The Next Yankee World Series Team

The most intriguing question facing the Yankees is not which of their veterans can come back or who they can acquire to help their chances this year, but what the next decade will look like for the Yankees. Only Cano, Gardner and perhaps Sabathia, are both young and good enough to be around and contributing in five years. The prospects who are expected to arrive in the next few years are solid but unspectacular. Accordingly, the Yankees need to build a team based on some good prospects, a contingent of aging and, due to contracts, largely unmovable veterans, and, of course, the ability to outspend everybody. This last point alone will not be enough to build a winner.

Baseball's Best Boring Team

Describing a team as boring is subjective, but it is clear that at the halfway point in the season, the Yankees, despite their very good record, have not generated any buzz in New York. Last year fans watched Derek Jeter reach 3,000 hits and saw Mariano Rivera become the all time saves leader. This year they have seen Jeter pass Paul Waner on the hit list while Rafael Soriano has taken over as a good closer, but one about whom few Yankee fans care deeply. It is hard to think of any Yankee games which are even close to as memorable as Santana’s no-hitter, any one of several starts by Dickey, or even some of the early season Yankee-Red Sox games of recent years.

The Yankees Neglected Bench

The Yankees inability to find a backup catcher or utility infielder who can contribute with the bat while fielding decently is baffling because by not finding these kinds of players, who are often available and always inexpensive, the Yankees risk seeing a team with a payroll in excess of $200 million fail to make the playoffs because they were unable to solve problems that would have cost, at most, a few million dollars in salary. Given the age of a number of key players, notably Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees have additional reason to need a strong bench, and should have known this before the season started.

Maybe We Should Think About Benches as well as Bullpens

Constructing a good bench is in some respects more challenging than constructing a bullpen because teams need a broad collection of skills, but only have between three and six bench positions. An AL team with a full time DH and a 13 man pitching staff will only have three players on the bench, while an NL team with an 11 man pitching staff will have six players on the bench. Most teams will be somewhere in between. A good bench needs to have players who between them can play every position at about an average level, one pinch runner, one player who can get on base reasonably well, a player with power from the left side of the plate, and one with power from the right side. The challenge of gathering these players is made more difficult because the best players are usually starters so most bench players will have some of these skills, but also have significant weaknesses that prevent them from having starting roles.