On Using These Off-Days To Plan For The Near Future And Improve The Roster

The Yankees had their first scheduled off-day since April 30th yesterday, and it couldn't have come at a better time.  At the end of a stretch that saw them play 30 games in 31 days, they were playing baseball like a tired team that needed a rest.  The bats had gone cold, the bullpen had been worked hard, and there wasn't much energy to their losses during their 1-5 week last week.  Despite that long stretch and rough finish, they still wake up today in first place in the division, with a respectably positive run differential (+15), and with another scheduled off-day on the horizon before they head home for the weekend. The Yankees are still in a good spot, and they're going to hopefully get some more pitching help back in the weeks to come.  I'm confident that 2 days off this week will help bring some life back to those old legs and cold bats.  But to make the most out of this now friendly off-day schedule, I think the Yankees need to do more than rest.  They need to take an honest look at this team and start making plans to improve it.

And I'm not talking about the trade deadline.  That's its own separate thing that is still a while away from becoming a real factor.  I'm simply talking about making changes with the guys they already have that can give the team a better chance to win.  We're basically at the quarter pole of the season right now.  The sample sizes are big enough to tell us who's really getting it done and who isn't.  The Yankees have fallen victim to holding onto guys for way too long the last few years.  They can't make that same mistake this year.

Everybody knows who I'm talking about too.  Stephen Drew.  The guy stinks.  He's hitting worse in May (.505 OPS) than he did in April (.693).  Rob Refsnyder has been tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A and is up to .307/.371/.438 on the year with much improved defense over the past 2-3 weeks.  If Drew isn't going to hit, he shouldn't be a starter anymore.  It's that simple.  If the Yankees want to give him until the end of the month to start to turn things around, fine.  But if he's still hitting .175 on June 1st, the team needs to reduce his role and give somebody else (Refsnyder) a chance.

How about Garrett Jones?  Granted he only has 39 plate appearances this season and it's hard to get into any kind of good hitting routine with a workload that small, but what has he shown to deserve more consideration?  He's hitting .158/.179/.237, he isn't drawing any walks, and he's been terrible defensively in right field and at first base.  What is he bringing to the table right now?  What is his value?  The Yankees have Ramon Flores hitting .290/.380/.435 and Kyle Roller hitting .273/.395/.512 in Triple-A.  Neither of them are likely to be stars or even above-average regulars at the MLB level, but can they play the positions Garrett Jones plays?  Yes they can.  Could they hit better than his .158/.179/.237 pukeslash?  I'd like to think so.

We're talking about 2 guys in their early-mid 30s who are on the downside of their careers and on 1-year commitments to what amounts to peanuts for the Yankees.  What is the reason for holding onto players like that when they're performing at a below-replacement level?  I understand the concept of giving veteran players a chance to prove themselves, but Drew and Jones have had that chance.  Nobody with eyes, a brain, or a working computer believes Joe when he says Drew is having good at-bats and making good contact.  Cut the good guy routine, be realistic and honest in your evaluations, and dump the dead weight.  This is a business, a business of winning baseball games and making money.  Guys like Drew and Jones help the team do neither.  If they aren't going to start hitting, cut them loose and try to find somebody who can.

These are admittedly not big moves, but I don't think it's about making a big move right now for the Yankees.  They can improve their team by making a few small changes here and there and I think it's getting close to the time, if they've learned their lesson from the last 2 years, to start making those changes.  The problems in the bullpen should settle themselves out when guys come off the DL.  The Yankees don't have that luxury to wait for when it comes to their position players.  They need to be proactive to get some improvement there, and I think it behooves them to start thinking proactively about what they can do with the off-days they have this week.