Joel Sherman has a new piece up in the New York Post, where he examines the long-term considerations of why Hughes and Granderson had the inside track for 5th Starter and starting Centerfielder this year heading into camp. He writes:
They didn’t exactly rig the event as much as set the bar nice and low for Phil Hughes and for Curtis Granderson. As long as those guys just avoided losing jobs, then nobody else could win them.
So once Hughes showed the makings of a pretty good changeup and Granderson essentially did not belly-flop tracking flies in center, the pseudo-competitions were over. That Sergio Mitre outpitched Hughes did not matter nor did the fact that Brett Gardner is likely a superior center fielder to Granderson. The Yankees had both short- and long-term reasons for stacking the deck.
For example, the Yankees cannot guarantee that Mitre or Gardner will even be part of their team on July 1. Meanwhile, they envision Hughes and Granderson being vital pieces of their club into 2011 and beyond.
This is no small item. Success by prime-aged players such as Hughes and Granderson are vital to the Yanks navigating effectively away from the Core Four while being more judicious in the free-agent and trade markets. For example, if Hughes honors the Yankees’ scouting projections to evolve into, at least, a No. 3 starter on a championship contender then the organization could be more financially disciplined in wooing a free agent such as Cliff Lee.
If Granderson is not a center fielder and has to move to left, then the Yankees either have to trade him or he would be a block to pursuing Carl Crawford, a player they almost certainly will desire in the offseason.
I agree completely with Joel’s take on this. Fans often don’t view things this way, but Baseball decisions on the Yanks are ultimately made by the GM, since Cashman is in charge of Baseball Ops. Putting the team in a strong position to deal with future considerations will be a tipping point in decision making, as long as they’re not hurting the 2010 team. In running the numbers, all the projections I’ve seen had the difference between Hughes or Joba as the #5 Starter or Gardner/Granderson in CF as marginal, so setting yourself up for future considerations is something they can afford to do. This is one of the reasons the Yanks are a well-run organization and set apart from other teams, most of whom don’t have the luxury of thinking this far ahead.
BTW-2 days until Opening Day. . . . .
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