Perhaps it’s the bright lights of the Big Apple, or maybe it’s the enchanted water of the Hudson River. For all we know, it could be the past Yankee legends giving the team a helping hand, like in Angels in the Outfield, or the chanting from the “Bleacher Creatures” out in the right-center field stands, providing inspiration for the Yanks. Whatever the case may be, the Yankees, who lost 4/5 of their Opening Day starting pitchers to the DL and were under .500 as recently as July 2, are still alive in the playoff hunt, trailing Toronto by half a game for the second Wild Card spot as of August 7. How have they actually done it? Let’s find out.
1. Tanaka Time — For $155 million over seven years, the Yankees landed what they projected to be a “strong number two starter.” Little did they know that Tanaka, former ace of the Rakuten Golden Eagles, would serve as the team’s savior prior to the All-Star break, as he went on to post a 12-4 record with a 2.51 ERA before landing on the DL with a potentially season-ending injury to his UCL. Rather than undergo Tommy John surgery, which definitely would have ended his season, he opted to receive a platelet-rich plasma injection and has been feeling better, according to recent reports. If healthy, Tanaka would certainly help the Yankees in September when they make their postseason push.
2. A Pinstriped Pen of Steel — Shawn Kelley has a .203 BAA and Adam Warren has allowed only one more hit (53) than strikeout (52) in his 56.1 innings pitched. Follow those two up with the 6’8″ 260 pound behemoth known as Dellin Betances, whose strikeout total matches his average fastball velocity of 100, and a closer who has converted 30/32 save opportunities in David Robertson, and there’s no question that the Yankee bullpen has been stronger than ever, even after its loss of the greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera.
3. Hi, My Name is… — Brian Cashman deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the acquisitions of Brandon McCarthy, Chris Capuano, Chase Headley, and Martin Prado from teams in the NL West this season, though he probably did not envision them having the type of immediate impact they’ve had the past couple of weeks. McCarthy is 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA since donning the pinstripes, relying on his effective cutter to induce outs. Capuano has not yet won a game in a Yankee uniform, but in his three starts in New York, he has posted a 2.84 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 19 innings. Pretty good stuff for a guy who was acquired from the Rockies solely for cash considerations. On the offensive side of the ball, Chase Headley made an immediate impact on the team when he sent Yankee fans home with a win on July 21 over the Rangers with a 14th-inning walk-off single at midnight. In his 15 games as a Yankee, he has posted a .263/.323/.744 slash line and has solidified the third-base position with superb defense plays, such as this one here. Martin Prado was picked up from the Diamondbacks for catching prospect Peter O’Brien, and his versatility in the field has allowed the Yankees to play him in right and at third to cover for Headley on his off-days. An eight-year veteran, Prado has brought leadership and a strong knowledge of the game to the Bronx Bombers.
If the Yankees can continue to produce the way they have the past couple of weeks, a playoff spot could be the cards for the unconventional Bomber squad. Though the odds would be stacked against them making it far into the playoffs, especially given the dominant rotations of the A’s and Tigers (who they just took three of four from in their most recent series), as they say in New York, “Hey, you never know.”
“Guys are going to have to step up”, said Yankee manager Joe Girardi, following his team’s 5-4 win over the Cleveland Indians.
The Yankees, riding on a 5-game winning streak, were struck by the injury bug once again on Thursday. Earlier in the day, they learned that CC Sabathia was headed to the DL with a groin strain, and then in the fifth inning of the team’s win over the Indians, Andy Pettitte was struck by a one-hopper off the bad of Indians 1B Casey Kotchman. Following diagnostic tests after the game, it was discovered that he suffered a fractured right ankle and would be out for a minimum of six weeks, certainly not the news the organization was hoping to hear.
In response to the injuries to Sabathia and Pettitte, the Yankees have called up 24-year-old Adam Warren to fill the rotation spot left vacant by Sabathia and have moved Freddy Garcia from the long relief role into the starting rotation.
“[Warren’s] not quite ready yet, but he’s getting there”, said one minor-league talent evaluator prior to hearing of his move into the Yankees starting rotation.
The injuries to Sabathia and Pettitte also increase the sense of urgency in the organization to make a deal and acquire an arm, although GM Brian Cashman has stated that he would prefer not to go down that route. However, if he does decide to do so, some potential targets include Houston’s Wandy Rodriguez and Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano.
Either way, the Yankees are going to have to keep producing offensively to help back their pitching staff and hold the fort down until Sabathia and Pettitte return.
Hindsight is 20-20. At least that is how we like to put it. We can only judge something after it has occurred, and if we do not, we run the risk of preemptive judgement. We see this all the time in politics, stocks, and even in our social lives. Now taking that theme, this 20-20 vision that we now possess, how can we apply it to the sport we all know and love, baseball?
