The Yankees have aggressively moved toward a younger group of players over the past month, trading veterans Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller while also releasing Alex Rodriguez and announcing that the 2016 season will be the end of Mark Teixeira’s excellent career. Looking back further, the Yankees targeted youth when dealing Martin Prado to the Marlins for Nathan Eovaldi — a move that ultimately came with mixed results — and selling high on one young asset (Shane Greene) to acquire an even younger asset at a more premium position in Didi Gregorius. While the 2016 season as a whole may be a disappointment for Yankees fans in terms of the team’s overall record, it’s also an undeniably exciting time as the future is right before them. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin and many other young players have forced their way into the Majors this year. Greg Bird will be back in 2017 after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury this past spring, as well.
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner discussed that youth movement with reporters, including Ken Davidoff of the New York Post and David Lennon of Newsday, explaining his palpable excitement for the possibility of a new core’s emergence. “We’ve been following these guys for three years, all the ups and downs and the progressions,” said Steinbrenner. “My goodness, the hope that you have. Then when you come up and see [Gary] Sanchez, the last two weeks, what he’s doing. And then (Austin and Judge hitting back-to-back homers in their debuts)… it would be hard as managing general partner to not be emotional about something like that.”
As Davidoff writes, Steinbrenner was acutely aware of the short-term pains that would come from continuing to add potential core components, specifically discussing the difficulty of trading away Beltran when he had been the team’s best hitter in 2016. However, he approved the acquisition of Tyler Clippard to help the club remain competitive this season and next, and the addition of Adam Warren was similarly motivated.
The subtraction of Rodriguez, too, was about creating a chance for younger players like Judge and Austin in 2016 and beyond, and Steinbrenner also touched on rumors of A-Rod playing elsewhere, as USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes. While the announcement of his release suggested retirement — Rodriguez took a role as an advisor/instructor with the Yankees — there’s been talk of him playing elsewhere in 2017. Steinbrenner suggested that Rodriguez’s role as an instructor wouldn’t stand in the way of that happening. “It’s very flexible,” he explained, “and it was intended to be a very flexible situation. We talked to him about it as an option. And I just wanted to let him know about his option. When we talked about ’17, it was just that was when the contract was up. It was just logical to get everything done quickly.”
One veteran that’s still on the club, but doesn’t look to have a long-term spot, is catcher Brian McCann. Lennon writes that Steinbrenner seemed to suggest that the possibility of a McCann trade loomed a larger offseason likelihood than an August scenario, though McCann has indeed cleared trade waivers, making him available to all clubs. “It was always the case that Sanchez at some point was going to come up and hopefully come up to stay,” said Steinbrenner. “So we’ll cross that bridge in the offseason when we come to it, but McCann’s a great player, too.” The $34MM remaining on McCann’s contract and the full no-trade clause he obtained in the deal serve as roadblocks to an eventual deal, however, as Lennon notes. Even if the Yankees are willing to pay down some of the money he’s owed, McCann could still impede the situation by trying to get his $15MM option for the 2019 season exercised in advance, which would muddle matters considerably.
While that situation does figure to be a complicated matter, there’s little doubt as to who will be overseeing negotiations. Per Davidoff, Steinbrenner “made it clear” that he has total faith in both general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi. Each has a contract that is up after the 2017 season, but neither is any danger this coming offseason despite a lackluster showing in the American League East.