Yankeemetrics: Babe Sanchez does it again [Aug. 22-24]

(AP)
(AP)

Gary is Good
Despite the superhuman feats of a scorching-hot Gary Sanchez, not to mention a two-dinger night from the streaky Starlin Castro, the Yankees still managed to lose the opener in Seattle, 7-5. It snapped their eight-game winning streak at Safeco Field, which was tied with the White Sox (2011-12) for the longest by any opponent at the ballpark.

Sanchez added yet another chapter to his Baby Bomber tale, crushing two more home runs to bring his total to eight in 19 career games. He is the first Yankee to hit at least eight homers before playing in his 20th big-league game, and just the fourth American League player in the last 100 seasons to do it. The others? Carlos Delgado (Blue Jays), Alvin Davis (Mariners) and George Scott (Red Sox).

The right-handed hitting Dominican also added a single, giving him 54 total bases since his debut in the bigs. Only one other Yankee has compiled at least 50 total bases this early into his major-league career (first 19 games), and you might have heard of him before: Joe DiMaggio.

Starlin Castro was Sanchez’s co-star on Monday night, going deep twice for his first multi-homer game in pinstripes. Castro and Sanchez became the first Yankees age 26 or younger to each hit at least two homers in the same game since September 23, 1973, when Ron Blomberg and Otto Velez did it in a 9-1 rout against the Indians.

Castro and Sanchez’s numbers became a mere footnote in history and not part of a winning effort when Anthony Swarzak served up a hanging slider to Mike Zunino, who deposited the pitch into the right-field seats to give the Mariners a 6-5 lead.

In his postgame press conference, Girardi said that he went to Swarzak “because of his slider,” an interesting comment given these stats:

  • Eight of the 10 homers that Swarzak has allowed this season have come off his slider
  • Opponents are slugging .682 (!) off Swarzak’s slider, the highest mark among the 150-plus pitchers that have thrown at least 200 sliders this year
(USA Today)
(USA Today)

An old guy steals the spotlight
On a day when the lineup’s young superstar was mortal, the Yankees got masterful performance from the rotation’s elder statesman, CC Sabathia, and beat the Mariners, 5-1, to even the series at a game apiece.

Sabathia, mired in a miserable 11-game stretch during which he posted a 6.78 ERA, was brilliant as he delivered a vintage performance to help stop the Yankees two-game losing streak. He fired seven innings of one-run ball, allowing just three hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in what was his best outing since mid-June.

While Sabathia’s dominant effort might have been surprising given his recent struggles, it shouldn’t have been given his history of pitching extremely well in the Pacific Northwest. Overall, he’s 9-1 with a 2.09 ERA in 13 career starts at Safeco Field, the second-best ERA among the 51 pitchers than have made at least 10 starts at the ballpark.

He’s also a perfect 5-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 0.961 WHIP in six starts at Safeco as Yankee. Going back 100 years, that ERA is the second-lowest mark any Yankee pitcher has posted at any ballpark where he’s made at least five starts. The guy atop the list is Mel Stottlemyre, who had a 1.25 ERA in nine starts at Anaheim Stadium from 1966-73.

Sanchez didn’t go yard in this game but he still maintained a near-record-breaking pace to start his career by going 1-for-4 with a walk. His 26 hits as a major-leaguer are tied with Bob Meusel for the third-most by any Yankee (since at least 1913) in his first 20 MLB games. The only others with more are Joe DiMaggio (37!!) and Oscar Azocar (28).

(AP)
(AP)

The Gary and Tanaka Show
The Yankees shut out the Mariners, 5-0, in the rubber game of this series thanks to the amazing and unprecedented — yet somehow predictable — performances by Gary Sanchez and Masahiro Tanaka.

The Yankees’ underrated ace spun another gem, tossing seven scoreless innings with five strikeouts while lowering his ERA to 3.11. The only “blemish” was a third-inning walk to Seth Smith, the first free pass he’d issued since July 27.

That snapped a streak of four straight starts with at least 25 batters faced and zero walks, the longest by a Yankee since David Wells in 2003. Tanaka also saw his fantastic run of three straight games with at least eight punch outs and no walks come to an end, which was tied for a major-league record.

