Tha Sports Junkies 101

The Empire Strikes Back: Yankees Building Another Dynasty

Yankees Sydney07012000/ via Flickr


With all of their trades this July, the New York Yankees seem to be in rebuild mode.  But this isn’t a rebuild.  The Yankees are preparing for a full on revolt against baseball norms.

Dynasties in Major League Baseball have occurred few and far between, especially over the past fifty years.  The San Francisco Giants have won three titles since 2010, and have a decent chance to win another one this year.  Led by Reggie Jackson, the Oakland Athletics won three consecutive World Series between 1972 and 1974.  Both of these dynasties were impressive, but only one team really resonates with the term “dynasty”.

The New York Yankees.  

Over their illustrious history, the Yankees have had multiple dynasties, with the most recent run of dominance coming in the late 1990’s.  The Bronx Bombers were led by their core four of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada.  Some other key contributors included David Wells, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, David Cone, and Tino Martinez.  From 1996 through 2000, the Yankees won four championships.  They were the most prestigious team to grace the diamond in decades.

All good things must come to an end, and that legendary Yankees team was no exception.  After defeating the New York Mets in the 2000 Subway Series, the Bombers failed to capture another World Series title for nine years.  That one came in 2009, but those Yankees were not like the teams built at the turn of the millennium.  Led by ambitious owner George Steinbrenner and General Manager Brian Cashman, the New York Yankees relied almost exclusively on high-dollar contracts to build a contender.  They have shelled out $100 million contracts to Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Masahiro Tanaka since 2001.  New York’s regime values importing talent and not building a homegrown system.

In 2016, the effects of the monster contracts came front and center.  The Yankees are paying Alex Rodriguez $21 million to spend most of his time sitting on the bench, and they owe A-Rod another $21 million next season.  Mark Teixeira was a key cog in the 2009 championship lineup, but now there is talk that he should be released.  Sabathia has found new life after a dismal 2015 campaign, but he is still being vastly overpaid.  And Red Sox fans may have been furious Ellsbury leaving for the Bronx in 2014, but now they’re able to laugh about how awful their former sparkplug has been for New York.

For years and years, so many informed baseball minds have suggested that the Yankees start a rebuild where the organization emphasizes the importance of building a farm system.  They were advised to trade older players for blue-chip prospects that could make the team a perennial contender again.  But the stubborn executives refused to change.  Meanwhile, teams like the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros tore their teams down and started from the ground up.  They stocked valuable teenagers and high draft selections in hopes of one day having those kids lead their clubs to the promised land as men.  After years and years of rebuilding, the Cubs and Astros have accomplished their respective goals.  For the foreseeable future, Houston and Chicago have a wealth of baseball talent to win with.

As the 2016 season went on, the Yankees kept losing, while the Baltimore Orioles, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Boston Red Sox kept winning.  Any hopes at a division crown for New York had become a pipe dream, and all signs pointed to Brian Cashman going into total sell-mode.  Not only did Cashman deny that; he claimed the Yankees would be looking to buy at the deadline to contend.  Then, Cashman traded closer Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs, yet he still insisted that the Yankees were not giving up on this year.  He followed that move up by trading new closer Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians.  And then, as Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline drew closer, Cashman worked his magic.

Not only was the longtime general manager able to deal Miller and Chapman; Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova were also shipped out of the Big Apple.  Cashman was able to bring back a total of 13 prospects for his four veterans.  Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield and Dillon Tate are the most talented prospects who will join the Yankees organization.  The farm system already had a solid group of future big leaguers like Jorge Mateo, Aaron Judge and Blake Rutherford, but the trades the Yankees made over the past week have put them on another level. and Baseball America both rank seven Yankees’ farm hands inside their Top 100 Prospect Rankings.  But this is not how rebuilding is supposed to work.

The Cubs spent years compiling young up-and-comers in the minors, waiting for their impact to reach Chicago.  The Astros lost 100 games in three consecutive seasons so that players like Carlos Correa and George Springer could develop.  The New York Yankees have cheated the system that so many teams have started to buy into.  There is a common saying: “Rome wasn’t built-in a day”.  Well, the Yankees’ future empire basically was.  Once again, the Yankees have revolutionized the way baseball thinks.

Prospects are like snowflakes; each one is extremely different.  Some guys can adjust to better pitching in one at-bat, while it can take someone else a month.  There are pitchers who can master a new pitch in one or two bullpen sessions, but another player may never even get a feel for it.  Most top of the line prospects end up making it to the big leagues as early as age 20 and as late as age 23.  Highly touted high school players typically spend 3 or 4 years in the minors, while college guys spend just 1 or 2.  Teams after often tasked with monitoring progress on these potential superstars and deciding how to handle them.

The Yankees are bucking that trend.  Newly acquired prospects Clint Frazier, Dillon Tate, Billy McKinney, and Justus Sheffield have all been prepped by their former clubs.  Most of them should be playing in Yankee Stadium at some point next season.  Homegrown players Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and James Kaprieliean will all likely see time with New York next year as well.  Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo will form a deadly combination up the middle someday, but they are a bit further away from the big leagues.

The point is that the Yankees won’t be losing 100 games to secure a top draft pick.  They won’t have a miserable fan base while the front office is plotting for the future.  The reality is that the Yankees’ future is set in stone.  It involves buying and selling players like stocks, a revolutionary approach to building an organization, and a core reminiscent of the 90’s group.  New York isn’t just going to win.  They are going to rule the baseball landscape.  The Evil Empire is going to strike back harder than ever, and form their greatest dynasty yet.