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  • Writer's pictureTim Moore

The Yankees Failure Turned Success in 2016 May Show its Hand Again in 2024


As September begins, the New York Yankees are setting milestones that no one ever thought would be possible this season. First off, the obvious, as this magical season finds the Yankees 30 year streak of finishing at .500 or better in serious jeopardy as the club finds itself 4 games below the mark owning a 65-69 record.

In a shocking development, what most fans would have suggested to be the biggest move of the season signing underwhelming ace pitcher Carlos Rodon or as I like to refer to him as "Frankie Montas 2.0", you'd be surprised to know that wasn't the biggest thing the team did this season. For one of the first times ever since taking over as General Manager of the New York Yankees back in 1998, Brian Cashman took accountability stating that, "It's been a disaster season." and "We're embarrassed by it."during a live press conference on August 23rd, addressing the state of the current team.

And while Cashman is usually quick to bring up the teams long "recipe for success" under his helm, in reality he truly only is responsible for building one World Series roster of the four he's won and that's the teams most recent trip to the classic back in 2009.

The last time things went wrong for the Yankees it was 2016, the Core Four of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettite, and Mariano Rivera all retired over a stretch of four seasons with Jeter being last to retire in 2014 but ultimately being unable to make the post season despite an above .500 record.

2015 saw promise though as an aging Alex Rodriguez fresh off his his record setting 162 game suspension, did the unthinkable, mashing a mighty 33 homeruns along with one of the greatest defensive switch hitting first baseman to ever play the game of baseball Mark Teixiera, who had his first all star season since the World Series win in 2009 and his first 30 plus homerun season since 2011.

Unfortunately though when it mattered the Bombers simply couldn't hit and was too old, as in the 2015 American League Wild Card game, AL Cy Young Award Winner Dallas Keuchel shut down the Yankees pitching 6.0 innings of shutout ball in his first ever post season start leading to a 3-0 victory for the Houston Astros and the beginning of suffering of Yankees fans. Notably, despite the additions of shortstop Didi Gregorious, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, Outfielder Carlos Beltran and catcher Brian McCann the season prior, the four in the big game combined for an ugly 2 for 12.

So heading into the 2016 season, Cashman was determined for change. His first big move came on December 8th 2015 as he traded utility infielder Brendan Ryan and reliever Adam Warren for second baseman Starlin Castro who was very healthy and had a consistent contact bat.

A day later he followed that by trading reliever Justin Wilson for pitchers Luis Cessa and Chad Green who played the roll as future pen pieces with potential. His first actual move though came a month earlier as the Yankees traded catcher John Ryan Murphy, who caught Mariano Rivera's final outs of his career for young injury prone outfielder Aaron Hicks who had spectacular defensive skills but not much of a bat.

Cashman opened up the New Year acquiring another youthful relief pitcher of Kirby Yates from Cleveland for cash, but unfortunately he would bounce up and down from the big leagues all season. The off-seasons last big moves occurred virtue of Waivers and signing as the Yankees claimed veteran ultility player Ronald Torreyes off waivers from the Angels, putting him in Ryan's role, and ended the offseason on a loud note signing flame throwing reliever signing closer Aroldis Chapman.

While on paper the team better than the season prior, that proved to be further from truth. Reason being the lineup the first half of the season found itself to be lifeless, and the pitching staff outside of Masahiro Tanaka, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Chapman were miserable.

On the offensive side of the ball, injury woes and inconsistency killed the seasons previous big producers and heaviliy paid players of Teixeira and Rodriguez as both batted a disappointing .204 and .200, eventually leading to their announcements of retirement in August.

Ellsbury also had a solid season but showed underwhelming power and struggled to produce with runners on base creating more frustrations.

McCann also took a step backwards as he struggled to produce with runners in scoring position and also saw his power dip as the season went on.

Brett Gardner also saw a similar fate to the two as while his average also went up from the season prior, but he too failed to also produce in big moments as he tallied 7 homers and 41 RBI's the least in his career since 2011. It was also the first time in his career he did not tally at least 20 stolen bases in a season as he only stole 16 bases in 148 games as compared to his league leading 49 in 2011 making the 2016 season much worse on paper.

