The schedule is about to get a lot tougher as the Yankees prepare for last gasp run at a postseason spot

More unexpected contributions required. (Ed Zurga/Getty)
More unexpected contributions required. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Thanks to last night’s improbable extra innings win over the red hot Royals, the Yankees remain 3.5 games back of the second wildcard spot with 31 games to play. Their postseason odds are long — FanGraphs has them at 4.2%, Baseball Prospectus at 6.5% — but you know what? They’re in the damn race. The Yankees are playing meaningful baseball.

Tonight’s series finale against the Royals closes out the AL Central portion of the Yankees’ schedule this year. They’re already done with the AL West too. From here on out, the Yankees play nothing but AL East teams and one interleague series, at home against the Dodgers. Here’s a quick breakdown of the remaining schedule:

  • vs. Royals: one game (on the road)
  • vs. Dodgers: three games (at home)
  • vs. Orioles: six games (three at home, three on the road)
  • vs. Rays: seven games (four at home, three on the road)
  • vs. Red Sox: seven games (three at home, four on the road)
  • vs. Blue Jays: seven games (three at home, four on the road)

The seven games against the last place Rays are the only remaining games that can be considered “easy,” and playing the Rays is never easy. There’s no such thing as an “easy” game within the AL East, which is, yet again, the toughest division in baseball. It’s the only division with four teams over .500 and the only division with four 68+ win teams.

The September schedule is always heavy on AL East games. MLB likes to schedule intradivision games in the final month to spice up the postseason races, and also to make travel a little easier at the end of the season. At this point the division title isn’t happening for the Yankees. It’s not realistic at all. The AL East heavy September schedule will at least allow them to keep pace with the Orioles for the second wildcard spot. And the Red Sox too. Boston is only one game up on the O’s.

At the same time, the Yankees haven’t played all that well against the AL East this season. They’re 21-28 against division rivals this season, including 3-9 against the Blue Jays. Toronto has been pushing the Yankees around since late last season. The Yankees have no answer for them. I suppose the good news is New York is 11-11 against the AL East in the second half, which is way better than their 10-18 mark in the first half.

Right now, I think the Yankees are a better team than they were for the first four months of the season. Gary Sanchez has helped the offense, and others like Mark Teixeira and Starlin Castro are contributing more as well. The bullpen is weaker, no doubt about it, but Luis Severino may solve that problem. If nothing else, the Yankees are more fun to watch now. I’ll take it. That’s cool.

The path to the postseason is going to be difficult because the Yankees only have 31 more games to make up 3.5 games and pass four other teams in the standings (O’s, Tigers, Astros, Royals). The fact 27 of their 31 games are against AL East rivals only makes things more difficult. The Yankees have a very tough remaining schedule, so if they’re going to stay in the race until the final week, they’ll have to overcome a brutal month of games.

Enjoying the Ride

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

Following a poor April, the goal of this season seemed clear: trade away those pieces with value–or anything not tied down–and put the farm system in a position to flourish and be productive going forward. Of course, that would mean a rough go of things in the second half. This is what happened. The Yankees made the moves many (most?) of us wanted them to make.

After selling off Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Carlos Beltran, the Yankees were supposed to fade back, take some lumps for the rest of the year, hopefully break in some new guys, and head into the offseason with the reset button pushed. With veterans exiting–Alex Rodriguez and the aforementioned traded players–or taking a reduced roles–Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, Chase Headley–the months of August and September were meant to get the kids–Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin, Luis Cessa, and Chad Green chief among them–a stress-free and extended taste of the Majors before (presumably) stepping up and taking bigger roles in 2017.  But a funny thing happened on the way to the offseason: the Yankees began to win. Is it possible that the Yankees could have their cake and eat it, too?


As I write this, the Yankees are somehow 2.5 games back of the second wildcard spot and 5.5 games back in the division. Given what they did at the deadline, both of those numbers seemed pretty incomprehensible at the beginning of the month. Here we are, though, as the calendar gets ready to turn to September, and the Yankees have a shot–however outside–at making the playoffs. Per BP, their odds are just 6.6%. Per FanGraphs, their odds are somewhere between 7.2% and 10.2%. Are those great odds? Of course not. But given how this team looked on August 1st, they’re better than anyone could’ve imagined.