Tanaka is now up to five starts of at least seven scoreless innings pitched, the most among all American League pitchers. Entering Thursday, Tanaka was third among AL starters in strikeout-to-walk ratio, third in FIP, sixth in innings pitched, sixth in WHIP and seventh in ERA. He is the only AL pitcher ranked in the top-7 in each of those categories this season. And, oh yeah, he’s tied with Corey Kluber for the league lead in fWAR (Fangraphs version of Wins Above Replacement).

Sanchez wasted little time in continuing his homer barrage as he crushed a mammoth 420-foot shot into the left-center field seats on the first pitch he saw, his franchise-record ninth home run in 21 career games. His light-tower power is crazy: He’s now hit more 400-foot homers (seven) than every other Yankee this season except for Starlin Castro (11), and remember, Sanchez has only been a full-time player since August 3.

Gary added another double in the fifth inning, giving him 15 extra-base hits as a major-leaguer. The only Yankee to reach 15 career extra-base hits faster (in terms of games) than Sanchez was that DiMaggio dude again.

The Mariners soon learned their lesson — DO NOT PITCH TO THE KRAKEN — and intentionally walked him in each of his final two plate appearances.

The last Yankee to receive multiple intentional walks in a game within his first 21 career games was Joe Gordon in 1938. Sanchez is also youngest Yankee with at least two intentional walks and two hits in a game since a 23-year-old Yogi Berra on July 22, 1947.

And lastly, just for fun, Sanchez is the first Yankee catcher to be intentionally walked twice in a game since John Flaherty on June 15, 2004. Yes, Flash was batting eighth in an Interleague game in Arizona. The manager was not drunk.

Game 124: Start of an Important Stretch

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Do you want the Yankees to make the postseason? Of course you do. What’s the point of watching otherwise? The Yankees came into today four games back of the second wildcard spot with five teams ahead of them. Starting tonight, they’ll play their next 12 games against three of those five teams: Mariners, Orioles, Royals, and Orioles again.

These next 12 games are a big opportunity for the Yankees to gain ground in the the wildcard race, and you know what? They had chances like this earlier in the season and didn’t capitalize. This team has been treading water for about three months now. At some point they have to get hot and stay hot to have a realistic shot at the postseason, and hey, maybe they’re in the middle of that hot streak right now. The Yankees have won seven of their last eleven games, you know. Here is the Mariners’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. DH Brian McCann
  7. RF Aaron Judge
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Tyler Austin
    RHP Michael Pineda

It has been cool and cloudy all day in Seattle, the internet tells me. Typical Seattle weather, I guess. Tonight’s game will begin at 10:20pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Awards!: Gary Sanchez was named the AL Player of the Week, MLB announced. That’s cool. He went 11-for-21 (.524) with four homers last week. That’ll do it. Sanchez is the first Yankee to be named AL Player of the Week since Gardner last June, and only the second Yankees catcher to win the award, joining Thurman Munson. Yowza.

Yankeemetrics: And the kids shall lead them [Aug. 19-21]

(AP)
(AP)

Torre-yes?!
The rookies continued to shine, while the underrated ace delivered yet another gem, and the Yankees opened their final West Coast trip of the season with a strong 7-0 win over the Angels on Friday night.

Gary Sanchez’s record-breaking feats have become commonplace since his call-up a few weeks ago, and Friday night’s superb 3-for-4, two-double performance was no exception. Through Friday, 10 of Sanchez’s 21 hits as a major-leaguer had been for extra-bases, putting him in elite company at this point in his career.

The last Yankee to compile 10 or more extra-base hits within his first 16 MLB games was a fella by the name of Joe DiMaggio, who went 30-for-73 (.411) and had 10 doubles, a triple and two homers in the first 16 games he played as a rookie in 1936.

Sanchez had an unlikely Baby Bomber co-star, with the diminutive Ronald Torreyes contributing a 4-for-4 night. He had a double and a homer in his first two at-bats, matching the number of extra-base hits he had in his previous 72 at-bats, dating back to the third game of the season he played on April 13.

It was also a most unlikely performance from a guy hitting at the bottom of the order. The only other non-pitcher in franchise history to have at least four hits, three runs scored and two RBI in a game from the No. 9 spot was Juan Rivera on Sept. 27, 2003 against the Orioles.

Masahiro Tanaka dominated the Angels lineup, surrendering just five singles over 7 ? scoreless innings while striking out nine with no walks. It was his third straight game with at least eight strikeouts and no walks, the first Yankee pitcher since at least 1913 to put together a streak like that.

