The Yankees do not hate their youngsters

The main thrust of Goldman’s post is this:

It’s simply this: what kind of message does the Yankees organization deliver to Hector Noesi, D.J. Mitchell (3.04 ERA at Scranton), Adam Warren (3.33), and David Phelps (2.95), when you pass them over for some other organization’s journeyman? The only possible message is that they will never be good enough, that the Yankees are so deeply suspicious of their own prospects that they would rather take someone else’s trash over their own treasure.

Let’s unpack this move a little more soberly, shall we? First of all, we have to keep in mind the terms of Gordon’s opt-out clause, which was that he could opt out of his deal with the Phillies if someone else put him on their 25-man roster. So to even bring Gordon into the organization he had to be placed on the active roster, a condition that obviously isn’t an issue with anyone currently in Triple-A. So we have to put the question of the active roster spot aside and assess whether acquiring Gordon is a worthwhile move.

To that end, I think it’s best to look at the corresponding roster moves that were made to get Gordon onto the roster. The clear space on the 25-man roster, Lance Pendelton was sent back to Triple-A, and to make room on the 40-man, the Yankees released Amauri Sanit. Considering Gordon’s fantastic peripherals in Triple-A this season, it’s entirely reasonable to expect that he’ll be a better major league pitcher than either of those two players, which means acquiring him improves the major league team at the margins. It’s a small improvement given the roles those guys were filling, but an improvement is an improvement. And if the big picture idea is for Gordon to be a long-relief/low leverage option in the bullpen this season, Phelps, Noesi, and Mitchell aren’t terribly relevant to the decision here.

Now as for today’s start, I could maybe see Goldman’s argument if not for some fairly obvious caveats. First, though Noesi has had some big league success this year, he’s pitched out of the bullpen and as such may not be stretched out enough to pitch deep into the game, a completely legitimate concern (and Noesi may well wind up getting plenty of action anyway if he’s used as a caddy for Gordon), and if Gordon isn’t good, they could always call someone else up to make the next start if they need to. Secondly, this is a temporary assignment. Right now I think the Yankees are hoping Colon isn’t out much more than the 15 days he has to spend on the disabled list, but even if (Mo forbid) he’s out for an extended period of time, you would expect Phil Hughes to take the spot when he’s ready to return from injury. Is it really such a travesty to use your big league long-reliever to make a few spot starts rather than calling up a Triple-A pitcher and starting his service clock? I’m all for giving these young guys a chance, but let’s not get carried away with the outrage here. If we outlined this situation in general terms rather than attaching names to the players, I don’t think anyone would find it that curious.

Now, the signings of Cory Wade and Jeff Marquez? I’m not sure exactly what’s going on there, other than perhaps the Yankees trying a variety of players hoping to find someone who surprises them at the back of the bullpen. And again, these guys are being asked to fill relatively marginal roles that it would be improper to insert quality prospects into. Those youngsters are much better served by starting in Triple-A then filling out the last spots in middle-relief in the majors.

Of course, pitchers aren’t the only guys in the minors who are getting slighted by the big league club these days, there’s also Jesus Montero. Many of us have been wondering if Montero isn’t a better player than Francisco Cervelli at this point, and general manager Brian Cashman answered just that question today:

Cashman was brutally honest as usual when it came to the backup catcher situation. Russell Martin is back in the lineup after missing seven of the last eight games. Francisco Cervelli, who has struggled offensively and defensively, had subbed for him. Cashman wants top catching prospect Jesus Montero to play. That’s why he isn’t being brought up to back up Martin and get occasional DH at-bats.

“Is Montero better than Cervelli? Yes he is,” Cashman said.

I can live with that. Especially with Russell Martin doing a good job behind the plate (even if he’s struggling offensively) and Jorge Posada starting to hit (at least against right-handed pitchers) I can accept that the front-office just doesn’t feel there are enough available at bats on the big league team to make bringing Montero up worthwhile. I still think they made a mistake in not putting Martin on the disabled list because of his back issue, but in fairness Martin basically admits that he flat out lied about how his back was feeling over the weekend, so it’s not necessarily their fault.

In the big picture thing, I think the Yankees are just seeing what they can get their hands on for little cost right now, and they’re mostly looking at guys who have to be in the big leagues. The kids in the minors are going to be available to them for the near future, so there’s no rush to get them on the major league roster if you’ve got a chance to try out a cheaper option first, especially if you’re looking for help in a fairly minor role. And if these guys don’t work? Well, they can always be jettisoned anytime and replaced with someone in the minors.