Moving from the team to the individual for the moment…Gary Sanchez. What else needs to be said? He’s made his at-bats appointment viewing. I paused on a trip to the bathroom yesterday to watch one of his at bats. The only person unimpressed by Sanchez appears to be my 8-week old son, who seems to be mid-bottle every time Sanchez comes up and does something impressive. Maybe I should feed him constantly throughout Yankee games and see what happens.

Both Sanchez and the Yankees are playing with house money. No one realistically expected either of these things to happen, both Sanchez’s historic debut or the Yankees actually making things interesting in the playoff picture. It won’t always go this well for Sanchez, and we know that. And chances are, given the team’s starting rotation, the Yankees are going to come back down to earth and will probably miss the playoffs. But so what? This is fun. The Yankees are fun. Baseball has been made fun again.

The moment Al passed Face of the Franchise status over to Gary. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

For now, let’s just enjoy the ride. Both the team and Sanchez are playing with house money and are making us feel good about tuning into the Yankees again after three and a half seasons that, at times, felt like a slog (with varying degrees of success).  I’ll end with this thought: How much do you think it would annoy the rest of baseball if the Yankees, in a year in which they were supposed to turn tail and hideout till next year, made the playoffs? I think it would be pretty damn hilarious. You may’ve heard that baseball is hard to predict and the second half of this Yankee season has certainly subscribed to that theory. Can something wild happen in the last month? Probably not, but it’s going to be a fun ride to experience.

Thoughts following the West Coast trip

More like Gary Slamchez. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
More like Gary SLAMchez. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

The Yankees just wrapped up a successful six-game West Coast trip that still somehow feels like a bit of a letdown. I guess because the two losses were close games that were very winnable. The Yankees are five games back of the Orioles for the second wildcard spot, and wouldn’t you know it, six of their next nine games are against Baltimore. This upcoming stretch is: crucial. I have some thoughts.

1. I’m a bit surprised the Yankees didn’t shuffle their rotation to ensure Masahiro Tanaka faces the O’s in these next two series. They would have needed to use a sixth starter at some point during the road trip, and again at some point during the series in Kansas City next week. Then again, the Yankees have an off-day today and again next Thursday, which really would have spaced out Tanaka’s starts. He’s been better on extra rest this year, no doubt about it, but there is such a thing as too much rest too. I don’t blame them for starting Tanaka as often as possible. They need all the wins they can get. It just seemed lining him up against the O’s would have been a good idea. Right now he’s not scheduled to face them at all.

2. Beyond all the dingers, I’ve been really impressed by Gary Sanchez‘s overall approach at the plate. All the scouting reports through the years said he has a good approach, and for whatever reason “good approach” has become synonymous with “high walk rate.” That’s never been Sanchez though. He had a 7.9% walk rate in the minors and he’s drawn six unintentional walks in 80 big league plate appearances this year. We have seen that good approach though. Sanchez seems to do a good job laying off breaking balls in the dirt and getting himself into hitter’s counts. In fact, he’s gotten into a hitter friendly 2-0 or 3-1 count 32 times in his 80 plate appearances this year, or 40%, which is about league average. (That’s not counting the intentional walks). This is a kid who’s been an everyday player for less than a month, remember. Small sample size warnings and all that apply, obviously. It just seems like Sanchez really knows what he’s doing at the plate. The power is a product of that approach.

3. Brian McCann caught Tuesday night and that kinda throws a wrench into this theory, though I still wonder if his sudden move to DH is at least somewhat health related. Yes, of course the Yankees want to get Sanchez behind the plate, but before Tuesday night, Austin Romine had caught Sanchez’s previous two off-days. McCann is a warrior. We’ve seen the guy play through all sorts of injuries since he arrived in New York — earlier this season he had toe and elbow issues, and last year he had a knee problem so severe that he altered his batting stance — and maybe now he’s nursing something a little more serious than the typical day-to-day catcher stuff. Perhaps there’s some concern about a concussion? Either way, the Yankees are definitely saving some wear-and-tear on their veteran catcher by giving him so much time at DH. McCann probably hasn’t felt this good physically in late-August in a long time.