New addition Aaron Hicks also struggled in his first season with the Bombers as he too took two steps backwards putting up a discouraging .217 batting average with 7 homers and 31 RBI's. The base running ability of Hicks that was fanticized after stealing 13 bases the season before also proved to not be present as hicks failed to steal even 50% of stolen bases attempts tallying only 3-of-7.

The last main struggle came from pitcher Luis Serverino who saw one of the worst sophomore slumps a pitcher could have after a dominant rookie season that put him in conversations of potentially being the teams ace along side Tanaka. Just how bad was Severino? He opened up the season 0-6 record wise losing six of the seven outings he pitched in while posting a dreadful 7.46 ERA. And to make matters worse while Severino did get demoted for over a month before returning back to the team in July, he never would win a game that season when starting on the mound, as all three of his wins came out of the bullpen softening the blow to his rough campaign.

There were positives though as the young Gregorious and veteran Beltran both shined posting over 20 home runs. Unfortunately though, they were mostly the focal point of the offense along with the newly acquired Marte who also posted 21 home runs that season for the first time in his career. It just never seemed the team could ever function in unison creating weakness.

So, on July 31st with the Yankees directly at .500 with a 52-52 record and the deadline looming, Hal Steinbrenner gave the okay for Brian Cashman to sell off his pieces to develop younger assets as the team simply was not competitive enough.

What ensued at the time was momentum changing as the Yankees traded Miller to Cleveland, securing highly touted prospect outfielder Clint Fraizer and pitcher Justus Sheffield.

Chapman, who was on a one year deal, six days earlier also got dealt to a championship contender, as he went to the Cubs for top prospects Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, Rashad Crawford, and Adam Warren.

The Yankees on deadline day also dealt away Beltran to the Rangers and starting pitcher Ivan Nova to the Pirates, but recieved nothing major in return as the Yankees added five more youthful players to their organization that didn't have much of an upside. Had Beltran been younger the Yankees likely get far more, but the direction was clear, getting younger and healthier was the direction.

As mentioned earlier, these moves would then follow with the announced retirement of Teixeira at the end of the season, and mid season retirement of Rodriguez allowing for youth to get its chance.

This is where things turned around for the Yankees as eventual 2016 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up, Gary Sánchez was sensational mashing a mighty 20 homeruns over a 53 game stretch. Promise continued to look hopeful as both Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin homered back to back in their major league debuts beginning the birth of the Baby Bomber era.

Looking at these deals though in the big picture, they did not exactly pan out in the long term and only had an impact in 2017. As it turned out Clint Fraizer did not play much with the club as he never played more than 69 games in a season. While the addition of outfielder Giancarlo Stanton played a factor, along with the spectacular rookie season in 2017 from Judge, attitude problems and injuries plagued Frazier's stint with the Bombers leading to his eventual exit with the club after 2021 after the Yankees released him.

As for the other piece in the trade of Sheffield, he'd never have a true opportunity in the Bronx as he only pitched in relief for three games. At the end of the 2018 season he'd be traded in a deal for southpaw James Paxton, an original target of the Yankees in 2016. Paxton also ultimately had a short stay in the Bronx only pitching for the Yankees over two seasons.

The main piece of the Chapman trade of Torres has arguably been the best addition in the deals as Gleyber currently playing in his sixth season with the club. While he did not make his debut until 2018, he was an Allstar the first two years of his career and finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting behind teammate Miguel Andujar and baseball sensation Shohei Ohtani who likely will win his second MVP come the end of the 2023 season.

Unfortunately though things have not always been good for Gleyber as when the pandemic occurred, things seemed to spiral downhill. He began to struggle at the plate not producing much pop and also really struggled defensively at shortstop leading to the eventual change that saw him back at second base. However today he is arguably the Yankees most consistent players outside of Aaron Judge and is having a respectable season offensively, while his defense has slightly improved.

The other pieces of the trade also have not done much as McKinney has been a journey man around rosters and is currently on his second stint with the Yankees. Warren also would be productive in his return to New York but was ultimately again was traded away to Seattle in 2018. Warren signed two more contracts with the Yanks, this time a minor league one in 2019 and 2020, but would not ever come back to the majors as a UCL injury requiring Tommy John Surgery forced the end of his career. The last of the those pieces was Crawford who never stepped foot on a big league field and found himself playing the role of a career minor leaguer.

