden Chat. Where do you see Hardy, Davis and Wieters playing in 2016? Let me know in the comments down below.