Baseball’s indefinite shutdown has no winners. It’s an insignificant casualty in the scheme of things – society certainly has bigger fish to fry than lost entertainment – but the sudden disappearance of sport has economic and psychological ramifications. For the fans who enjoy it, of course, it means the loss of a hobby, an outlet, a suddenly necessary distraction. For the players, executives, staffers, employees, and members of the media who rely on it, the effects of its absence are serious at best and downright dire at worst.
It needn’t be mentioned that there are no winners on the Yankees. The shutdown impacts each player differently, but all negatively. And as the realization sets in that nothing approaching a normal season will occur until next year at the earliest, it also bears mentioning that any adapted state of affairs will be more feasible for some and less for others. Let’s take a look at some of the players that are most heavily affected by the indefinite hiatus, starting with those who will feel the brunt of the loss, and then moving on to those for whom there could be something of a silver lining once all of this is over.
It feels like a lifetime ago, but Andújar finished a close second to Shohei Ohtani for the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year award. A combination of his lengthy absence and Gio Urshela’s shocking and unexpected rise to stardom last season made many fans forget how good Miggy was during his rookie season. 2020 represented an opportunity for him to remind us why we fell in love with him and to rejuvenate his career, perhaps in a new role and playing multiple new positions. Instead, he’ll have to travel a longer road to recovery and normalcy than he likely bargained for.
I covered Happ’s situation in depth last week, but the extent to which the shutdown has suspended his career in the balance can’t be overstated. Happ hoped to build on a strong September this season, pitch his option into vesting, and stay in pinstripes for at least another season. There’s no telling how destructive a prolonged stoppage could be for him.
Since 2011, Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Craig Kimbrel have been far and away the best relief pitchers in baseball. Chapman is top dog amongst the three, having accumulated a full win over second-place Jansen. Nobody else is all that close. He’s a potential Hall of Famer, already 11th in major league history among relievers with 19.5 WAR, and had one of his best seasons last year. Losing much or all of his age-32 season hurts badly – his prime won’t last forever.
LeMahieu isn’t getting any younger either, as he’ll turn 32 in July. It’s very possible that his best season is already behind him; his 2019 was as remarkable an individual Yankee season as any in the last decade, and peerless in terms of its surprise factor. A strong start in 2020 could have solidified his case for a contract extension. Now he can only hope to shake off the rust quickly once the season gets going.
Reasons for Optimism
The front office is the loser when it comes to Cole, though it’s by no fault of Cole’s own. There was no way to predict that the team would lose a chunk of the first year of the enormous contract it handed Cole in December. It’s also tough for the new ace that he won’t be able to immediately build on his career season. But on the other hand, Cole was pushed to a pitcher’s very limits last year: his team played the maximum number of games possible, going to a World Series Game 7, and he himself tossed a career-high 212 innings. He could stand to benefit from the extended offseason.
Hat tip to Mike Axisa for reminding us in his recent RAB Patreon newsletter that Alex Rodriguez posted a 139 wRC+ and knocked 33 homers in 2015 after losing the entire previous season to his PED suspension. Stanton’s 2019 never got off the ground as he was hit with injury after injury. He’s now had the entire offseason plus the shutdown to get in game shape, and the long gap between competitive games will hopefully serve the same purpose for him as it did for A-Rod half a decade ago.
Hicks was set to miss around half the season recovering from Tommy John surgery. The most optimistic estimates have the shutdown ending sometime during the summer, so there’s a chance he won’t have to sit out a single counting game. Hicks lost significant portions of the first season of his big extension, and he’ll hope to play as much of the year as possible.
Yankees relievers pitched 664.2 innings in 2019, the seventh-highest mark in baseball and third-highest among playoff teams. Numerous key arms, Chad Green and Adam Ottavino in particular, looked absolutely gassed come playoff time. If the pause could potentially help anybody, it would be these guys. A fresh start, plus the addition of Cole to limit their innings at least every fifth day, could prime the group for a signature performance this time around – provided we’re even blessed with a postseason at all.