The New York Yankees still sit atop the AL East standings, a percentage point ahead of the second-place Boston Red Sox.
General manager/senior vice president Brian Cashman and the Yankees’ brass committed to a rebuild of this organization two years ago when it refused to trade away young prospects like Luis Severino and Aaron Judge. Now, those two are key cogs in this first-place team.
A year ago, New York made the decision to sell, rather than buy, at the MLB trade deadline despite being just a handful of games behind in the wild card race. That decision helped the Yankees continue to assemble one of the best farm systems in the game. Now, they’ll have to decide if they want to part with some of the up-and-coming talent to supplement a big-league squad that’s overachieved to this point.
A couple of weeks ago, it seemed like an easy answer. But after losing 10 of their last 13, the Yankees are coming close to a difficult crossroads.
This rough patch for the Bronx Bombers started on a two-city West Coast swing, dropping two of three against the Los Angeles Angels before getting swept in a four-game series in Oakland.
A return home didn’t help. New York is 24-13 in front of its supporters, but Joe Girardi’s squad went 2-4 in its latest home stand, dropping back-to-back series against the Angels and Texas Rangers. Now, the Yanks are back on the road, where they’re under .500.
While the offense has cooled and injuries have set in, the biggest struggle right now is the team’s pitching. New York allowed seven or more runs in four of its six games on its most recent home stand. It’s no coincidence that the Yanks went 2-4 in those games.
Over the team’s last 13 matchups, it has allowed 77 runs—an average of 5.92 runs per game.
In the rotation, Severino has been consistent. Rookie Jordan Montgomery has been better than expected, but Michael Pineda is starting to regress back to his typical inconsistent self while C.C. Sabathia is on the disabled list. Worse yet, the supposed ace has a negative rWAR, although Masahiro Tanaka is coming off an eight-inning shutout appearance.
Still, this rotation is simply not good enough as constructed for the Yankees in our MLB Pick ‘Em Contests. Will New York add a starter or two to make a postseason run? Some of that depends on where the team stands as we inch closer to the non-waiver trade deadline.
For now, the Bombers will look to the bullpen and offense to help cover some of the rotation’s deficiencies.
Of course, the ‘pen has had some of its own struggles. Aroldis Chapman is back from injury and Dellin Betances remains a force. Those two are still dominant, but the middle innings are suspect. Adam Warren is on the disabled list and Tyler Clippard has given up nine runs in his last three outings, lasting just two combined innings.
Offensively, the Yankees are still looking for answers at the corner infield positions. Chris Carter was recently designated for assignment, and Chase Headley’s defense has been suspect while his offense has been inconsistent overall despite hitting .329 with a .433 OBP in his last 23 games.
Gary Sanchez and Judge are both slugging, each hitting over .300 and combining for 20 homers in the last 28 games. Aaron Hicks, however, is now on the disabled list, and Starlin Castro left the game on Monday against the Chicago White Sox with a hamstring injury. Even in a win, the Yankees seem to lose. On top of that, Matt Holliday has missed the last few games due to an allergic reaction.
In addition to the injuries, Brett Gardner is slowing down atop the order. Sitting just three homers shy of his career high—a sign that he was sure to endure an eventual regression—he is now just 10 for his last 48. In his last 116 at-bats, he’s hitting just .233 with a .291 OBP.
As for the replacements for Carter at first, Tyler Austin and Rob Refsnyder are a combined 7-for-40. The depth is lacking and that’s starting to show.
So, what do the Yankees do at the deadline? They did have an easy out for at least one of their trouble spots. Third base had been a weakness, but top prospect Gleyber Torres was taking reps at the position. He was expected to provide at least a defensive upgrade, but now he is on the shelf for the rest of the season after tearing his UCL.
With questions at the corners, uncertainty in the rotation and some issues in the middle innings from the ‘pen, there are a number of avenues for the Yankees to pursue an upgrade. But, will they dismantle some of the farm system that Cashman worked so hard to build? Are they truly ready to accelerate the timeline of this rebuild?
Yankee fans will soon find out.