Now let's look at the home grown Baby Bombers. First off Aaron Judge, as he without a doubt has been the greatest home grown talent to come through the Yankees farm system. Though, many would not have thought it due to his struggles after getting called up to the big leagues, Judge the following season went on to set American League rookie home run record, win AL Rookie of the Year and finish the season as AL MVP runner up. As fate had it Judge only set more history as he won MVP single handedly in 2022 after setting the American League home run record with 62. Heading into the 2023 season he secured his spot as the pure face of the franchise as he signed a 9 year 360 million dollar deal and became the 16th captain in Yankee history, the first to become one since Derek Jeter.

Gary Sanchez unfortunately simply did not work out as similar to Torres after his first two seasons, he struggled mightily as his offensive and defensive abilities tanked miserably, as he struggled to produce above a Mendoza line average of .200. The Yankees had enough of the struggles come 2022 during the spring, and traded him for and productive infielder Gio Urshela for Josh Donaldson who the Yankees just recently DFA'd, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Ben Rortvedt.

Similar to Fraizer, Tyler Austin simply just could not stay healthy and ran out of opportunities to play. The Yankees traded him ultimately for a pitching need of Lance Lynn to help the teams rotation. Unfortunately Austin's most memorable moment with the club outside of his first homerun was a fight with division rival Boston Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly early on in the 2018 season.

The other Bomber who played the same position as Austin, Greg Bird also unfortunately never panned out. Bird could never stay healthy, and while he had some excellent moments in the 2017 postseason, his inconsistency to hit for average became an issue for the Yankees. Bird only hit above a .200 average when filling in for an injured Teixiera in 2015, where he batted slugged 11 home runs and hit a mighty .261, but could not produce an average higher than .199 when taking his role as a Baby Bomber. The Yankees ultimately granted him free agency in the offseason after the 2019 season, and despite coming back to the team in 2022 in the minors before again getting released, he has not played a major league game since.

Luis Severino has been the most interesting player of all of the home grown Baby Bombers as after his horrific season he posted two straight seasons where he was an all star and a borderline Cy Young candidate. Unfortunately for Luis, injury woes from 2019 to 2022 have played a huge factor in his career as his struggle to stay healthy has led to what currently is the worst season of his career in 2023. Severino has been lost on the mound, and in a contract season the Yankees find themselves in a tough situation where they need to decide if they want to keep him around or not, as when on his game Luis has been one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball.

The last Baby Bomber to note is Jordan Montgomery, as in 2017 he made the clubs opening day roster and had a real sound rookie season, starting 29 outings, and posting a respectable 3.88 ERA. Unfortunately similar to Severino injury woes impacted him in 2018 and 2019 and caused him to re-establish his confidence after a difficult pandemic season in 2020. Montgomery was excellent again in 2021 but the Yankees chose to trade Montgomery in a very confusing deal before the deadline in 2022 as they traded for outfielder Harrison Bader. Bader was just let go by the Yankees through waivers, and was picked up by the Red.

Since leaving Montgomery continues to get better and better as he found himself for a brief time as the ace of the Cardinals staff before trading him to the Rangers who currently are a favorite for the World Series.

So did the Baby Bombers actually have a lasting impact? In reality, no. Yes, Aaron Judge is phenomenal, and Gleyber Torres despite the hate he gets, is a real average player that could help any team win a World Series. As for the others though, after the magical 2017 season, all didn't simply work out, which is disappointing when you look at teams like the Astros and Braves who are building a dynasty and finding ways to be successful with their youthful home grown talent as well as acquired superstars.

So how does this exactly correlate to 2024 you may ask? Well a lot of it does. Currently in the 2023 season, the Yankees rushed up rookie shortstop Anthony Volpe to make the teams opening day roster. And while he hasn't had a Rookie of the Year type of season, he's produced respectable numbers. The issue with this team similar to 2016 though is that they struggle to hit, and the team is simply too old.

Slugger Giancarlo Stanton the last two seasons has struggled to remain healthy, and had struggled to hit for average the last two seasons, but similar to Gary Sanchez back during his struggles, has maintained his power numbers. Stanton though has a big contract and the point of trading for him before the 2018 season was to get a slugger fresh off an MVP season to complement Aaron Judge in the teams goal of winning a World Series. Of the players that are older, he should be the one that remains with the team into the future.

