Time for the Yankees to Go Fish

I hate to shop. When I buy clothing, I buy a lot all at once. This means, of course, that at some point in the future most of my clothes wear out at the same time. The New York Yankees are like my wardrobe–full of comfy, soft, stained chinos ready for the recycling bin. It’s been a helluva run, but it’s over in the Bronx. Fans won’t like it, but it’s time for the Yankees to go fish–that’s fish as in Marlins. Hold a clearance sale, go with youth, and be patient.

The White Sox swept the Yankees last week–the White Sox, as in MLB’s second worst record. Yet GM Brian Cashman incredulously pronounced that the Yankees were looking “to add pieces.” Add pieces! To what? You don’t nail a board to side of a barn once it collapses. Blog readers will recall I picked the Yankees to finish last. I may be wrong about this as the Blue Jays are tanking worse than Rommel at El Alamein, but I was right that this would be the year they would finally be too old to compete. Spare me the “too many injuries” litany–breaking down is what old bodies do. (Trust me. I own one. I know!) Unless the Yankees face facts and begin rebuilding now, it could be 1965 to 1990 redux, years in which the Bronx Bombers were the Bronx Bummers.

What to do? First, avoid what too many disappointing teams do. Don’t allow contenders to cherry pick the roster. The Yankees will field lots of offers for Robbie Cano, David Robertson, and Brett Gardner. Just say “no.” These are three guys the team will need as it rebuilds. They can’t move Mark Teixeira as MLB rules make it hard to move guys on the disabled list, plus he’s worth keeping for a few more years–somebody needs to protect Cano in the lineup and, for all his faults, Tex is a solid RBI man. Hold onto Alphonse Soriano as well–not because he’s a stud, but because the Cubs are picking up most of his salary. Plus, he does all the things the high-priced Curtis Granderson does: hit homeruns, strikeout a lot, and play lousy defense. The Grandy Man–who is a free agent after the season–is the first person I place on waivers. If you get a blue chipper prospect for him and a few of Cashman’s “pieces,” that’s a good deal. Take what you can get for Joba Chamberlain–Sean Kelley is much better–and get Phil Hughes a one-way ticket on the next plane leaving LaGuardia.

Now the controversial part: Who else goes? I’d say pretty much anyone not named Cano, Robertson, Gardner, Soriano, Kelley, Nova, Phelps, Kuroda, or Rivera (who is retiring and deserves to wear Pinstripes at the end). Why keep Nova or Phelps? Because someone has to pitch next year and they are the best options that are MLB-ready. It is imperative that the Yankees re-sign Cano and Kuroda, or things will be really glum next year. But jettison any of the rest to anyone that makes a reasonable offer. You might notice that this includes C. C. Sabathia. Put bluntly, C. C. is too much of a risk to carry any longer, and if the Yankees can get out from under his contract, they should. Someone might want Ichiro for one year and that saves another $6.5 million. Vernon Wells? I’ll take a beer towel and a chilidog. Hafner? You can keep the towel. Someone might want Boone Logan and even a middling prospect would be just as good. I have sincere doubts that Austin Romine will hit MLB pitching, so put him on waivers and see what he yields. (There are no sure-thing prospects in baseball, but Trenton’s Gary Sanchez promises to be the next Jorge Posada.) Someone will want Eduardo Nunez, though he’ll never be a full-time player.

The really tough stuff comes in the offseason. Several administrative shakeups are in order. First, it’s time for Cashman to go–not because he’s as bad as the talk radio crowd thinks, but because he’s best suited for a veteran club and the Yankees need to think small to rebuild. Second, minor league management needs to be gutted and rebuilt, especially insofar as pitching instructors and physical conditioning coaching goes. Too many promising arms have come through the system and frayed on the verge (or were given up on because they were advanced too quickly). If the Yankees could swallow their pride, they’d rehire the best hitting coach they’ve had in decades: the temperamental Chris Chambliss. Here’s the move that will make Yankees fans (including me) weep: Convince Derek Jeter to make 2014 his Mariano Rivera year–once through the league, collect the accolades, feel the love, and quit. And if the Yankees don’t move Joba, Hughes, and Granderson in waiver deals, do the next best thing: Go to arbitration with lowball offers that will be rejected and collect draft picks when they sign elsewhere. Simply tell A-Rod he’s done. He’ll cost nothing in 2014 once the suspension hits; buy out what’s left. And tell Kevin Youkilis “Thanks for nothing. We won’t be sending a rep to Fenway if there’s ever a day in your honor.”

Yankees fans need to accept that 2014 will be a dreary season with a roster dominated by low-cost guys and youngsters (though at least the team ought to be more fun to watch than the stiffs they throw out now). If the team plays it right, it will have a ton of money to play with in 2015 and beyond. Subtract Sabathia, Granderson, Ichiro, Hughes, Youkilis, and a few others and the payroll drops by nearly $75 million. Play it right and the Yankees will be big-time players for Clayton Kershaw, and look out in 2017, when Mike Trout hits the market.

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