4. Aaron Judge‘s recent struggles — he’s in a 3-for-26 (.115) slump with 13 strikeouts — don’t concern me at all. Not yet. It’s way too soon for that. Do I wish he was mashing like Sanchez? Of course. But it’s not terribly surprising a guy his size is having some trouble in his first exposure to big league pitching. Judge had similar problems when he first got to Triple-A last year. This is why the Yankees called him up two weeks ago, to begin the adjustment period. It might take some time too. A few hundred plate appearances or so. We’ve already seen all the tools that make Judge such an impressive prospect. The huge power, the rocket arm, the surprising athleticism, all of that. He just needs to figure out how pitchers are approaching him and how to overcome his massive frame at the highest level. That’s hard!

Cessa. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)
Cessa. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

5. So how about Luis Cessa and Chad Green? It looks like the Yankees might have something with those two. Even if they’re ultimately nothing more than relievers, that’s still a pretty nice haul for a good but not great reliever like Justin Wilson. I think Cessa has a better chance to start long-term than Green because he has more pitches and seems more willing to pitch inside, though I have no way to prove that last point. Point is, these two very clearly have big league caliber arms. They’re going to be in the Yankees’ plans going forward in some capacity, either starter or reliever. Getting two starters — even fourth of fifth starters, which is what these two profile as — out of that trade would be phenomenal. Guys like that are getting $10M a year as free agents. Given the state of the organization and their current needs, that trade looks better and better by the day.

6. Aaron Hicks in August: .303/.333/.455. It’s only 69 plate appearances, so let’s not go retiring his number yet, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence he picked up the pace offensively as soon as he started playing regularly. Hicks has been abysmal most of the season. Unforgivably awful. The Yankees very clearly believe in his talent though and they’re sticking with him. When you’re a rebuilding transitioning team, the last thing you do is give up on high-end athletes with loud tools after 200-something plate appearances in your uniform. The Twins are a disaster and they have a history of giving up on players only to watch them find success elsewhere. (Carlos Gomez, Danny Valencia, Wilson Ramos, and even Francisco Liriano jump to mind.) They deserve zero benefit of the doubt when it comes to evaluating talent. The Yankees, meanwhile, have been getting better at developing young players the last year or two. Hicks is without a doubt worth a longer look in my opinion. If nothing else, he’s playing himself into some more trade value for the offseason.

7. Two recent non-Yankee roster moves I didn’t like: Aaron Sanchez and Ryan Buchter being optioned to the minors. The Blue Jays sent Sanchez down to limit his innings and free up a roster spot for a few days. He’s expected to be called back up as soon as his ten days are up. The Padres said they sent Buchter down due to fatigue and used his declining spin rate (!) as evidence. Both guys were sent down for non-performance reasons and I hate that. Sanchez is going to get Cy Young votes! He deserves to be in the big leagues. Buchter has a 3.00 ERA (2.96 FIP) and has been San Diego’s best reliever all season. If he’s fatigued, he’s supposed to go on the DL, not Triple-A. The rules say the Blue Jays and Padres have the right to make those moves, but man, what an awful message to send. Two productive players who deserve to be in the show are losing service time and big league pay because it’s convenient to the team. There’s something to be said for rewarding performance and maintaining a positive relationship with your players. I’m glad the Yankees have never seemed overly concerned with service time. Regardless of the motives, sending Sanchez and Buchter down looks real bad.

Yanks should hesitate to trade prospects for pitching

sanchez judge

So, the last few weeks of Yankee baseball have been pretty fun, huh? With rookies Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and Tyler Austin making their loud debuts in the lineup and Chad Green and Luis Cessa finding success–however limited–in the rotation, the Yankees are interesting to watch again. For the majority of 2013-July of this year, the Yankees haven’t exactly been exciting for a variety of reasons, but with prospects starting to graduate and make their bones in the Bronx, that’s changing for the better.  Enjoying these performances in the moment is great as it is, but since these players are young and figure to (hopefully) be mainstays in the House that George Built going forward, it’s easy to keep the future in mind. And with the injury to Nathan Eovaldi, it’s become necessary to think about the future.

