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Dear Mr. Steinbrenner: An Open Letter to Yankees Ownership

Yankees' Owner Hal Steinbrenner; Photo via YES Network

The views expressed in this article represent only the individual author and not the entirety of The Drummey Angle

Dear Hal,

I am writing to you as a concerned baseball fan. For the record, I am not a Yankees fan, but I really want to see the Evil Empire rise again. A good Yankees team is good for the game that we both love. Your franchise is in the midst of a historic drought in terms of the Yankee standard. It has been 13 years since your last World Series appearance; I would assume that you are well aware of that statistic, along with the fact that the 2010s were the first decade in which the Yankees were not in a World Series dating back to the 1910s. I know you were robbed against the Astros in 2017, but let’s be real: Yankees fans do not want to hear excuses. They are savages and not afraid to commit friendly fire, as they booed Aaron Judge after an incredible year because he was struggling in the playoffs. Little-known fact: you attract more flies with honey than with salt, so rather than booing him, maybe the Yankees’ faithful should encourage him. I know it is radical, but just some food for thought.

Onto some of the bigger issues plaguing your front office’s philosophy. Be smarter with your money. It is clear that your goal is to remain under or barely over the luxury tax threshold, which is something I understand. The penalties are quite steep, and it's your money, not mine.

So, the first order of business is to stop giving long-term contracts to players on the wrong side of 30. There are not many successful long-term, big-money contracts, as most front offices know. I recommend shorter deals with higher AAVs. Both sides win in that scenario. Players get life-changing money, and front offices avoid the ugly back ends of the albatross contracts. Aaron Judge is not the exception to this rule. This might age poorly, but I think you dodged a bullet in the preseason when he turned down the 7-year proposal. Nonetheless, he is a phenomenal player and deserves to be paid as one. A 4-year, $180 million contract is more than fair. Add a team option for a fifth year at $35 million. Otherwise, a long-term deal might be compared to Albert Pujols’ contract with the Angels. It is unlikely to age like that since Mr. Judge would only be 38 years old at the end of the agreement. Albert’s contract was up when he was of the ripe age of 41. However, Aaron has struggled to stay on the field for parts of his career. Not to mention that with his size, it will be harder for him to remain healthy as he ages.

The next order of business: stop paying big money to players like Aaron Hicks. Respectfully, he is not worth the $10 million you owe him. He is a liability at the plate. This season, he had a wRC+ of 90 (100 is the MLB average). Defensively, he did not add much value either. In the postseason, he was not an everyday starter, yet he was being paid $10,000,000. He is the epitome of what you need to get rid of. The same goes for Josh Donaldson. I know you needed to get rid of Gary Sanchez, but taking on JD’s contract was not a smart move. Donaldson is not the MVP-caliber player that he used to be. Aside from an abysmal postseason showing, he posted a -6.6 oWAR (according to Fangraphs) with a 97 wRC+ and the second-highest strikeout rate of his 12-year career (27.1%). Yet he was paid $21,000,000, not factoring in incentives. Gio Urshela, who was a part of the trade that brought in Donaldson, outperformed Donaldson in nearly every hitting metric and was ⅓ of the cost. Yes, I know the deal probably would not have happened if you refused Donaldson’s contract, but I think there were other options. For example, you could have sent Sanchez and a prospect to the Marlins early in the offseason. The Fish ranked 19th in fWAR at the catcher position this past season and were clearly in the market for an upgrade at the backstop, as they traded for Gold Glover Jacob Stallings last December. Had you been proactive, you could have ended up with either Jon Berti (3.7 dWAR) or Joey Wendle (5.0 dWAR) from Miami. You would have shored up the shortstop position for the first half of the season while retaining Gio at third and allowing Oswaldo Cabrera to rotate in at SS for the second half of the season. That would have left you with roughly an additional $15 million to add a DH or utility piece in free agency.

It is hard to watch the Yankees in the off-season. I expect them to mix it up year after year since they seem to consistently fall short of expectations. Yet Brian Cashman keeps betting on the same philosophy to finally work, which is not going to happen. I will give him credit; he built the 2009 team that won the World Series, but, realistically, he inherited the dynasty team of the late 90s and early 2000s. His philosophy of constructing a team that only hits home runs seems to be a swing and a miss. I understand the approach. Most offense comes from homers, so build the team that hits the most home runs. Well, it is not that simple, which we have witnessed in the last few years. With home runs comes strikeouts, and setting strikeout records like the Yankees did in this year's ALCS is not World-Series-winning baseball. Maybe it is time to change the philosophy. It seems incredibly outdated.

Additionally, keep investing in player development. Taking a page out of the Rays' playbook has been a great move in terms of producing talent for the Yankees. Look at what Matt Blake and the minor league pitching coordinators have accomplished for your pitching development. Nestor Cortes was an All-Star, Clay Holmes was filthy, and Michael King and Ron Marinaccio went from no-names to high-leverage relief options. The pitching development staff’s value cannot be understated, as they gave you an amazing bullpen without you needing to spend millions of dollars on expensive free agents. Next year, the young core of Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, and Oswaldo Cabrera will arrive at the major league level. This is a special opportunity for you to bring in a few pieces that potentially put your team over the hump. The Astros are only getting better as you know, so what are you going to do about it? Bring in a winner or multiple winners. You need to establish a culture of winning. What’s the easiest way to do that? Sign some big names, in addition to Judge, to high AAV contracts. You need a bulldog in that clubhouse who cannot tolerate the idea of losing. Who fits such a bill? Carlos Rodon is a name that pops into my mind. Instead of adding an arm, you could also bring in Dansby Swanson or Carlos Correa and move Volpe to second after you trade Gleyber Torres for a left-handed outfielder. The next great Yankee lineup needs balance in both the left/right and power/contact departments.

What about not-so-big-brain Brian Cashman? He is currently in limbo, as he has no contract but is still acting General Manager of the New York Yankees. Maybe it is time, Hal. I think you should consider other options like Theo Epstein or James Click before blindly resigning Cashman. I quote Derek Jeter when I say, “one-way loyalty is stupidity.” Put your organization first and ask yourself if you truly think that Cashman’s philosophy is going to work. In years past, I would have asked, “How could you replace Cashman, since he has experienced so much success?”. At the time, you couldn’t replace him. Fast forward a few years, and Epstein and Click have the World Series pedigree. Click is known for his efficient spending, which might work well with you, considering you do not want to go over the luxury tax. Either gentleman would be a phenomenal hire and could be a crucial piece in changing the culture of your organization.

As I have stated, you’ve got to mix things up because your organization cannot compete with the Houston Astros as it currently stands. They dominated every facet of the game in the ALCS this October. However, you have a tremendous amount of talent within your organization, and I do not think you are that far off from being able to compete with the Astros. Change is not always a bad thing. Successful organizations adapt and overcome adversity. There is something special within your organization; you just need to supplement it correctly without sacrificing your payroll in years to come.


Clark Romig

(Just an internet blogger)


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