The 2016 New York Yankees are not a good team.
For anyone with two eyes and a couple brain cells firing, this should not come as a surprise. At 34-35, the Yanks currently sit in fourth place in the American League East, six games back of the Baltimore Orioles and four back from the second Wild Card with five teams ahead of them.
Coming off a disappointing 3-3 record last week against the lowly Minnesota Twins and Colorado Rockies, the Yankees have failed to break .500, continually knocking on the door of a winning record only to go ice cold and fall back below the threshold. Whether it be spotty results from the starting rotation, incredible hot-cold periods from the offense, or the occasional bullpen blowup, the Bombers have failed to achieve any consistency throughout the season and, more importantly, have not shown any firm indication that there is a major turnaround on the horizon in the second half of the season.
This is new territory for the Yankees and their fans, as neither have experienced a sub-.500 season since 1992. After two decades of excellence, making the playoffs 18 times and winning five World Series titles along the way, the “most successful franchise in American sports history” now faces their first real crossroads since the other Clinton was running for the White House.
Yet here in 2016, with a well-documented aging (and expensive) roster, the time has come for the Yankees to make a true decision about their future. General manager Brian Cashman has been trying over recent years to “rebuild on the fly,” adding young controllable talent such as Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro, Nathan Eovaldi, and Aaron Hicks to the roster while waiting for the big four contracts (CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixeira) to come off the books. More emphasis has been given towards drafting and developing prospects and less on big-name, expensive stars, a drastic change from the free-agent frenzy that took over from 2000-10.
While Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner have done an impressive job of changing their strategy while still fielding a competitive team, the time has come for the Yankees to do something they have not had to do for 20 years: play the role of seller at the trade deadline. It is a role that both the Yankees management and fans have resisted, but with the 2016 season looking more like a flop than a potential World Champion, Cashman and Steinbrenner must look to the future if they want to regain their perch atop the the American League.
While Cashman has been coy when answering the question of being sellers, Hal Steinbrenner continues to hold the line like many optimistic Yankee fans, believing everything will turn around soon and saying today that the Yankees are not going to be sellers this year: “I believe we’re going to be right smack in the middle of it come the end of July.”
While these comments could simply be Hal trying to maintain a strong front before calling this season a wash, plus he still has to fill a very expensive Yankee Stadium in August and September, if these comments are true then that could be very troubling for the Yankees’ faithful in the long run. The oft-stated goal of the Yankees is not to have a winning record or make the playoffs, but to win another ring, and after three straight years with a total of one postseason game played, treading water while aging players and their salaries come off the books simply will not suffice anymore.
So who should be on the trading block? The first name that has to move is Carlos Beltran. The 39-year-old outfielder is having a career year in 2016, hitting a team-high .283 with 18 home runs and 48 runs batted in. In the last year of his three year deal and his stock being as high as it may ever be again, the Yankees would be foolish not to move him to a contender and receive some touted prospects in return.
Speaking of moving a player with only months remaining on their contract, closer Aroldis Chapman should also be high on the list of tradeable commodities. The flame-throwing lefty would be a perfect addition to a team like the Dodgers, Giants, or Cubs, who are in win-now mode and have loaded farm systems from which to trade. This goes the same for Andrew Miller who, with multiple years left in his deal and Dellin Betances waiting in the wings as the closer-to-be, could bring an even greater return should the Yankees decide to move him.
With the Yankees looking to the 2018 season (specifically the star-studded 2018 offseason as the next time to splash their cash on the free agent market), trades for veterans Brian McCann, Brett Gardner and Sabathia should all be explored as none of them should be major players for this team two years down the road. For a team that is doing everything in its power to get younger and smarter, moving any aging starter for quality returns should be priority number one.
Selling may not be a popular choice, especially among Yankee fans who believe that every year is their year, but taking a step back now to take two steps forward in the future is the right call. If you are not first you are last in the Yankees Universe, and with this year’s team looking like the latter, tough decisions need to be made.
The time has come for the Yankees and their fans to accept that their previous sins of gluttonous contracts and older players have finally come home to roost. Sorry, Hal, but it is time for you and the Yankees’ brass to utter that foreign phrase: The Yankees are sellers.