Thursday, March 13, 2014

2014 Storylines: Bridging The Gap

(Where do we go from here, Hal?  Courtesy of the AP)

Championship or bust.  That's the mentality in Yankeeland.  It's a mentality that has served them incredibly well during the Steinbrenner Family Era.  Say what you want about the methods, but it's hard to argue with the results.  Consistent postseason appearances, a bunch of division titles and AL pennants, and more than a fair share of championships.  These aren't things that every other team in MLB can lay claim to over the last 40 years.

Last season, the Yankees deviated from that mentality.  Concern over dollars and cents overrode the desire to win, and a haphazardly thrown together plan to get the team payroll below the luxury tax threshold was the main focus.  The on-field results predictably suffered as a result and the Yankees were completely shut out of the postseason for only the second time since 1994.  Jarred by those results, the front office returned to their old ways this past offseason, spending big on the free agent market and reloading the team for another playoff run.

While it was an impressive spending spree, the overall strategy this offseason doesn't appear to be a full return to the "championship or bust" ways of the past.  Instead, it comes off as a more tactful strategy, one designed to straddle the line between championship contention and rebuild and bridge the gap between the last 5-year generation of Yankee teams and the next generation.

Would You Trade David Phelps?

(Courtesy of the AP)

As the ups and downs of Spring Training continue to play out across MLB, it looks more and more like the Yankees are going to make a trade at some point.  Their needs are obvious and they've been connected to multiple teams by multiple different reports.  By now, it's more a question of "when" than "if" and the more important question than that could actually be the "who", as in who the Yankees are most likely to give up in a deal.

Their most attractive piece right now is probably David Phelps.  He's fresh off his best ST outing of the year (a 5-inning, 3-hit, no-run performance on Sunday), he's a lock to make the roster as either a starter or reliever, and the general feeling is that he still has room to reach his ceiling in either role.  There's a lot to like about Phelps.  He's only 27, he's shown flashes of brilliance in both roles while displaying the flexibility to move from one to other relatively seamlessly, he's been worth almost 2 total fWAR in 2 partial seasons, and in his second pre-arbitration year he's under team control through 2018.

Selfishly as a Yankee fan, I wouldn't be keen on the idea of trading Phelps for someone like Didi Gregorius.  But if the Mariners were willing to talk about Nick Franklin (we already know they're keeping tabs on Phelps), I'd be very open to that and I have to think Cash would be as well.  That's not a deal that's going to happen straight up, but Phelps + somebody for Franklin is still a solid move to make from the Yankees' side.  They've shown no interest in dangling Phelps, so a deal looks like a longshot right now.  If something happens to Brian Roberts though, that could change quickly.

Spring Training News And Notes: 3/12/14

The Yanks were back in action yesterday afternoon and played to another tie, this time 7-7 to the Tigers.  Dodged another rainout and got everybody their ABs.  That's all that matters.

- Hiroki Kuroda was yesterday's starter and he was awful.  10 H and 6 ER allowed in 3.2 innings.  He was up in the zone with his stuff all day and got smacked around.  It happens.

- The offensive star was Francisco Cervelli, who hit 2 home runs in his 2 plate appearances.  He's now got 3 for the spring and leads the team in SLG.

- Jose Campos worked around a leadoff double to work a scoreless frame in his first ST appearance.  Fastball was 90-93.  Back at camp, Dellin Betances threw a sim game in the morning.

- Brendan Ryan's oblique is much better according to him, but Joe said he won't return to game action until next week.  Dean Anna apparently has a stiff neck after his collision with McCann on Tuesday.

- Tyler Austin has progressed to hitting soft toss in the cage.  Slade Heathcott, Nik Turley, and Gary Sanchez were all cut and assigned to MiL camp.