The loss of Eovaldi for all of 2017 obviously leaves a hole in the Yankee rotation. Over the last week, I’ve heard suggestions on both New York sports talk radio stations (I know, I shouldn’t subject myself to that, but in my defense, my car is really old and doesn’t have a working CD player or a Bluetooth connection) that the Yankees should consider trading some of their recently bolstered prospect depth for starting pitching. With the caveat of “never say never,” this is a plan that doesn’t immediately appeal to me.

Why yes, I did already buy a 99 JUDGE shirt. (Presswire)

One of the biggest problems of roster construction for the Yankees recently has been a lack of young, cost-controlled hitting. Over the past decade, only Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner have played that role to any acclaim. Of course it’s dangerous to count prospect chickens before they hatch and some prospects are closer than others to contributing at the Major League level, but the Yankees are closer to having a solid base of young offensive talent than they have been in years. That lack of a guarantee is also why the Yankees might not want to dip into the prospect pool to trade for pitching.

The 2017 Yankees are not likely to be one pitcher away from championship-caliber contention. Given that Judge and Sanchez are likely to be counted on to replace the production–at least partially–of the departed Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Carlos Beltran, there’s always the chance that they falter. The rest of the lineup, which may or may not include another power threat in Brian McCann, is not necessarily good enough to make up for any lack o production. Then there’s the Yankee rotation, which going into 2017 has exactly one reliable starter in Masahiro Tanaka and a bunch of questions in Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Chad Green, and Luis Cessa. Given that, it may be more prudent to buy an innings eater type on the free agent market and use 2017 as another chance to develop and evaluate the young hitters. I suppose you could make the argument that signing an innings eater and making a trade could give the Yankees a rotation solid enough to compete, but that might be hard to do from a cost perspective. Even in the offseason, the pitching market will likely favor sellers and it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the Yankees acquire an impact pitcher without giving up one of Judge or Sanchez, thus leaving a hole in an already suspect lineup.

More dangerous than he looks. (Presswire)

It would be irresponsible to say that the Yankees should decidedly not deal any of their prospect depth; that’s not a smart strategy at all and it’s foolish to say ‘never’ in baseball. Regardless, the Yankees should be wary and judicious when weighing their trade options in the offseason.

Thoughts as the Yankees head out to the West Coast


The Yankees are out on the West Coast and they’ll begin a six-game trip tomorrow night in Anaheim. Angel Stadium used to be a house of horrors for the Yankees. Those days are long gone though. Anyway, here are some thoughts on the off-day.

1. The first two weeks of the Gary Sanchez era have been pretty awesome. It’s not just all the dingers, though those are cool as hell. Sanchez has looked pretty good behind the plate in his limited time there. His arm is obviously a cannon. I mean, holy crap. One of the strongest arms I’ve ever seen. Sanchez’s receiving and blocking look pretty good too. He’s not Gold Glove caliber or anything, but the guy came up through the minors with a reputation for being a poor defender, and now he looks solid. I also like that he seems willing to take charge with the pitching staff. Sanchez is not shy about going out to the mound and talking things over in big spots. The bat is great. I felt pretty confident in Sanchez doing damage at the plate. Maybe not this much right away, but in time. The defense was the bigger question and everything looks good so far. I’m encouraged.

