Throughout their history, the New York Yankees have not exactly been associated with patience and prolonged rebuilding processes. That may be about to change, and for a franchise that has had its fair share of recent success in recent years, it may not be such bad news.
With the team currently sitting at 44-45 and 5.5 games back of the Blue Jays for the AL’s second Wild Card spot, it doesn’t appear as though they’ll be going anywhere this year. While the Yanks only rank 11th in baseball in average age (29), there are aging veterans on the team who could reasonably be dealt by GM Brian Cashman before the month ends.
That is, if president Randy Levine and owner Hal Steinbrenner allow him to do so.
ESPN’s Wallace Matthews reported Thursday that the higher-ups in management are internally at odds over how to counteract the team’s struggles. This is exactly what he wrote about the specific disagreement between two very different factions of the New York front office:
According to a baseball source who spoke to ESPN on condition of anonymity, the opposing factions are composed of the baseball operations people, led by general manager Brian Cashman, who believe the team should sell off its assets and plan for the future, and the business side, which is led by owner Hal Steinbrenner and team president Randy Levine, who hold to the belief that the club is still in contention.
Here’s the thing: Steinbrenner and Levine genuinely believe that the ballclub will come back in the standings and make a deep playoff run. They want Cashman, who answers to them, to make a deal at the trade deadline to improve the roster this season while potentially compromising it for years to come. The Cashman camp would like to move older, more experienced players such as Carlos Beltran (39 years old), closer Aroldis Chapman, set-up man Andrew Miller, and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner.
On the other hand, the Levine and Steinbrenner group really think that the team with the fourth-worst record in the American League is capable of making moves to win another championship. The problem is that the Yankees, in their current state, are the the definition of mediocre. In terms of results, that means many different things but very little consistency.
For example, a 6-5 stretch from June 14 to June 26 against the Twins and Rockies was followed by a split of a four-game series against the Texas Rangers, the best team in the American League. Those outcomes would be followed by series defeats at the hands of the Padres and White Sox, not exactly teams you equate with serious contenders. Up next on the schedule was a four-game weekend series against baseball’s hottest team, the Cleveland Indians. What would the Yankees do? Win three out of four (in Cleveland, no less). They’re doing what mediocre teams do: showing flashes of brilliance while lacking the consistency of an elite squad.
Here is another problem the Yankees have: their pitching. This does not pertain to their bullpen of Miller, Chapman, and Dellin Betances, but it relates to the starting pitching that has been incapable of consistently getting the ball to those three with a lead. The team has used a combination of starters this season and is currently shuffling Ivan Nova and Nathan Eovaldi back and forth between the bullpen and the starting rotation; both have struggled and pitched to ERAs over 5.00 this season. The Yanks’ two best starters this season are staff ace Masahiro Tanaka and… C.C. Sabathia, who has not pitched a full season since 2013. No bueno.
The Yankees’ lineup has also struggled this season, as Rodriguez, Starlin Castro, Gardner, and others have struggled. When you combine this with their lackluster pitching, you realize that there are no signs that point to any type of deep run in the playoffs. So why are Levine and Steinbrenner so hellbent on the Yanks’ being buyers at the trade deadline?
The simple answer: they are, after all, power brokers for the Yankees, the most successful franchise in the history of sports. When have the Dallas Cowboys, Manchester United, or FC Barcelona ever been in “rebuilding mode”? Yeah, never; at least they won’t admit that. The Yankees fall in the same category: they expect to win, win, win, no matter what. Their fans expect that too, as it’s most of what they’ve known no matter how long they’ve been rooting for the Yanks. The problem is that the Yankee mystique invariably clouds the fans and, apparently, the team’s decision-makers from the franchise’s ultimate reality: the Yankees aren’t that good of a team and don’t have a great future, either. Those things can change.
And with August 1 (this year’s trade deadline) quickly approaching, Cashman has the opportunity to do just that. For example, Beltran is having something of a renaissance year, hitting nearly .300 and coming off an appearance in his ninth career All-Star game. Translated: he has a lot of value right now and Cashman could deal him to a contender for a solid return. More importantly, Beltran has stayed healthy to this point in the season. This is something he really hasn’t done over the past few seasons and is important to note when considering his trade value. The clock is ticking on Cashman and the front office to find a trade partner for Beltran’s services because he is suffering from a hamstring injury that has forced him exclusively into the team’s Designated Hitter role. The hamstring injury could reoccur on any given day; an injury to the Yankees’ best hitter would make him a full-time DH, drastically reducing his trade value and thinning out the trade market for his talents.
And then there’s the obvious benefit to a Yankee fire sale: the opportunity to receive prospects in return for star players in their prime. While the Yankees have some very intriguing prospects (Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, Gary Sanchez, among others), there is room for improvement and added depth in the farm system. While these prospects have very bright futures, here’s something to remember when building a farm system: you can never have too many prospects in your organization. The prospects you receive today could be used as trade chips for star players tomorrow; they could also become cornerstones for your franchise. Just ask the Cubs about this. Who wouldn’t want one of those two outcomes, even if it meant biting the bullet and going into a full-blown rebuild?
The Yankees have a multitude of reasons to blow up their current roster and start fresh without their stars of today. Doing this would enable the team to realize a future that is available to them if they decide that’s what they want for the long-term betterment of their franchise.
They must make that decision soon. We all know what the right move is.
Let’s see if Levine and Steinbrenner allow it to be made.