Following a small flurry of activity at the Winter Meetings that involved the Yankees acquiring Starlin Castro and trading away Adam Warren and Justin Wilson. Now that these moves have been dissected, reanimated with lightning and put down again, it’s time for some lighter fare and to think about what would happen if one of Yankees fans’ favorite pipe dreams were to come true.
We shouldn’t have been surprised when the sheer force of the Yankee’s untimely exit from the 2015 playoffs caused George Steinbrenner to resurrect from the beyond. Dallas Keuchel had dispatched of the Yankees like so many lambs to slaughter and the ripples of discontent it sent across Yankeeland—two years of playoff drought culminating in a glorified certificate of participation—were enough to cause the man known as the Boss to materialize in Brian Cashman’s office.
Once he got his bearings, he immediately fired Cashman.
It wasn’t because the Yankees were the first team eliminated in the playoffs. It was because the Yankees had the audacity to go sit on beaches for the past two Octobers before making a piecemeal attempt at the Commissioner’s Trophy in 2015. Two years of failure are heinous enough. But after dealing with Opening Day DH Ben Francisco in 2013 and then a second absence from the playoffs in 2014, the least Cashman could have done was provide a championship.
No, things would have to change, and change immediately. Billy Eppler was more than encouraged to take the job in Anaheim. He was Arte Moreno’s problem now, and the Big Stein knew the Yankees would be fortunate to be rid of him.
In Cashman’s place, Steinbrenner hired longtime baseball executive Kevin Towers to run the Bombers and shepherd them back to being juggernauts. Towers, a big believer in the granular in things in baseball like grit and hard-nosed play, was a perfect fit for the Boss’ ideals. Of course, Towers knew very well that it’s Steinbrenner with the final say in most things. He doesn’t want to end up like the last guy.
Eventually a rumor blew in that Marlins ace Jose Fernandez could be had for the right price. Steinbrenner nearly had a heart attack scrambling for the phone.
In a conversation that every writer in the world wishes they had a recording of, Steinbrenner and Jeffery Loria bargained and bartered the day away while Mike Hill is occasionally reminded to shut up and let the big boys talk. The negotiations were titanic and heated. Nations rose and fell, deals formed and burst into enraged flames. When all was said and done, Fernandez was a Yankee.
The young Cuban ace would wear pinstripes in 2016, for the cost of Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Greg Bird, Jorge Mateo, and Brett Gardner. All winter Loria had been waiting to see if someone would actually meet his lofty demands for Fernandez, and Steinbrenner was just the man to do it. The system had lost a glut of young talent in the process, but what mattered to Steinbrenner was that he had brought his team an ace who could drive them back to the World Series. Yet he did not stop there.
If there’s one thing that Steinbrenner hates more than not winning the World Series, it’s elite players signing with the Red Sox. Towers had been courting David Price without making an offer for some time now, but the Red Sox had emerged as the clear favorites to sign the left-hander. At the eleventh hour, the Yankees were informed that Price had a seven-year, $217 million offer on the table from Boston. Steinbrenner raised the stakes and tacked on another $31 million and another year. Price would later say that he was five minutes away from signing with the Red Sox before he became a Yankee.
That would not be the last free agent who the Towers-Steinbrenner brain trust would sign. Ian Desmond was paid a handsome sum of $75 million over four years to play shortstop, while Didi Gregorius was shifted to second base. Despite his defensive woes in 2015 and the cost of a first-round draft pick, the tantalizing aspect of power from the shortstop position was ultimately too good to pass up. The 30-year-old infielder will continue the great Yankee tradition of range-deficient shortstops.
Of course, there were bumps in the road. Steinbrenner blew a gasket when the Yankees were the losers on Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes. They would have to settle on Marlon Byrd to play left field, and then settled on former Yankee Tyler Clippard to take a bullpen spot. But at the end of the day, this was a roster that Steinbrenner was proud of. It was made up of winners. Proven winners. There was power in spades, both in the barrels of bats and fastballs being fired into mitts. The Yankees had lost four of their best young players and a first-round pick, and aged their roster even further. But it was what the Boss wanted, and what the Boss wanted was always true. The Boss was still here.
Lead photo courtesy of John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports