The Yankees quest for their 28th World Championship is threaded with threatening clouds and skies that need to clear before the team reaches September and the run to conclude the 2018 season. As we’ll see though, injuries are only part of their story.
At best, Yankees General Manager, Brian Cashman, did the best he could at the trade deadline this year. However, his overall grade merits only an incomplete, and the Yankees are suffering for his decision to fortify the starting rotation with the additions of J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn, while leaving holes in the outfield, and now even the infield and (potentially) the bullpen.
The Yankees farm system, according to Bleacher Report, has slipped to Number 14 overall following the July 31 trade deadline, along with the removal of Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar from consideration, leaving a preponderance of pitchers in the team’s top ten prospects as shown in this table.
As a result of Aaron Judge‘s balky wrist injury and the Yankee’s need to protect further injury to Giancarlo Stanton by slotting him as the regular DH, the best the team has done to fortify the outfield is using 33 year-old, Shane Robinson (.114 with two RBI over his last 30 games), and volunteer and out of position Neil Walker as replacements.
Now, a heel injury to Didi Gregorius and a subsequent trip to the DL has forced Aaron Boone to juggle the infield as well, moving Gleyber Torres to shortstop and Walker to second base, with Ole Reliable, Ronald Torreyes, available to fill in as needed.
Here’s the kicker, though. Despite the availability of major league ready replacements from other teams who put players on the waiver wire, the Yankees and Brian Cashman are boxed in, and they have virtually no chance of improving the team for the duration of this season.
That’s because when a player is put on waivers, his availability for teams to put in a claim for his services is in reverse order of the standings, meaning that on any given day the Yankees need to see 27 or 28 other teams pass on a player before they can put in a claim, after which the claiming team must arrange a trade for the player with 47 hours following the claim.
This week, for instance, Daniel Murphy was placed on waivers by the hapless Washington Nationals. Not surprisingly, Murphy was immediately claimed by the Chicago Cubs, leaving the Yankees to only dream of having his bat in the lineup as a second base fill-in until Gregorius is back, as well as a hitting machine off the bench, pinch-hitting in a tight situation. First baseman Matt Adams was also disposed of by the Nats via waivers and subsequently picked up by the Cardinals.
So, as they say, it is what it is, and the team we see on the field now is the same team we’ll see in the playoffs. To their credit, the Yankees are taking advantage of the soft spot in their schedule, even creeping to within eight games of the (faltering?) Red Sox. But that will end in dramatic fashion in two weeks when the Yankees travel to the West Coast to meet the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners.
Thus, the keys to the kingdom for the Yankees will be for the makeshift lineups presented by Boone for the remainder of August to continue to pounce on the Triple-A lineups they’ve been winning against, paving the way for the return of Judge, Gregorius, and Gary Sanchez for the stretch run in September. It’s also imperative the balky knees of CC Sabathia and (now) Aroldis Chapman prove to be of little or no consequence for the final four weeks of the season and beyond.
Aaron Boone, unlike his predecessor, Joe Girardi, continues to go out of his way to preach the positive gospel in defense of his players. For Boone, Greg Bird will always be one at-bat away from “breaking out” and terrorizing teams and pitchers in the league. And Miguel Andujar will always be “steadily improving” in the field, while Luis Severino is just a tick away from regaining his early season form.
Yankees fans can only hope Boone is right, and there will be no more hiccups from the “low energy” we’ve seen from Gary Sanchez, and that wily vets like Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks will find a second wind to finish out the season.
Who said this would easy?