Just remember, the last time many of us were wondering why some of these youngsters weren’t getting more of a chance to compete with some no-good veteran players, it was when Fat Bartolo Colon was in competition for a starting rotation spot this past spring.

 

8 thoughts on “The Yankees do not hate their youngsters

  1. DOA

    Excellent post, Brien. Thank you! I am exhausted with all the "Chicken Little; sky is falling" scenarios from various pundits, and some fans, whose first reactions to any kind of questionable, or negative news, is a knee-jerk one of "doom and gloom," without any real thought or objectivity behind it. Critique and thoughtful questions for debate and discussion is one thing. But outright hysteria and "fire bomb" throwing is another!

  2. CS Yankee

    I use to read Goldman a bit and he has had some good thoughts (i.e. Yankees advantage with Sada over their foes during the late-90's due to his Switch power bat for the position).

    However, he doesn't believe in Christmas and has to rant about stuff twice a week in his writings; and since this week they have played real well, he doesn't have squat.

    My first reaction was that it was a bummer for Phelps or Noesi…however, they will be stronger with additional time in AAA as they don't have much experience at that level anyhow. Plus, Gordon had to be the most dominant AAA guy this year. I applaud the move and if he blows up next week it will still be a victory as Phelps and the other kids will push that much harder.

    Montero…maybe he should get the call up but his power is lacking, his bread is still baking and we need to have a few more weeks of Sada & Jones to see if they are options in the second half. Montero will get the call this year…it just might not be in pinstripes.

    • BrienJackson

      Phelps has just about 150 innings in Triple-A, but coming up for a fill in role won't necessarily be the best use for him, at least not if you have a longman you're okay giving the starts too, which Gordon apparently is now.

  3. munson 78

    I think everyone is being a little hard on Goldman. You want to hear a big Yankee fan always put his own team down (atleast 90% of the time) read waswatching. Glad this site puts an honest face on the team both good and bad!

    • BrienJackson

      I don't mean to imply that Goldman is generally a bad read (if he were I wouldn't have read the piece to begin with), but this post was pretty absurd. Though yes, Goldman is generally someone well worth reading, unlike the proprietor of the Yankee "fan" blog you mentioned.

  4. munson 78

    I try to check many blogs. I usually find something interesting in everyone though I don't always agree with what is written. Thanks for keeping this one readable and enjoyable. You don't find many places you can comment freely without being made to sound like kid or a jerk if you don't agree with the writer. Great job!

  5. PrinceNasim

    It may be a warped way of thinking but I believe that maybe bringing these youngsters up and having them under-perform would hurt their trade value at the deadline if they need to swing a deal for another starter or bat. In Montero's case, it is most certainly the issue of playing time. He is still raw and needs more work in the minors. Of course there have been players who have been called up based on potential alone and it has worked out however the Yanks are playing well at this point (except against Boston) so why rush these guys along if in their development when it's not mission critical at this point?

  6. Tom

    I like the Yankees approach with the youngsters. You call up a guy like Montero who still has some defensive work to do and if his bat starts slow along with any defensive issues and he gets hammered by the media, fans, and gets the "just another hyped prospect tag", he starts pressing and developing bad habits. I also don't see how he gets enough AB's or time behind the plate to actually develop if they call him up.

    Same thing with Betance, Banuelos and even guys further along like Phelps or Warren. If these guys struggle out of the gate, they start resorting to what works for them (maybe they stop throwing one of their secondary pitches or stop throwing some of their pitches to both sides of the plate). You stick them in the pen as a bandaid and they become 2 pitch pitchers and also develop bad habits

    I look at a guy like Nova and he probably should have spent a year (or at least a couple of months) in the minor focusing almost exclusively on his changeup… and I wouldn't care what his ERA or K or BB rates look like. It's now an afterthought and it's not like when he's fighting to potentially stay in the rotation he's going to spend a lot of time either in side sessions or in games working on that.

    I realize it's a different game these days and young folks seem to be called up quicker but look at the Rays… they generally leave a guy in the minors a bit longer than he needs to be. Hellickson could have been up earlier, a guy like Desmond Jennings also…. but the Rays wanted to make sure they are ready. Some of it is money and it's easy to say that's the only reason but they don't tend to bounce guys up and down and make sure they are ready.

    The other part of the bullpen being a mess is Girardi may now have no choice but to let starters go a little further in games and not yank them as soon as a guy gets on 1st base after the 6th inning (which was his formula when he had "the formula" of Joba/Soriano/Mo)

    (sorry for the long comment)

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