His effective mix of low-90s fastballs, nasty sliders and darting splitters was key in helping the Yankees stop their mini-two-game slide heading into this series. Tanaka is now 6-1 with a 1.85 ERA in 11 starts following a Yankee loss, and the Yankees are 9-2 in those games.

Through Friday’s slate, 167 major-league pitchers had made at least five starts after a team loss this season. Tanaka’s 1.85 ERA ranks first among that group.

(AP)
(AP)

Cessa makes strong first impression
The Angels — and Angel Stadium — had become somewhat of a kryptonite for the Yankees over the past decade. From 2005-15, the Angels were the only AL team that the Yankees had a losing record against (45-49) , and their 16-30 record in Anaheim was easily their worst at any AL ballpark in that span.

The script has been flipped in 2016, though, as the Yankee improved to 6-0 against the Angels in 2016 following Saturday’s 5-1 win. With only one game remaining in the season series, they clinched their best single-season winning percentage in franchise history against the Angels. The previous high-water mark was a 10-2 (.833) record in 1980.

The youngsters led the way again with Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez combining to drive in three of the five runs and Luis Cessa pitching brilliantly in his first major-league start.

Sanchez opened the scoring with a two-out solo homer in the first inning, his sixth time going deep in the majors. The only other Yankee to hit six homers within his first 17 career games was Shelley Duncan (2007).

Judge’s two-RBI single in the sixth inning gave the Yankees a nice 5-0 cushion, continuing his success in key situations so far in his brief big-league career. It’s a very small sample size, but so far Judge hasn’t been fazed by the pressure: he’s 5-for-13 (.385) with men on base, 3-for-6 (.500) with runners in scoring position, and 6-for-12 (.500) in medium/high-leverage at-bats.

Cessa became the latest Yankee newcomer to take a turn as the star performer, tossing six-plus scoreless innings with three hits allowed and five strikeouts. He is just the second Yankee in the last two decades to pitch at least six scoreless innings and win in his first career start, joining Jose Contreras in 2003.

The elusive third win
After outscoring the Angels 12-1 in dominating the first two games of this series, the Yankee bats went limp in the finale on Sunday afternoon, getting blanked 2-0. Amazingly, the Yankees have yet to sweep a three-game set this season (although they do own a pair of four-game sweeps).

ellsbury catch
(AP)

The loss snapped a seven-game win streak over the Angels dating back to last season, which was tied for their longest win streak in the history of this series (they also won seven in a row spanning the 1980-81 seasons).

The Yankees wasted a strong performance by rookie Chad Green, who took the loss despite throwing six innings of one-run ball. He is the only Yankee starter ever to lose a game against the Angels while allowing no more than one run and five baserunners. In fact, no Yankee had done that against any team in nearly two years (Michael Pineda on Sept. 5, 2014 vs. Royals).

The Yankees miserable trend of failing to hit in the clutch continued as they went 1-for-7 with men in scoring position. They are now batting .228 with RISP this season, which would be their worst mark since 1969 (.224).

Yanks should hesitate to trade prospects for pitching

sanchez judge
(Getty)

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)
(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)
(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.

Yankeemetrics: Dawn of a new era in the Bronx [Aug. 15-17]

(Getty)
(Getty)

Mean Green Chad
In what could become a familiar storyline over the final month-and-a-half of the regular season, two rookies were the difference-makers in the series-opening 1-0 win, giving the Yankees their first victory this season when scoring exactly one run (their 0-20 mark in those games before Monday was easily the most such losses without a win among all teams).

The scorching-hot bat of Aaron Judge drove in the game’s only run with a booming double to center field, while Chad Green spun a gem on the mound, tossing six scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts and no walks. Thanks to those fantastic efforts, both carved out a place in the Yankee record books and baseball history.

  • After hitting homers on Saturday and Sunday, Judge became the first Yankee with at least one extra-base hit in each of his first three career games … that’s right, Mantle, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Jeter, etc. never did it.
  • He also is the only player in American League history to have an extra-base hit and drive in at least one run in each of his first three major-league games.
  • At 25 years and 83 days old, Green is the youngest pitcher in franchise history to strike out at least 11 batters and allow no more than two baserunners in a game.
  • Green is just the second player in Major-League history to have an outing with more than 10 strikeouts, no walks and two or fewer baserunners this early into this career (ninth game). The other gem? Kerry Wood’s epic 20-strikeout, 1-hit masterpiece on May 6, 1998 against the Astros.

