A lot has been made this offseason about the holes in the Yankee rotation. Expectations are always high for the Yankees and consequently it is important that they look good on paper. What I mean by this is we as fans want to look and see every position filled. We want to know who the 5th starter is and who the long man is and who the 2nd lefty out of the pen is and who the utility infielder is. This is how we evaluate teams before the season starts because it’s the only way we can.
The reality though is that throughout the course of a season, that initial piece of paper never stays the same. Whether its Ivan Nova or Eric Hinske or Jerry Hairston Jr or even Aaron Small if we want to think way back, the roster inevitably changes. Ultimately, those smaller roles on the team, while certainly important, aren’t really all that important in March, April, and June.
So for all the hand-wringing over the back-end of the Yankee rotation, it can be easy for people to forget about the things the Yankees do have: probably the best lineup in baseball, a deep bullpen, a legitimate ace at the front of the rotation, and some other starters with upside.
Curtis Granderson was the story on opening day, both for his offense and his defense, and really he might be the perfect player to symbolize the way the Yankees can sometimes be overlooked (as impossible as that sounds). Yes, you look at the roster and it seems crazy that Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova will be making starts for the Yankees, but then you look at that lineup and realize, “Holy crap, Curtis Granderson is hitting 8th.” The Yankee lineup is still one that will grind down opposing pitchers, even those as good as Justin Verlander.
Back to Granderson though, as I think he is about as overlooked as a good player on the Yankees can be. On numerous occasions this winter I have read comments bashing Brian Cashman – surely inspired by his failure to land Cliff Lee – and listed amongst Cash’s bevy of crimes against the Yankees was the Granderson trade.
For the record, I liked the Granderson trade when it happened and I still like it now. If given the option, I would not undo that deal. If you consider Josh Hamilton to be a corner outfielder, who is a better center fielder than Granderson?
Sure, Austin Jackson had a good year last year, but his BABIP suggests he was not just lucky but historically lucky. Given his high strikeout rate, it seems unlikely that he will be a top of the order type hitter this season. His defense should be enough to keep him in the majors, but don’t let his high batting average from last year fool you.
As for other parts of that trade, Ian Kennedy is a productive player for the Diamondbacks, but does anyone really believe he would be doing anything more than perhaps challenging Garcia for the 5th starter spot if he were with the Yankees?
I won’t even bother discussing Phil Coke as I think everyone is fine with him giving up homeruns as a Tiger.
This is not to say the Yankees will win 100 games and the World Series. What I am saying is that since the Yankees are expected to field a star at every position it’s easy to think more about what don’t have than what they do. It’s a long season and they very well could end up needing more starting pitching; but isn’t that the case for every team?