It’s been presumed the Yankees are one or two pieces away from a run at their 28th Championship, most likely to include a front-line starter at the deadline. But when you consider the parts they already have, why is it a must the team makes any moves at all…
It’s being assumed the Yankees starting rotation is in need of a boost, similar to the one the Astros received when they picked up Justin Verlander last season. No one can argue that one and the benefits from that deal have carried over to this season.
But no one should also argue the fact the Yankees have a better record than the Astros this season, and they’ve come as far as they have this season with their current rotation. After all, the Yankees are set up to challenge the number of wins that 1998 team, which won 114 games and finished 22 games ahead of their nearest challenger.
The second part of that has zero chance of happening this year and the balance of the season figures to be a see-saw battle with the Red Sox in a fight to draw a bye in the first round of the playoffs by winning the Division.
Remember too, the Yankees score a ton of runs, and when you look at the performances of some key players on the team, that fun has just begun. Rivals can only hope, for instance, that Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez never get wound up, in full stride, and putting up numbers more akin to past performances. And that Didi Gregorius moves back more towards April instead of May and June. Or that Greg Bird‘s sweet swing and timing never returns from two seasons in a row in which he hardly ever played.
Injuries aside, because in this game you can only react and not plan for them when they occur, the Yankees have their ace and first game starter in any playoff series in Luis Severino. Behind Severino stands CC Sabathia who, it can be argued, has never pitched (accent that word) better in his entire career.
Masahiro Tanaka will be back in a few weeks after suffering mild strains in both hamstrings while running the based in an interleague contest. But in the meantime, Jonathan Loaisiga turned in a five-inning shutout performance in his first major league start, ticketing him for at least two more starts before anything decisive is necessary from the front office.
Jordan Montgomery is lost for the remainder of this season and part of the next one with Tommy John, but Domingo German has stepped in to pitch credibly well, despite slipping backward in June a bit. German is at the same stage of his career as Severino was a year-and-a-half ago. He has all the stuff that’s needed at this level; only it’s a matter of harnessing his stuff and gaining command of the zone. Like Severino back then, German has shown flashes of brilliance, but not the consistency the Cy Young candidate has achieved. It’ll come.
And then we come to Sonny Gray who, if Yankees fans recall, was the most talked about and most targeted pitcher at this time last season. The Yankees stepped it up and made the deal for Gray and, to be fair, the results have so far been mixed. But not as much since Aaron Boone finally gave into the idea of assigning Austin Romine as Gray’s personal catcher.
For all the reasons the Yankees wanted Gray back then, all of it still exists today. Occasionally, Gray looks like he is pitching in a mode similar to a deer caught in the headlights, but those outings are decreasing as he moves along in learning how to pitch on a big stage. There is more to be found in Gray’s upside, and I would suggest it’s only a matter of time (shorter now) until we see the real Sonny Gray.
The Yankees bullpen is stacked and continues to bolster the team as it was expected to do. Unlike last season, no changes are needed there, and in case we haven’t noticed, Aroldis Chapman is leading his league in saves, The infield is cemented, and as Brian Cashman indicated when asked about the possibility of trading Gleyber Torres, “Hey, I have to walk around this town.”
Ditto the outfield where, if anything, a glut of players exists causing Aaron Boone to mix and match on days when Sanchez isn’t catching to fill the DH spot. And then, of course, there’s Clint Frazier, whose current job with the Yankees seems to be the 26th man called up from Triple-A whenever the Yankees play a doubleheader.
Remember too that the Yankees have between $20-25 million tucked away, depending on which source you use, left to spend before they reach the luxury tax threshold this season. And despite the hype attached to the July 31 deadline, more deals are completed from the waiver wire starting on August 1, when teams finally decide their season is over, releasing players who have no future with the team in 2019.
It’s a gamble, yes. But in Vegas, it would be called a “safe bet” if the Yankees stand pat while everyone else goes nuts – at least for a while. The season is made in August and September, not in July. Which gives credence to the calls to push the “trade deadline” further out.
That’s a subject for another day, though. For now, it’s the Yankees locked in a pennant race that’s far different from last season when Brian Cashman clearly had holes to fill, especially in the bullpen.
Everyone expects the Yankees to be in the forefront of the bidding wars for J. A. Happ, Blake Snell, Cole Hamels, Jacob deGrom, and a host of others. How about we snooker them all this time, watching from the sidelines and letting these other teams wonder, “What in the hell are the Yankees up to now?”