If not for the dazzling pitching performance by Green and the clutch hitting of Judge, this could have been a demoralizing loss for the Yankees, who squandered numerous scoring opportunities throughout the night. It’s amazing they actually won the game considering the lineup went 2-for-18 with RISP and stranded a small navy of runners on the basepaths.

The 14 men left on base were the most by any Yankee club in a nine-inning 1-0 win over the past century. In fact, the last time they even managed to do that in a 1-0 victory of any game length was July 4, 1925 against the Philadelphia A’s. The Yankees won that game on a walk-off single by backup catcher Steve O’Neil in the 15th inning, while Herb Pennock earned the win after throwing a 15-inning, four-hit, no-walk shutout.

(Getty)
(Getty)

From awesome to awful
From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, Tuesday’s ugly loss to the Blue Jays perfectly captured the Yankees’ maddeningly inconsistent season in a nutshell.

It was a tale of two games, as the Yankees built up a 5-0 lead before a thunderstorm halted the game in the middle of the fifth inning. When play resumed after a 42-minute rain delay, the Yankees tacked on another run for a seemingly insurmountable six-run lead, before everything went horribly wrong. Thanks to a few horrific performances from Anthony Swarzak (2 outs, 4 ER), Adam Warren (1 out, 4 ER) and Chasen Shreve (0 outs, 4 ER), the bullpen imploded in historic fashion and the Blue Jays scored 12 unanswered runs en route to a 12-6 victory.

The Yankees epic bullpen meltdown can be summarized in this one stat: This was the second game in franchise history where three relievers each allowed at least four earned runs; the other was July 19, 1987 against the Texas Rangers.

Even worse, it was first game in American League history in which a team had three relievers who each pitched fewer than one inning and gave up four or more earned runs. (It has happened twice before in the National League: the Giants against the Expos on May 7, 1997, and the Pirates against the Cardinals on August 6, 1959.)

Gary Sanchez provided one of the few highlights for the Yankees, going 3-for-4 with four RBI while crushing his third and fourth career home runs. The 23-year-old phenom is the youngest Yankee catcher with a multi-homer game since Bill Dickey (age 22) in 1929. Along with Sanchez, the only other Yankee backstops age 23 or younger to have a four-RBI game were Dickey and Yogi Berra.

(AP)
(AP)

Sanchez shines, Sabathia slumps
For the second day in a row, the Yankees struggled to contain Toronto’s explosive offense and lost, 7-4, as a terrible pitching performance once again doomed the home team. Tuesday night’s culprit was the bullpen, and on Wednesday afternoon the blame shifted to the rotation (plus some shoddy defense).

CC Sabathia was both electric and dreadful on the mound, striking out 12 (!) while giving up seven (!) runs on nine hits, and producing one of the strangest pitching lines you’ll ever see. He is the only player in Yankee history to have at least 12 strikeouts and give up at least seven earned runs in a game.

In fact, only four other pitchers in baseball history have done that in an outing of nine innings or fewer: Cole Hamels (2006), Curt Schilling (1997, 2001), Randy Johnson (1998) and Nolan Ryan (1973, 1977).

Gary Sanchez stole the show again with another towering homer onto the netting over Monument Park in his first at-bat of the game. He made Joe Girardi look smart for slotting him in at the No. 4 spot in the lineup, as the 23-year-old Sanchez became the youngest Yankee starting cleanup hitter to hit a home run since Bobby Murcer on August 29, 1969 against the Royals.

Sanchez now has five home runs and 11 RBI in the bigs, giving him one of the most prolific starts to a career by any Yankee: He is the only player in franchise history to hit at least five homers and drive in more than 10 runs within his first 15 major-league games.

Most impressively, all five of his longballs have been moonshots, measuring at 437, 419, 403, 407 and 426 feet, per Statcast data. Since he went deep for the first time on August 10, Sanchez is the only player in the majors to hit five 400-foot homers in that span.

How does McCann fit into the Yankees’ long-term picture?

