A lot of commotion has been made about the Yankees lack of moves over the past 2 off seasons. Yankee haters are loving what they surmise as their downfall, while Yankee die hards are wishing The Boss was still alive to throw his money around and rope in all the big name free agents. There’s a certain irony in Yankee haters trashing the Yankees for their years of free spending, and now trashing them for not spending. There’s also a certain irony in the Yankee faithful crying for the spending when the spending didn’t work. The Yankee revival tour that began in the mid 90’s and became the most memorable modern day dynasty in the sport wasn’t built on spending, it was built from within. The heart and soul of the team were homegrown names like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Bernie Williams. With that up and coming 5-man core, the Yankees didn’t have to go out and buy the biggest names on the market. They simply added less prestigious, yet quality pieces to the mix such as Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, and Scott Brosius. They also filled holes with role players like Darryl Strawberry, Tim Raines, David Justice and Jeff Nelson. This winning formula was put together by Gene Michael in the wake of George Steinbrenner’s suspension, and resulted in a World Series appearance in 6 out of 8 seasons between 1996 and 2003, peaking with 4 out of 5 championships between 1996 and 2000.
Clearly, none of it would’ve ever taken place without those 5 homegrowns… Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, Posada and Bernie Williams. The Yankees spent years after that historically successful run trying to recapture their glory with high priced spending. There was only one problem… it didn’t work. In the 12 years that it’s been since their 8 year run ended in 2003, the Yankees have appeared in only 1 World Series. So why now? Why is everyone clamoring about their lack of spending now? Shouldn’t it be clear by now that building from within was the catalyst for their success, and that a return to free spending is what sent them spiraling out of control once again?
Let’s fast forward two decades from the time those 5 homegrowns who sparked the Yankee revival tour in the mid 90’s. Yes, that’s right folks, step right up and take a look at the 5 new homegrowns who have the potential to spark another Yankee revival.
Luis Severino – SP: Don’t let his wiry 6 foot 195 pound frame fool you, this kid can hurl. Prior to 2015, MLB.com had him ranked as the 23rd overall prospect, and he easily could’ve been higher considering his stellar minor league numbers. In 320 minor league innings, he posted a 2.30 ERA, 1.026 WHIP and a 323/81 K/BB ratio. He made his Yankee debut in 2015 and didn’t disappoint with a 2.89 ERA while striking out 56 batters in 62 innings. Manager Joe Girardi even likened his poise to that of Greg Maddux. Wow, high praise.
Greg Bird – 1B: Bird is a big lefty with a sweet swing. Think John Olerud with more power. In 1246 minor league at bats, he managed to hit .282 with 48 HRs and 192 RBIs. He also exhibited a great eye with 223 walks. Even more impressive than his minor league numbers were his results when called up to the Yankees in 2015 to replace the injured Mark Teixeira. He looked extremely comfortable at the plate, and banged out 11 HRs in only 157 at bats, a few of the heroic variety. A short right field home porch along with his calm demeanor at the plate is a recipe for a lot of future success in pinstripes. Unfortunately, a labrum tear will force him off the field for the remainder of 2016, but he’ll be a full go come 2017.
Aaron Judge – OF: A beast of a physical specimen, Judge is listed at 6’8 275. Baseball Prospectus has him ranked 49th among all prospects. Judge projects to become a big power bat in the middle of the Yankee lineup. he finished low A ball in 2014 with a .308 batting average, along with 17 dingers and 78 ribs in 467 at bats. The following year, which was divided between AA and AAA, saw his batting average dip to .255 against better pitching, but he maintained his impressive power with 20 HRs and 72 RBIs in 478 at bats. He’s likely to spend 2016 fine tuning his swing in the minors, but he’s expected to be ready to start belting jacks on the big stage in 2017.