2. When Greg Bird first came up last year, I couldn’t help but notice the way teams would aggressively attack him with fastballs up in the strike zone, especially with two strikes. It really drove home that teams these days have super detailed scouting reports, so much so that when a kid comes up from the minors, the MLB club already knows his tendencies and weaknesses. I remember a few years ago Red Sox manager John Farrell said they had to double check their internal data because the Yankees were shifting on Jackie Bradley Jr. in his first week as a big leaguer. So, with that in mind, here’s the pitch selection against Aaron Judge in his first five games with the Yankees (MLB averages in parenthesis):

Hard (various types of fastballs): 66.7% (61.5%)
Breaking (curveballs, sliders): 20.5% (23.8%)
Offspeed (changeups, splitters): 12.8% (11.7%)

I did toss out Judge’s two at-bats against R.A. Dickey because they tell us nothing useful. Knuckleballers are outliers. That’s the pitch selection against Judge by non-gimmick pitchers. He’s only batted 18 times against non-Dickeys, so it’s not a big sample, but I was still surprised to see Judge has been getting so many fastballs. It hasn’t seemed like that many while watching the games. I feel like he’s been getting a steady diet of soft stuff away, which is exactly what gave Judge so much trouble late last season. Intrigue! Judge has performed well so far and I’m sure he’s going to stop seeing so many fastballs soon. He’s such a unique player because of his size. I’m looking forward to analyzing him as his big league career continues.

3. I get that it was as much a function of their place in the standings than anything, but I do like that the Yankees have called up several of their top young players at the same time. Sanchez was up before Judge and Tyler Austin, but by only a few days. I think it’s good to break these guys in together. The big leagues are hard! It can be even harder and more intimidating if you’re a rookie walking into a veteran clubhouse like the Yankees have had over the years. Sanchez, Judge, and Austin have been playing together for years now and they get to experience all of this together. The successes, the failures, everything. I’m certain MLB can be overwhelming, especially when you’re new. Having a familiar face around to experience things with can only help.


4. Didi Gregorius has been the team’s second best hitter this season behind the departed Carlos Beltran, and I’m glad to see he’s finally moved up in the lineup the last few days. Gregorius is an energetic and excitable guy, and he can get really jumpy at the plate. We see it a lot with men on base and in big spots. He goes up there hacking. This little late-season look as the No. 3 or 4 hitter can maybe help get him used to hitting higher in the lineup and keep him from being so jumpy at the plate. I’m not sure if that’s possible, but it’s worth a try. I wasn’t a huge believer in Didi’s bat when the Yankees acquired him, but he’s obviously turned himself into a quality hitter, someone the team can now expect to do damage. With any luck, he’ll continue to improve and still be only their sixth or seventh best hitter as the kids establish themselves. Gregorius is awesome, but when he’s arguably your best hitter like he has been this year, it’s a bit of a problem.

5. What in the world are the Yankees going to do with Jacoby Ellsbury? He’s hitting .263/.326/.361 (86 wRC+) this year, .246/.302/.349 (75 wRC+) since coming off the DL last year, and .264/.324/.379 (94 wRC+) as a Yankee overall. I was okay with giving him this season to show last year’s poor performance was a result of the knee injury, but good grief. His last 800 or so plate appearances have been awful. The Yankees owe Ellsbury roughly $90M from 2017-20, and while no player is truly untradeable, trading him is a question of whether a) the Yankees are willing to live with the terms (eating money, etc.), and b) Ellsbury is willing to waive his no-trade clause. The team has to hope so. The Yankees are suddenly very willing to move on from veteran players, either by trading them (Beltran), reducing their role (Brian McCann), or releasing them (Alex Rodriguez). Ellsbury’s the one guy on the roster with a lots of years left on a big money contract. Unloading him should be a priority this winter.

6. Mark Teixeira is totally going to wind up on television once the season ends and he’s retired as a player, right? Maybe not as soon as next season, but eventually. He’s really good on camera from what we’ve seen, he’s willing to make fun of himself, and he can talk intelligently about the game. Add in the fact that he’s a big name player and you’ve got a great recipe for a television analyst. The only real question is whether he wants to do it. Teixeira’s made so much money in his career that he presumably doesn’t have to work anymore. I’m sure some networks will come calling, maybe even YES, but Teixeira’s in a position where he doesn’t have to settle anything less than the perfect job. Hopefully he hooks on somewhere. I think he’d be really entertaining as a broadcaster.

Thoughts following Nathan Eovaldi’s elbow injury


Yesterday afternoon the Yankees received bad news about Nathan Eovaldi, who will soon undergo surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon and a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. From what I understand it’s technically two surgeries, though they’re performed at the same time. Eovaldi was able to hit 94.9 mph last Wednesday even though his elbow was ripped to shreds. Pretty crazy. Anyway, I have some thoughts on the injury and what it means for the Yankees in the short and long-term.

1. The injury doesn’t hurt a ton in the short-term for a few reasons. For starters, Eovaldi hasn’t pitched all that well since June. He has a 5.77 ERA (6.31 FIP) in 64 innings since June 1st and that includes his 7.2 scoreless innings of relief. Even his most recent starts weren’t all that great, though I think it is fair to wonder whether the elbow injury contributed to those 64 miserable innings. (Does the elbow explain all the homers?) Secondly, September 1st is two weeks from tomorrow, so pretty soon the Yankees will be able to call up all the extra arms they desire. Even if guys like Chad Green and Luis Cessa prove to be five-and-fly pitchers every fifth day, the Yankees will soon have enough arms to carry the workload. (Eovaldi wasn’t exactly a workhorse himself.) There’s no such thing as too much pitching depth, so the Yankees will miss Eovaldi in that regard, but he’s been a liability more than a weapon for close to three months now. Losing him stinks. It’s not a season-sinker though.

2. There was reportedly interest in Eovaldi prior to the trade deadline — I wonder if the medicals stood in the way of completing a deal? — and the Yankees figured to again put him in the market in the offseason. Why not? They should listen to offers for literally everyone in the organization, even Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge. The injury means Eovaldi is no longer a trade chip and that stinks. I don’t like referring to human beings as assets but that’s what they are in the baseball world, so Eovaldi’s injury means the Yankees are losing an asset. He can’t pitch and they can’t trade him. That bites. The price for pitching is sky high these days — a few weeks ago the Rangers traded an actual prospect for Lucas Harrell (on purpose!) — and the Yankees might have been able to get a decent return for a healthy Eovaldi, especially if he finished the season well. Guys who throw 100 mph as starters are very rare.

3. I have to think the Yankees will non-tender Eovaldi after the season. He’s in line for more than $7M in 2017 as an arbitration-eligible player and there’s no reason to pay him that to sit on the DL all year, not when he’s going to be a free agent after the season. It’s a total waste of money. The Royals non-tendered Greg Holland this past offseason for that exact reason. I do wonder if the Yankees will look to re-sign Eovaldi after that though. They do have a history of signing pitchers coming off major injuries and waiting out the rehab. Jon Lieber back in the day is the most notable example. They’ve done it with David Aardsma and Andrew Bailey in recent years too. (I feel like there’s someone else I’m missing.) The Yankees clearly like Eovaldi and by all accounts he’s a hard-worker and coachable — example: learning the splitter last year, incorporating the cutter this year — and that’s the kind of guy you roll the dice with on a deal like this. How about a two-year contract worth $6M? Say $1M in 2017 as he rehabs and $5M in 2018, plus incentives based on innings? Just spitballing here.

(Norm Hall/Getty)
(Norm Hall/Getty)

4. The Yankees are going to have to add a starting pitcher this offseason, aren’t they? I mean, they don’t absolutely have to, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea. Keep things status quo and they’re looking at some combination of Green, Cessa, and Luis Severino behind the front three of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia. I guess Bryan Mitchell would be in that back-end mix too. Guys like Jordan Montgomery and Dietrich Enns would be the depth arms in Triple-A, and uh, that doesn’t sound too great. At least not to me. Maybe you’re comfortable with that. The upcoming free agent market really stinks, so maybe the Yankees turn to the trade market for a veteran innings guy to stash in the back of the rotation. Even if they’re rebuilding and not planning to contend next season (lol), adding a starting pitcher makes sense.