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Over the last two weeks or so the Yankees have changed their direction dramatically. Yes, they’re still playing up the “we’re trying to contend” angle, but they traded quality veteran players at the deadline and have installed several young prospects into the everyday lineup. Those kids are playing too. They’re not sitting on the bench three or four days at a time like we’ve seen in the past.

The first of those young players to arrive was catcher Gary Sanchez, who has started ten of 12 games since being called up. Six of those ten starts have come behind the plate, which is great, except the Yankees already have a pretty good veteran backstop in Brian McCann. McCann’s not someone you just brush aside, not with another two years and $34M left on is contract after the season.

McCann has started exactly two games behind the plate since Sanchez was called up. That’s it. Sanchez has caught six and Austin Romine has caught four. McCann has started five other games at DH, so he’s been in the lineup seven times and out of the lineup five times since Sanchez arrived. That’s a pretty drastic shift in playing time, right? This isn’t an A-Rod caliber benching, but it’s definitely a reduction in playing time.

There are reasons for this. One, Sanchez is clearly the catcher of the future and the Yankees want to see what he can do behind the plate on a regular basis, which means McCann has to sit. Two, McCann’s been in a pretty miserable slump, going only 14-for-77 (.182) in the second half. And three, it helps reduce the wear-and-tear on McCann. He’s not young in catcher years. There’s a lot of innings on that body.

Sanchez’s arrival has led to less playing time for McCann in the short-term. What happens in the long-term? That’s a pretty big question. I see three possible outcomes, only two of which are realistic.

1. Release McCann. This just isn’t going to happen. I know the Yankees cut ties with Alex Rodriguez last week, but quality catchers are very hard to find, and McCann is still very good relative to his peers at the position. You don’t just eat $34M across two years and let some other team have McCann for free. Do that and he’d be a Red Sox or Ray or Tiger or Indian or Astro in about three seconds. This ain’t happening.

2. Keep McCann. Again, McCann is pretty productive for a catcher, and there’s never anything wrong with keeping a productive catcher. The second half slump has taken a bite out of his numbers, but a .232/.334/.406 (100 wRC+) batting line and 15 homers from a backstop is nothing to sneeze at. Years ago we watched Joe Girardi mentor Jorge Posada when Posada first broke into the big leagues and learned how to be an everyday catcher. McCann can be that mentor to Sanchez next year. Could you think of a better veteran to watch over the kid? I can’t.

3. Trade McCann. A year ago at this time I probably would’ve laughed at the idea. But now we know the Yankees had trade talks with the Braves about McCann, and that the team is open to continuing trade talks — with any team, not just Atlanta — after slipping McCann through trade waivers earlier this month. After trading away Carlos Beltran, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman, why wouldn’t the Yankees listen to offers for McCann? They’d be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t. (The big obstacle here is McCann’s no-trade clause.)

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

The McCann situation is similar to the Miller situation. The Yankees don’t have to trade him. He’s signed for another two years and if a team makes them a nice offer, great. But if not, they’re not going to just give him away for the sake of making a move. McCann’s a quality player who can be valuable to any franchise, even one going through a transition — “transition” is the Yankees’ word for rebuild — like the Yankees.

At the same time, the McCann situation is not similar to the Miller situation. For starters, Miller was a truly elite player at his position whereas McCann is merely really good. Also, there are seven (and sometimes eight) bullpen spots. There’s always room for a guy like Miller, on any team. Most teams only carry two catchers though, maybe three, so roster space is at more of a premium.

The Yankees are blessed with three big league quality catchers at the moment. McCann’s a proven veteran, Sanchez did everything he needed to do in Triple-A, and Romine has shown himself to be a passable backup. They could carry all three on the roster next season. Heck, they’re carrying all three right now. It was a little tough when A-Rod was still on the roster, but as long as that DH spot is not married to one player, three catchers is doable.

Doable doesn’t make it the best way to go, however. Especially since these guys aren’t versatile. It’s catcher and first base only. Romine doesn’t have much trade value — guys like Bobby Wilson and Bryan Holaday seem to be on waivers every other week — and Sanchez is presumably off-limits. McCann’s not stupid. He knows Sanchez is here to take over behind the plate long-term. Does that make him more willing to waive his no-trade clause? I guess that depends on the teams that want him.

Over the last few weeks the Yankees have moved on from several expensive veterans, either by trading them or releasing them. Mark Teixeira‘s going to be gone after the season and I’d bet good money on either Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury being trading over the winter. (So Gardner, basically.) The Yankees are going young and McCann’s one of those veterans the team will be able to replace internally rather easy.

