Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Yankees Do Not Trust Their Farm System

If one thing has been shown this off-season, it’s that the Yankees, despite assurances that they want to get younger and cheaper, do not trust their farm system.

How else do you explain their trading 2 of their top prospects in the past few weeks? Austin Jackson, (23) long one of their prized position players—the centerfielder of the future—was spun for Curtis Granderson, and this morning, Arodys Vizcaino, the number 3 prospect in their farm system according to Baseball America, all of 19 years old, was traded for Javier Vasquez, 33 years old and making close to 12 million.

“You always want to get younger, especially when you have an older team,”

That was Cashman at the Winter Meetings a few weeks ago. Cashman now has a starting rotation who’s ages are 36, 38, 33 and an 29-year-old in Sabathia who’s arm is more like 33 what with the number of innings he’s put on it.

“(With all the injuries we’ve had recently)...you’re starting to see the necessity of [why] you have to get younger.”

That was Cashman at the end of 2008. However, how long does he thing a rotation in its mid 30s will hold up? Burnett and Pettitte have a history of injury issues. So far, Vasquez has been relatively healthy—but how long will a 33-year-old Vasquez remain so? Can Burnett and Pettitte pitch healthy into September and October?

If they all remain healthy though, a rotation of Sabathia, Burnett, Vasquez and Pettitte would be potent. Even with Hughes or Chamberlain in the 5th and all their youthful volatility, that rotation should be dominant. Again, the question is age.

Apparently, Cashman isn’t concerned. Otherwise he wouldn’t have traded Baseball America’s 2008 top Yankee prospect, Austin Jackson, and, Vizcaino, who Keith Law of ESPN felt could jump well into the top 50 prospects of the game.

And maybe Cashman is right. Maybe the Yankees aren’t a team that believes that prospects could or should play a large role in their Yankees Universe. Maybe they should just be chips in trading for proven commodities. They aren’t the Rays or A’s, driven by cheaper talent. They are the Yankees.

“Ultimately, what I feel is a strong reluctance to trade three or four assets to another team [for a player] and then sign him to a multiyear contract. You trade for a guy, give up three or four assets [and then pay him], then you’ve crushed your payroll and your assets at the same time.”

And while the Yankees didn’t extend contracts, they did add contracts. And payroll. Vasquez’s contract is close to 12 million. Melky and Vizcaino add up to about 3 million. Jackson made AAA money; Granderson has 25+ million coming through 2012.

So while Cashman may not be wrong about adding payroll and proven talent (maybe), he is at the very least, contradicting himself.

In any event, its clear Cashman has turned around from his 2005 proclamation that the Yankees need to build through the farm. Since 2005, the Yankees have grown some talented youngsters, Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson, Ross Ohlendorf, Jose Tabata, Melky Cabrera among others. They will however, blossom with other teams. Because it’s now clear that Brian Cashman, like his predecessor sees the Yankees winning through acquiring talent, not growing it.

Let’s hope his plan works.