Following a series win against the lowly Seattle Mariners to open the second half, the New York Yankees find themselves sitting pretty at 50-41 with a sizable lead in the American League East.
Few could say that they saw this coming after an offseason of minimal improvement coupled with a baffling trust in injury-prone, aging stars. Many argued that this would be the Yankees’ worst season in decades, and yet they’re in position to end their two-year playoff drought.
In a throwback of sorts, the 2015 Yankees closely resemble their counterparts from the early-to-mid 2000s, possessing a powerful lineup and a dominating back-end of the bullpen. Where there was Mariano Rivera, there’s now Andrew Miller. Where there was Jason Giambi, there’s now Mark Teixeira. And where there was Alex Rodriguez, there’s…well…still Alex Rodriguez.
The soon-to-be 40-year-old Rodriguez is having his best season since he was 35(!), currently sitting at .277/.378/.515 with 19 home runs and 52 RBI. Now a full-time DH and fresh off of a year-long suspension, Rodriguez has arguably never been more valuable to the franchise than he is right now.
Aside from DL stints for Miller, Jacoby Ellsbury and Masahiro Tanaka, the team has been overwhelmingly healthy. Teixeira has played in nearly every game while mashing 23 home runs and playing Gold-Glove defense. Putting his struggles aside, CC Sabathia has skipped just one start and is on pace for throwing 200 innings after his 2014 season was cut short by a career-threatening degenerative knee condition. Even Ivan Nova has made four solid starts in his swift return from Tommy John surgery.
Perhaps they are lucky, but what the 2015 Yankees also are is good. Their marketing campaign has been to “Make the Connection” from the Core Four Era to whatever era they have now entered. While most viewed 2015 as another year of regression, they did see great potential in the Yankees’ minor league system, and that feeling is holding true as New York boasts a bevy of top prospects.
This begs the question – with the trade deadline looming and a surprisingly solid team on their hands, should the Yankees make a move to “go all in” this season? And if they do, can they do it without sacrificing their future?
The answer is, of course, complicated. After years of futility in their minor leagues, the Yankees have developed a number of upper-tier prospects. Right-hander Luis Severino and 6’7” slugger Aaron Judge headline the Baby Bombers, as does second baseman Rob Refsnyder, who just got sent back to Triple-A after four games with the big club.
The feeling in the organization is that those three players are close to being ready for the big leagues, with Judge viewed by many as the Yankees’ starting right fielder come 2016. However, they could easily net the Yankees Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, or any other premier Major League star being made available over the next two weeks.
As mentioned, the Yankees didn’t seem to think that a shot at their 28th World Series Championship was possible this year. Based on their moves over the winter, like trading Martin Prado for Nathan Eovaldi and starting 25-year-old Didi Gregorius at shortstop, the Yankees appeared to be focused on getting younger and looking towards the future.
This renewed faith in their long-term potential had not been seen since the early 1990s, when Buck Showalter and Gene Michael were convinced by the likes of youngsters Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter that the Yankees’ patience with them then would lead to desired results later on.
That they did of course, and the Yankees appear to be in a similar situation today. As the team stands now, it’s plausible to say that they’ll end up winning the AL East and having a “puncher’s chance” in the postseason. With Hamels or Cueto, however, they become legitimate World Series contenders. But at what cost?
General Manager Brian Cashman has insisted that the Yankees are looking to win now while preparing to win down the road. But that is rarely done efficiently in sports. When a World Series run is staring you in the face, it’s hard to keep one eye on the future and all that it could bring. I mean, chocolate cake sounds good right now, but after having it, will I feel all that great?
It’s hard to know exactly what the Yankees will do at the trade deadline, and speculating is often futile. However, it is safe to say that they’ll try to upgrade their team for this season, and likely sacrifice a bit of their future as a result. That’s what it takes to win, and that’s just the Yankee way, so it seems – when they smell blood, it’s hard to stop them from going for the whole thing. They just didn’t expect to be catching that whiff again so soon.