On January 13, 2012, the Yankees made a pair of moves that would change the industry’s perspective of them for this 2012 season. The first, signing former Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda to 1 year, 10 million dollar contract, was seen as a wise value move for the club, and it helped to solidly what had seemed to be a weak rotation at the time. The second was a move that largely overshadowed Kuroda’s deal and sent shock waves through the baseball industry; the Yankees had traded Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Mariners for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos.
The deal at the time was viewed by baseball analysts as a true “baseball trade”. Each team putting forward one of their best assets and getting the other in return to fill their needs. The upside present in the deal was tremendous for both teams, with Montero having been compared to Miguel Cabrera by Brian Cashman, and Pineda demonstrating an exceptional skill set that promised ace potential during his rookie year with the Mariners. The only potential negatives about the trade were that Montero was not known for his catching ability and that Pineda’s numbers dropped during the second half of the season, possibly due to arm fatigue. However, these concerns were not prominent at the time the Yankees and Mariners made the trade, and were not expected to be much of a problem in regards to the futures of the two players. One could have said that trading for a pitcher was much riskier than trading for a hitter, but it was a necessary move for the Yankees at the time as it was essential that they bolstered their depleted rotation. The cynic however, was correct in this instance, as on April 21, 2012, the Yankees announced that Pineda was shut down for the 2012 season and would need arthroscopic surgery to repair an anterior labral tear.
It was news that presented a serious problem to the Yankee organization and justified the potential risks in dealing for a pitcher. Pineda’s drop in velocity had been a constant focus of the media during Spring Training, and while the Mariners claim that Pineda was not injured at the time of the trade, one can only wonder. The loss of Pineda did not leave the Yankees with a hole in their rotation as the final spot was filled by Freddy Garcia, but it did leave them with serious doubts about their long-term investment.
Say that Pineda’s velocity does not return when he recovers from the injury and he is unable to make the adjustments necessary to succeed in the challenging AL East? What will be the Yankees’ next course of action? What if Jesus Montero develops into that Miguel Cabrera type slugger that Brian Cashman forecasts him to be? Will this trade go down as the worst one in Yankee history? Only time will tell, and that is why hindsight is 20-20.
Now that the Cardinals’ miraculous comeback season has come to a close, its time to move onto the Yankees and their plan of attack in pursuit of title number 28.
I’ve got the map and I’m ready to go searching….
- Resign Brian Cashman
Brian has been instrumental to the formation of the modern day Yankees. He’s drafted stars such as Robinson Cano, Ian Kennedy, and Austin Jackson and then used his chips (Kennedy, A-Jax) to spring a deal for one of the greatest outfielders in the game, Curtis Granderson. Since being named GM in 1998, Cashman’s Yanks have won 4 World Championships and have 6 AL Pennant Titles. He spent his money, for the most part (A.J. BURNett I’m talking to you) wisely, and without him the organization wouldn’t be where it is today.
2. Sign CC Sabathia to a 5 year $130 million deal
Without CC Sabathia, the Yankees rotation this year would have been anchored by A.J. Burnett. Scary, isn’t it? That’s why it is instrumental for the Yankees to resign CC for next year and beyond. Coming off consecutive 19 win seasons the price will be steep, but being as CC is entering his age 33 season, it is imperative that the Yankees lock him up for 5 years, no more, no less, so that they aren’t straddled with a pitcher on the decline in his age 38 season.
3. Pick up Swisher’s Option
The Yankees need Swisher, and Swisher needs the Yankees. His egregious personality brightens the Yankees clubhouse and in comparison to a guy like Carlos Beltran, $10.25 million is worth spending in order to keep Swisher for another year. Also a stat line of .260 · 23 · 85 is pretty good if I may say so myself.
4. Sign Mark Buehrle to a 2 year, $21 million deal
Buehrle is exactly the type of pitcher that the Yankees desperately needed this past season; a semi-quality innings eater that can give you 180-200 innings a year with an ERA under 4. His stuff isn’t deadly, but his craftiness and precision is what defines his game. A 2 year deal ensures that there is not a lengthly commitment and the $21 million shouldn’t kill the Yankees, even if he posts a 4.25 ERA and 175 innings next year.
5. Allow Dellin Betances, A.J. Burnett and Manny Banuelos to Battle for the 5th Rotation Spot in Spring Training
The Three Big “B’s”
Allowing Burnett, Betances, and Banuelos to battle for the 5th spot in Spring Training will bring out the best in the three, and show A.J. that just because he is expensive, it doesn’t mean that he is guaranteed a rotation spot. If one of the two young guns gets the spot, he will be regulated to long relief and the other prospect will return to the AAA rotation. If A.J. wins it however, Betances and Banuelos will return to the Triple A rotation until the inevitable injury occurs or Burnett is slumping.
It’s offseason time.