By Bob Elliott
Give Brian Cashman credit.
We will, since not a lot of other people are.
In 2013, he had Robinson Cano (.314 average, 27 homers, 107 RBIs and an .899 OPS in 160 games) at second base and an injured living legend in Derek Jeter (.190, one, seven, .542) at shortstop. Well, OK, Jeter was there some of the time, 39 games.
Cano departed as a free agent to the Seattle Mariners after that season and the Yankees used eight second baseman in 2014 (Brian Roberts, Stephen Drew, Martin Prado, Brendan Ryan, Yangervis Solarte, Jose Pirela, Dean Anna and Kelly Johnson), while Jeter (.256, four, 50, .617) played 130 game at short in his farewell tour.
Last year the Yanks had Didi Gregorius, acquired in a three-team trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks which also involved the Tigers, at short.
And for this season, Cashman sent Adam Warren and Ryan to the Chicago Cubs for Starlin Castro, who will play second base.
By George, we think he has rebuilt the Yankees up the middle without spending a dime on the free agent market.
While scouting director Damon Oppenheimer and Cashman have not reached the home grown, up-the-middle status that the Yankees had with centre fielder Bernie Williams, catcher Jorge Posada, lefty Andy Pettitte, closer Mariano Rivera and Jeter, they are certainly on their way.
Luis Severino, a Yankee free-agent sign, is in the rotation. Relievers Dellin Betances and Ivan Nova are big contributors. Greg Byrd hit 11 homers in 178 at-bats last year filling in for an injured Mark Teixeira. Byrd was set to back up again this year until a labrum injury in early February causing him to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.
Plus the Yankees have blue-chip prospects outfielder Aaron Judge and shortstop Jorge Mateo on the way.
Masahiro Tanaka, signed during the heady free-agent days in the Bronx, was supposed to make his 46th start as a Yankee and try for his 26th win Sunday night in Detroit on an ESPN game. The game was cancelled either due to weather or the fact the Comerica Park roof was broken again.
Tanaka, 5-2 with a 2.23 in seven starts against Toronto, starts Tuesday, followed by Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi in the first meeting between the two rivals. The Jays will start Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Marcus Stroman this series.
When the Boston Red Sox were in town on the weekend David Ortiz, the not-so-shy, but now retiring after 20 years DH, was asked who should replace him next season at Fenway? Ortiz answered Blue Jays DH Edwin Encarnacion, who will be a free agent at the end of the year.
And if the Yankees are looking for outfield help come the end of the season, again the answer may lay in the third base dugout at Rogers Centre: Jose Bautista.
Won’t that be something to look forward to next season -- if it unfolds as such -- the Red Sox and then the Yankees, or vice versa, coming into town in back-to-back series with Encarnacion and Bautista.
A year ago when the Blue Jays won their first American League East title since 1993, the Yankees were in second six games behind.
If Toronto is to try to repeat this fall, there is no doubt that the road winds through the Bronx.
But first there is that small matter of getting to .500.