There is no reason to rush into a decision with McCann. If the Yankees get a good trade offer in the coming weeks, great. If not, they can take McCann into the offseason and explore the trade market then. And if that doesn’t turn up anything good, they can carry him into next season. The fact Sanchez is here and getting the bulk of the playing time does mean that, for the first time since he arrived three years ago, McCann’s role with the Yankees going forward is not entirely certain.

The Yankees have moved on from some veterans, and now they’re way more fun and interesting

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Last night’s 1-0 win over the Blue Jays was very much a nail-biter. The Yankees have 61 wins this season and not too many of them have been stress-free. This team doesn’t do blowouts. Not this year. So of course the Blue Jays were able to put the tying run on third base in the ninth inning. The Yankees had to sweat right up until the final out, and when it was all said and done, they won for the ninth time in 14 games since the trade deadline.

That trade deadline was a momentous day (or series of days) for the Yankees. They sold for the first time in nearly three decades, sending away three productive veterans (and Ivan Nova) for 12 total prospects (and Adam Warren). I don’t think many folks thought the Yankees would actually go through with the sell-off even though it was clearly in the best interests of the franchise long-term. It had to be done.

In many cases, once a team trades away productive veterans for prospects at the deadline, they slip back in the standings and really wear it the rest of the season. Not many teams sell and improve in the second half. Those seem like conflicting ideas. Usually it’s one or the other. Not both. It’s a little early to say the Yankees have improved since the trade deadline, but you know what? They are way more fun and interesting. I have zero doubts about that.

It’s all because of the young players. The Carlos Beltran trade has cleared the way for Aaron Judge, who is the first Yankee ever to record an extra-base hit in his first three career games. The first guy to do that in franchise history. Insane. Gary Sanchez has been up for close to two weeks and he’s been mashing. Judge and Sanchez recently hit balls a combined 900 feet or so for their first career home runs. It was incredible.


There’s also Tyler Austin and Chad Green, who have had their moments as well. Austin homered in his first MLB at-bat and Green shoved against the Blue Jays last night. Eleven strikeouts in six scoreless innings against that lineup? Amazing. Warren is back and that’s fun too. So is Aaron Hicks performing well since the deadline. About the only negative lately has been Luis Severino‘s two bad starts.

The Yankees had to make some tough decisions these last few weeks to make this all possible. Selling at the deadline was no doubt a difficult call for ownership. The team also pushed Alex Rodriguez out the door and ate the $25M or so left on his contract to get these young guys in the lineup. Brian McCann has not been completely benched, but his playing time has been reduced. Mark Teixeira‘s too. You think Joe Girardi wants to do that to those guys? Of course not. But it’s for the best.

Right now the Yankees are 4.5 games back of the second wildcard spot and FanGraphs has their postseason odds at 4.1% as of this writing. I have no idea whether this team can rally and get back in the thick of the playoff race. Probably not. The odds are stacked against them. I do know the Yankees have made smart moves designed to improve the franchise long-term, and I do know they’ve called up several exciting young players recently.

Judge’s and Sanchez’s at-bats are must see television right now. Same with Austin. As great as Beltran was this season, watching Judge is far more enjoyable, at least to me. Watching Sanchez and Austin is infinitely more exciting than watching A-Rod and Teixeira, and that’s coming from a huge A-Rod fan. It’s certainly helped that the Yankees have been winning and the young guys have produced right away. No doubt about it.

Now, that said, this would all still be really fun even if the Yankees were losing and the young guys were struggling because of what we hope this represents: the next great era of Yankees baseball. Judge and Sanchez are potential cornerstone pieces. They might hit third and fourth for the next decade. Or third and fifth with Greg Bird fourth. Austin, Green, and Severino are trying to force their way into the long-term mix too. There’s others like Ben Heller and Luis Cessa as well, and even more in Triple-A.

It has been a very, very long time since the Yankees last had this much young talent on their big league roster. Not since the mid-1990s, really. That’s not a Core Five comparison. That’s just a statement of fact. The Yankees have spent the last few years toeing the line between contention and mediocrity, and they’ve finally made moves geared towards improving the future. This is all new to a lot of us, and gosh, is it fun or what?