Gary Sanchez – C: Sanchez is currently the front runner to back up Brian McCann in 2016. Baseball Prospectus has had him ranked as high as the 29th overall prospect, and at 6’2 230, his large frame has also shown impressive power in the minors. In 2157 minor league at bats, Sanchez blasted 89 home runs, and a whopping 378 RBIs while hitting .274. His 498/195 K/BB ratio needs some work, but the future looks bright behind the plate for the Yankees.
Jorge Mateo – SS: I feel the need for speed. Mateo is just 20 years old, but he’s already turning heads with his base running prowess. Mateo stole a ridiculous 82 bases in only 449 low A at bats in 2015. He’s managed an insane 146 steals in only 820 at bats so far in the minors. He’s still got some work to do on his plate discipline before he sees the majors, but he’s destined to be tearing up major league base paths, possibly as early as late 2017 or early 2018.
The new 5 homegrowns don’t look too shabby, do they? Maybe this explains why the Yankees refused to make a big splash on the trade market when many big name aging veterans were available. It would have come at the cost of these 5 coveted blue chippers, as nearly every team in the league has asked about one or all of them. The same way the Yankees wouldn’t have put together their dynasty without Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, Posada, and Williams, they were also smart enough not to let go of Severino, Bird, Judge, Sanchez, and Mateo.
Just as the original core needed key pieces around them, this group will as well. So what do the Yankees have up their sleeve? Well, let’s start with what’s already in place. The Yankees have young players like Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius, and Aaron Hicks who all have an opportunity to develop into key cogs. The Yankees also have large expiring contracts which will result in a LOT of freed up money. CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, and Brett Gardner are all on large expiring contracts. So if you look at the 2017-2018 seasons in advance, you not only see a big group of blue chip homegrowns all hitting the scene at the same time, but they’ll also have a large boatload of extra money laying around to make the type of splash they need to build around them. Enter: Bryce Harper.
The above photo was taken from Harper’s Instagram feed. Bryce spent his childhood days as a huge Yankee fan, and all signs point to him joining his beloved Yanks after the 2018 season. Everyone knows his agent Scott Boras is a shark, and Bryce is already projected to become the first 400 million dollar player once his free agency hits. As mentioned, they’ll certainly have the money to spend, along with a fine group of young talent to put around him. A lot can still change, but the Yankees current payroll obligations look something like this:
2015: 217 mil
2016: 183 mil
2017: 120 mil
2018: 93 mil
2019: 45 mil
So what does this tell us? It tells us that not only will the Yankees have a ridiculous amount of money to throw at Bryce Harper, quite possibly even challenging the 500 mil mark with a 10+ year contract… but also a ridiculous amount of money to throw at whatever other key players they’ll need to fill holes by then. Harper will only be 26 years old when he hits free agency, and he’d be surrounded by extremely young talent in New York. The stage would be set for another potential Yankee revival tour that could very well wind up producing another dynasty. Not convinced? Was it the potential dynasty part that was a little too much? Ok, well then how about we take a look at the top 30 international prospects:
A strange thing happens when I look at this list. I can’t help but notice that one third of all the top international prospects belong to the Yankees. That’s right, 10 out of the list of 30 are all Yankees. Ok, so I’ll concede that this is Baseball America’s 2014 list, so things can change a little from source to source, but I think you get the idea… the Yankees are STACKED with young talent. Of course, they’ll be paying some hefty fines for going over the spending limit on international players, but what’s a little fine money to unfairly stack the deck heavily in your favor? It’s not like we haven’t already established that they’ll have plenty of extra cash laying around, right? You see, all these cries about how the Yankees weren’t making any moves or spending any money were incomplete sentences. People forgot to add the “on the major league level” and “yet” to the end of their sentences. Money was being spent, it was just being spent on international players, fines, and future record contracts.
I regret to inform all the Yankee haters that news of their demise has been grossly exaggerated and premature. They’re currently filming a new picture that is due to hit the box office in 2019 entitled The Yankee Empire Strikes Back, and once it hits the big screen it’s expected to remain in theaters for at least another decade.