Back in 2004, Brian Cashman asked George Steinbrenner and received greater authority in running the entire Yankees organization. One of the things that he said at the time was that there would be a greater importance placed on the team’s minor league system.
It’s been nearly 10 years since then and the only everyday players the Yankees have developed are Robinson Cano (who was a pre-2004 prospect), Chien-Ming Wang (see Cano’s note), Brett Gardner, Phil Hughes (who isn’t even that good), Austin Jackson, and a few relievers (most notably David Robertson).
On top of that the Yankees haven’t had a single decent first round draft pick since Hughes with a long list of busts including Jonathan Poterson, Joba Chamberlain, Andrew Brackman, Gerrit Cole (failed to sign), Jeremy Bleich, Slade Heathcott, Cito Culver, Dante Bichette Jr., and Ty Hensley (you may argue, but he’s already had two major injuries). You could easily include Jeffrey Marquez, C.J. Henry, and Ian Kennedy in that list, but at least they were traded before they flopped.
On top of that, some of the team’s top prospects that looked solid a year ago, including Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, Manny Banuelos, Mark Montgomery and Brett Marshall, have all taken giant steps backwards (Banuelos still probably has time to turn it around, that is if the Yankees don’t Joba his future).
Those are pretty pathetic results, but in all that time the Yankees insist on hoarding prospects and have allowed the same people to run the system with no accountability.
But maybe, finally, after a season in which they certainly could have used as much help from the minors they could have gotten and only got Adam Warren and Preston Claiborne, maybe, just maybe, Hal Steinbrenner is finally going to hold someone accountable.
Per George King and Dan Martin of the NY Post, Steinbrenner recently held a meeting in Tampa with his front office with questions about the lack of talent in the system. Potentially in attendance were Brian Cashman, Mark Newman, head of the minor leagues, Damon Oppenheimer, head amateur scout, and Donny Rowland, director of international scouting.
This doesn’t mean that Steinbrenner actually is holding anybody accountable (and based on the way he has run the team since taking over, I don’t have faith that he will), but it means that he’s at least aware of the problem. If it continues for much longer (three first round picks this year should help) it’s going to get to a point where he no longer can ignore it.
Keep in mind that this is a much bigger deal than it used to be. Prospects are more valuable than ever before because the MLB isn’t the same as it was even five years ago. Teams can now afford to lock up their best players long-term because of revenue sharing. So guys like CC Sabathia, who was an ace in his prime when the Yankees signed him, just aren’t available anymore. His modern equivalent would have been King Felix Hernandez of the Mariners, but today King Felix was re-signed to an extension by a team that once could not retain Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr, or Randy Johnson.
Just look at the potential 2015 free agent class. There are literally no sure things and the big names that are out there are either likely to be extended before then (Chase Headley), have big question marks (Hanley Ramirez), or are the injury prone types (Brandon Morrow).
I’m pretty excited by the fact that Steinbrenner finally had this meeting, but it’s hard to expect change with a team that has been so happy with the status quo since the 2009 World Series. Hopefully I’m wrong though because the state of the Yankees farm system right now, and their track record running it for so long, has left me pretty disappointed about this team’s future.
• Remember, you can still buy Yankees tickets while supporting BBD through the Yankees Ticket Exchange.