When I hear the term baseball rebuild, I think of the Mets over the last few years. The Royals, the Mariners, the Nationals, the Pirates, and the Astros, are a few of the many teams that have recently accepted a few losing seasons for top draft picks, compensation picks, and revenue sharing money. Some consider the process of rebuilding a necessary evil in Bud Selig's era of the game. Now that the Yankees have missed the playoffs in 2013, we're looking at 17 playoff appearances in 19 years. Where was the rebuild? The Yankees haven't needed one, they were fortunate enough to have Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada for a huge chunk of that time. And players like Alex Rodriguez, Mike Mussina, CC Sabathia, and Robinson Cano have given the team necessary value in areas where production is typically hard to find.
Money has helped, luck has maintained, but after watching the 2013 team flounder, at least relative to the success we're accustomed to, Yankee fans are now demanding a rebuild. With Posada, Rivera, and Pettitte retired, Rodriguez off to PED jail, Jeter in an injury purgatory, Sabathia losing his effectiveness, and Cano a free agent, Yankee fans want to know what's next. The end of the 2013 season feels very much like the conclusion of a Yankee era, perhaps the bookend of a dynasty. So much so are Yankee fans concerned with the future of the club, that many called for a fire sale this trade deadline, despite a winning record and a real chance at playoff contention. So when will the rebuild happen? You're looking at it.
Why didn't the team re-sign Nick Swisher? Why didn't they go all in at the trade deadline? Why was Cashman reluctant to trade away Corey Black for a Alfonso Soriano? The Yankees have put an emphasis on their farm system, and arguably, they've put the needs of the farm system over the immediate needs of the major league team. They accumulated 3 first round draft picks in 2013, and arguably acquired 4 first round talents in the process, depending on your opinion of second rounder Gosuke Katoh. The team also signed Leonardo Molina, the 5th ranked international prospect by Baseball America. Though it's hard to see many top prospects in their current system, the Yankees have loaded their organization with depth. Though it doesn't have the big names, it is one of the deepest in all of baseball.
They've also put themselves in the position to acquire more high-end prospects in the future. The Yankees will likely hand out qualifying offers to Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Hiroki Kuroda. As it stands, the Yankees have at least one 18th overall pick in the 2014 draft, their highest pick since 2005, and could see up to 4 first round picks depending on how the free agent market shapes up. Yankee teams of the past would probably ignore the potential for four picks in favor of the "now-talent" of the free agent market, but all indication are that they won't go in this direction.
The organization has stated multiple times that they plan to stay under a $189 million payroll for 2014, decreasing the chances of signing any big name free agent. Although they'll certainly have money to spend, especially if Rodriguez receives a suspension, re-signing Cano and shoring up a number of positions will cost the team. Players like Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, and Ervin Santana are luxuries that the team likely won't need to succeed. Instead, we've heard rumors about the Yankees heavily scouting Masahiro Tanaka, a pitcher who will need a substantial investment, but won't cost the Yankees a draft pick or a heavy hit on the future payroll. They've also scouted Jose Abreu, who may not have a position with the team, but certainly has the bat to fit their lineup.
So while we were all wondering when the rebuild would start, it looks like the front office started a while ago. The Yankees are hoping to find the next core group of players out of all the prospects they've acquired in this process, and fortunately for fans, we still got to watch a contending team in 2013. Yes, it's unfortunate the Yankees didn't make the playoffs, but for a rebuild, it wasn't such a bad season.