Friday, March 20, 2015

When money trumps talent: Why the Yankees won't bring up Jose Pirela

Spring training is supposed to be a time where baseball farmhands have the opportunity to play their way into the big leagues. But when it comes to the Yankees these days, "Know your place, rook" is the rule. And the place these rookies will be is the minor leagues, instead of with the Yankees. How frustrating, as I noted in this recent column.

Yankee prospect Jose Pirela, after impressing in a September callup, is having a phenomenal spring training.  How phenomenal? Wally Matthews of ESPN New York breaks it down:
Among New York Yankees who have had at least 20 spring training at-bats, one player sits atop the pack in batting average (.391), on-base percentage (.462), slugging average (.652) and OPS (1.114): Jose Pirela. He is hitting more than 200 points higher than Brett Gardner, Stephen Drew and Mark Teixeira. He has more extra-base hits than anyone on the team. 
You know what else the 25-year-old native Venezuelan player has? Almost no chance to make the team. That is because the Yankees are paying $2 million this year to Brendan Ryan, and a jaw-dropping $5M (plus incentives!) this year to Stephen Drew. So even though Pirela can hit and play multiple positions: second base, third base, and the outfield, he is left out in the cold. Joe Girardi has said as much (emphasis added):
"I don’t want to have to say there’s no chance of him making our roster, but I think [GM] Brian [Cashman] said it, our roster was fairly set,'' Joe Girardi said. "You don’t ever lock yourself in and say this is exactly what it’s going to be, but we came to spring training pretty sure, excluding the second catcher, who the 13 [position players] were going to be. They were kind of signed to do that.''
And therein lies the problem. The Yankees have so little faith in their farm system that they won't even use homegrown utility infielders! Signing Ryan for two years (with an option for a third year!) never made any sense to me. (And please, spare me the nonsense Cashman always spews when he overpays -- that the team had to make that offer to get him instead of another team. We are talking about a utility infielder on the wrong side of 30, not Mike Trout!)

Bringing back Stephen Drew has never made sense to anybody but the Yankees themselves. We were talking about this on social media yesterday. One theory, which makes about as much sense as anything else, is that Cashman wants to show he didn't get snookered by the Red Sox in the first place in obtaining him. So he brought Drew back, like he did with bringing back Nick Johnson and Javier Vazquez, to show that he somehow made the right decision in getting them in the first place. Cashman keeps on talking about Drew's historically horrible season being an "aberration," instead of realizing what everybody else has -- that Drew wasn't very good in the first place, and he is terrible now!

So because the Yankees are paying a combined $7M for these two players, they will stick with Drew and Ryan, even though they are awful, and even though there is Pirela waiting in the wings.

I know I sound like a negative Nellie here. but exactly who do the Yankees think will be their hitting stars next year? Given that they have the light-hitting Didi Gregorius at shortstop, and so many question marks at other positions, they can't really afford to have two more of the 13 position player spots being manned by people who are completely unable to hit.

The New York Post's Ken Davidoff wrote a completely incoherent column today on the Yankees' lineup, although I am not sure if it is incoherent because of Davidoff's writing or Cashman's plan.
“I still believe in the power of the home run,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Thursday, before his team took on the Phillies at Steinbrenner Field. And yes, Cashman acknowledged, there often is a correlation between home runs and strikeouts, and that is a trade he is willing to make.
To that end, to fill the holes at shortstop, second base, and third base, Cashman claims that “you play the best guys you can get.”Except he's not. Pirela, as well as Rob Refsnyder, are not getting the chance to compete in the big leagues. Good grief.

1 comment:

Jimmy Harper said...

Well said and well written. It would appear that the Steinbrenner brothers are willing to allow Cashman to run and manage the team as well. Both Pirela and Refsnyder should make this team.

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