The Yankees' rebuild isn’t the Philadelphia 76ers' “Process” or the Cubs' or Astros' tank jobs; it is a totally different animal.
The Yankees are not rebuilding their team by losing big for draft picks. Instead, they have reloaded their farm system since July by trading Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Beltran, Ivan Nova and Brian McCann. At the same time, they are trying to win in 2017.
By the end of the winter meetings, except for Miller, the Yankees might have replaced all the guys they traded, which will not make them anyone’s favorite in the AL East but will, at least, put them in the conversation. Here is what could happen in the next week:
• To replace Chapman, the Yankees may leave greater D.C. by Thursday with -- wait for it -- Chapman. Albeit, it may be on a four- or five-year deal.
If they accomplish this feat, basically the Yankees would have acquired 19-year-old Arizona Fall League MVP Gleyber Torres and Adam Warren, plus two other prospects from the Cubs, for less than half a season of Chapman. (We hear it worked out for the Cubs, too.)
• To replace Beltran, the Yankees could leave the meetings with -- yup -- Beltran on a one-year contract. Beltran would be the Yankees' DH, a clear upgrade over McCann, even with Beltran’s 40th birthday coming in April.
If not Beltran, perhaps Jose Bautista's price tag falls. Bautista wanted a long deal, but maybe he would take a one-year offer if the numbers were right. Matt Holliday is another fallback option at DH.
• To replace Nova, the Yankees won’t be signing Nova. At least, it is highly unlikely. The free-agent class is so thin that Nova is one of the better choices, just not for the Yankees. Lefty Rich Hill is a much better possibility. Hill, 36, posted a 2.05 ERA in 20 starts. There are concerns about his injury history and the fact that he has gained prominence so late in his career. However, the Yankees need starters, and Hill is the best one on the market.
If not Hill, the Yankees could go for someone like Jason Hammel. Or they could make a deal for a pitcher, but again, with the free-agent starting-pitching class so weak, the price to trade for a starter is high.
The Yankees' starting staff currently consists of Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell, Chad Green and Warren. Even if they add Hill, that rotation doesn’t feel like one that will ride a float down the Canyon of Heroes.
• As for replacing McCann, the Yankees have already done that with Gary Sanchez. They have Austin Romine to back up Sanchez, and Kyle Higashioka, after a strong minor league season, is waiting in the wings.
So basically, the team that contended for a wild card into relatively late September could essentially be returning -- or be improved. This might allow the Yankees to vie for a playoff spot and perhaps -- with the AL East potentially weaker -- contend for the division.
Unlike the recent past, when the established stars, even as they aged, led the way, this 2017 team will be about the development of Sanchez, first baseman Greg Bird, Severino, Judge and others. If the Yankees are playing meaningful games in September, it will likely mean those young players are successful.
At the same time, the Yankees have added 14 prospects. As those guys grow, the Yankees will likely duck under the luxury-tax threshold after the 2018 season, which would put them in prime position to make big trades and spend heavily on what is considered perhaps the greatest free-agent class in baseball history, led by Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
That is the plan for the Yankees. They aren’t canceling the next two seasons. They will try to win and should be relatively competitive. There are no guarantees they'll play their second playoff game in five years, but there is a chance -- along with a lot of hope for the future.