Speaking of injuries, utility infielder DJ LeMahieu since signing his six year extension in 2021 also has not worked out to this point, as he has not been able to achieve the success he once when first joining the club. DJ is currently having the worst season of his career in 2023 batting a .243, but is on pace currently to pass the most strikeouts he's had in his career in a season of 107 as he currently has 103 with a month remaining. His bat on ball ability plus gold glove caliper defense is what made DJ so valuable and the Yankees have a tough decision on if it's worth the deal.

Reason being, earlier in the season the Yankees DFA'd outfielder Aaron Hicks after Brian Cashman questionably gifted Hicks a generous 7 year extension for 70 million dollars in 2019 after he tallied a career high 27 homeruns the season prior. Hicks not only would never come close to this number again, he constantly failed to stay healthy similar to when he joined the club originally and never hit more than 12 homers in a season after signing the deal. After hitting a .235 in 2019, he continued to decline struggling during the pandemic season, and only had one full healthy season after in 2022, where he played 130 games but only recorded a miserable .216 batting average. Fans also continued to be critical of Hicks, seemingly impacting him on the field as he hit an all time low that season, being benched after dropping an easy fly ball on the edge of fair territory, standing still in disappointment, watching two runs score. Since being DFA'd Hicks currently finds himself as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.

In 2022 after serious criticism and fan's frustrations with his inability to hit the Yankees traded away Joey Gallo, a piece in which Brian Cashman inexplicably traded for the season prior trying to help the team win a World Series. Gallo was never a good hitter, but this move and the trade of Josh Donaldson who also struggled mightily to hit in pin stripes led to a steady demise of the offense. Donaldson was waived by the Yankees earlier this week and to this point, no one has picked up the former MVP.

On a positive note the Baby Bomber Era is back and now that the Yankees again are in danger of finishing below .500 these moves ultimately are a positive. While many are critical of Cashman not trading away at the deadline, the bringing up of a young catching Austin Wells is a huge step for the Yanks. Jose Trevino who made the all star game in 2022 is 30 years old and battling injury, and Kyle Higashioka is 33, and simply does not have the all around ability to be a crucial every day starter. Similar to Sanchez, Wells has an excellent bat, and questions defensively. But unlike Sanchez, Wells has been a touted prospect for a while as he was the teams first round pick in 2020 creating some hopeful promise.

However the opposite expectation wise can be said about Jasson Dominguez. In 2019 when the Yankees signed the at the time 16 year old, he was touted as the greatest international player baseball has ever seen. Many gave him comparisons to Mike Trout, but of course little did many know at the time that respect really belonged to Shohei Ohtani. Despite a delay due to the pandemic, since he's joined the Yankees, he's flew through the system showing remarkable speed and power. And while one may argue he is no where near Trout based on his minor league results, the potential for the 20 year old to grow is still tremendous as he by far is the Yankees best option to start every day in center field.

Along with Dominguez and Wells there's other heavily touted prospects that also find themselves with future opportunities to be difference makers such as outfielder Everson Pereira and infielder Oswald Peraza. With offensive struggles for Oswaldo Cabrera, both guys could ultimately fit themselves into opening day starting spots in 2024 if the Yankees don't find a superstar they can trade for to fill the holes. One can argue though that similar to Judge and Torres, Dominguez and the already established Volpe may be the long term pieces with Wells being a close third.

So what should we expect in 2024? Well if Cashman has indeed taken full accountability and learned from his mistake, it's the desire to go all out to win. The first step is aiming to make the team better by getting another star. While many fantasize about the potential of Shohei Ohtani and it is a real possibility the Yankees also should consider getting actively proven offensive players who continue to dominate games in the positions they need, such as Nolan Arenado.

What made the Yankees speical in 2017 is they had a strong mix of youth and experience with guys like Chase Headly, Todd Fraizer, Matt Holliday, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brett Gardner. Combined with the productivity of the youthful group of Sanchez, Gregorious, Castro, Torreyes, and Judge, it allowed the team to move the ball around the yard, and aid what was a strong pitching staff. I

If the Yankees can find that balance again in 2024, regardless if the New Baby Bombers work out or not, it could mean potential success again in the Bronx as the Yankees try to find what they need to get back to relevancy to win a World Series.

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