5. We can more or less close the book on the trade now and boy did the Yankees come out on the wrong end of this one. David Phelps (3.73 ERA and 3.63 FIP) has out-pitched Eovaldi (4.45 ERA and 4.11 FIP) on a rate basis since the trade, albeit in way fewer innings (279 to 181), plus the Yankees gave up Martin Prado too. He’s hit .305/.356/.417 (109 wRC+) in over 1,000 plate appearances with the Marlins. The Yankees paid part of his salary as well. Garrett Jones was a zero and Domingo German has barely pitched since the trade due to Tommy John surgery. That’s rough. Maybe German will turn into the next Carlos Carrasco or something. That’s pretty much the only way the Yankees can salvage this trade. Now, that said, it doesn’t mean the logic behind the trade was bad. Trading a 31-year-old infielder and a spare swingman for a 24-year-old who throws 100 is the kind of trade the Yankees and every other team should look to make. This one didn’t work out. That doesn’t mean a) it was a bad idea, and b) you pass on making a similar trade in the future.

Life After A-Rod

(Drew Hallowell/Getty)
(Drew Hallowell/Getty)

Way back when Mariano Rivera left the Yankees, I was writing for another site and had previously written about life after Mo. However discomforting it may have been to be without the world’s greatest security blanket (aside from my actual security blanket from childhood, of course), I felt a sense of optimism going forward. The Yankees had survived a year without him with Rafael Soriano closing and had David Robertson waiting to take over for Mr. Untuck. As it turns out, things have been A-OK in the closer department for the Yankees since Rivera left. Ironically, that stability has come in the form of many different pitchers, which serves to highlight Mariano’s consistency. Now, we’re left with a similar vacancy with Alex Rodriguez‘s release/retirement hybrid. Though I’ve hardly begun to process what it means to me as a fan that A-Rod will no longer be on my favorite team, it’s time already to look forward to 2017 and beyond without him. Nothing made that clearer than Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge arriving with authority yesterday, each collecting two hits and a home run in their Bronx and big league debuts.

Regardless of our attachments to A-Rod, at the end of the day, he was a roster spot and a position to the Yankees–the designated hitter. For the rest of the year, it looks like that spot will be filled by some combination of Brian McCann and Gary Sanchez, presumably with Mark Teixeira taking a few games in when he needs a blow at first base, provided, of course, by Tyler Austin. The use of McCann and Sanchez in some sort of catcher/DH rotation makes sense: both have good bats and it’s worthwhile to pace Sanchez’s arrival, rather than just throwing him into things right away. How this bodes for next year, especially given Austin Romine‘s general competence as a backup this year, is another interesting angle.

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

Mike touched on the idea of three catchers in a mailbag about two weeks ago, and with Rodriguez leaving, the idea of three catchers in 2017 makes a lot more sense now. And given that Austin Romine has seen time at first base this year, it gives the Yankees some flexibility that a three catcher roster would normally prohibit. How could the Yankees manage their three catchers, as wall as the (expected to be) returning Greg Bird at first base? Let’s take a look.

On the average week in MLB, a team will likely have one of Monday or Thursday off. For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s a week when the Yankees have a Monday off and have night games, with the exceptions of Saturday and Sunday. They could go with a simple every-other-day rotation, alternating McCann and Sanchez at C/DH from Tuesday-Saturday with Romine going on Sunday, allowing Joe Girardi to play to the matchups for the DH spot. Tough lefty? Go with Sanchez. Tough righty? Go with McCann.  Alternatively, they could catch in chunks: McCann on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sanchez Thursday and Friday, Romine on Saturday, and one of McCann or Sanchez on Sunday. If Bird needs a day off or a half day off, Romine could slip over to first with Bird sitting or DHing, putting one of McCann or Sanchez on the bench.

Brian McCann

Assuming Brian McCann is on the team next year, he is going to be the centerpiece of the offense with Rodriguez, Tex, and Carlos Beltran gone. Gary Sanchez is going to be a big part of bolstering and supporting the lineup and getting each player rest will be crucial to continued offensive success. Additionally, while the defensive outlook for Sanchez is better than it initially was, it’s doubtful he’ll be as skilled as McCann in the immediate future–despite his proficiency at throwing out runners–and breaking him in gradually may help that development.

Alex Rodriguez was a complex person and player whom I’ll miss dearly. It was a joy to watch him play for my favorite team over the last twelve years. However, despite that feeling, the Yankees are well-positioned to creatively replace him and his production at DH.