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New York Yankees make bold step forward at deadline

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The Texas Rangers were arguably the biggest winners at the trade deadline as they boosted not only their chances to win the American League West, but the AL pennant as well. Getting Carlos Beltran, Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress has put them in a good spot as we begin the final two months of the season.

While that may be the case, there was no more significant story at the deadline than what was done by the New York Yankees. Everyone knew for the last month or so that the right thing for the organisation to do was to sell. They’d started getting younger in the last few seasons with acquisitions like Didi Gregorius, Nathan Eovaldi, Aaron Hicks and Starlin Castro, but now they had a roster that wasn’t performing well through the first half of the season and was in need of a rebuild.

Better yet, relievers like Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller could command a sizable return, and the performances of Beltran, Brett Gardner, and Brian McCann could bring some good young talent to the organisation as well. Everyone knew that trading those guys was the right thing to do, but I don’t think anyone expected them to act on that.

It felt like as much as General Manager Brian Cashman wanted to sell these players, the ownership of Hal Steinbrenner would simply demand the Yankees go for a spot in the Wild Card game just as they successfully did in 2015. The difference was this time around the Yankees had as many as three relief pitchers who were performing at a peak level, and the team hadn’t been contenders in their division all season.

This is an organisation that has bled success throughout their history, winning 27 World Series Championships and an additional 13 American League pennants. Since 2000, the Yankees have won their division on ten occasions and with the last championship coming as recently as 2009. Fans expect to be a World Series contender every year and when they aren’t life may not be fun in the Bronx.

Four consecutive losses heading into the trade deadline forced Steinbrenner’s hand, and the Yankees did something that those fans hadn’t seen since 1989 when they sold Rickey Henderson and Mike Pagliarulo. I’m sure you all know what happened this time around: Andrew Miller went to Cleveland, Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs, Beltran became a Ranger and Ivan Nova joined the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In exchange, the Yankees got right-hander Adam Warren, 10 prospects and two players to be named later. That’s a return of 13 players for the loss of just four. The players they got back aren’t just nobody’s either: three were inside Baseball America’s midseason top 100 prospects, and two others were former first round draft picks.

The Yankees have added a lot of quality minor league prospects to their farm system this year. In fact of their top 10 prospects according to MLB.com, four weren’t with the organisation at the start of 2016. Clint Frazier, Gleybar Torres, and Justus Sheffield have come via mid-season trades, while outfielder Blake Rutherford was their first round pick in the draft.

As much as fans want to deny it, those trades made at the deadline have sent the Yankees down the path of a rebuild. Depending on how the organisation wants to move forward, it’s a process that could see Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez released within coming months, while McCann and Gardner are candidates to be traded during the offseason.

With many of their top prospects on the fringes of playing in the majors anyway, it doesn’t seem like a rebuild quite of the extent that the Phillies, Reds, Braves and others are currently undergoing.

The Yankees have plenty of good young players like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and Luis Severino waiting in the wings, while Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro, and Jacoby Ellsbury would still be expected to be around when this new generation of Bombers is let loose on the competition.

Moving forward, everyone has to forget about what happens for the remainder of the season. Currently five games back in the Wild Card, the Yankees shouldn’t concern themselves too much with what happens for the remainder of the season.

The players obviously want to win every game they can, but if things start to get out of hand, and they drop 10 games below .500, it isn’t the end of the world. The only thing anyone can ask for is that they try their best and act as some spoilers to what is otherwise a close race between Boston, Baltimore, and Toronto for the division crown.

When the rosters expand in September, I’d like the Yankees to take the opportunity and get as much game time into their young guys as possible. Greg Bird is out for the season with that injury to his right shoulder sustained in the spring, but there’s plenty of guys who could benefit from some major league action.

Outfielder/first baseman Tyler Austin isn’t on the 40-man roster, but the former prospect is hitting .320 with 13 homers and 20 doubles at Triple-A Scranton this year. The highly touted Aaron Judge has struggled a little, but he still has 16 home runs and 54 runs batted in across 85 games. Ben Gamel was just sent down a few days ago, but he is certainly making a case for more MLB action as well.

With all that coming into consideration, I’d love to see a lineup similar to this come September.

LF Ben Gamel
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
DH Brian McCann
2B Starlin Castro
RF Aaron Judge
1B Tyler Austin
C Gary Sanchez
SS Didi Gregorius
3B Ronald Torreyes

To me, that is certainly similar to a lineup that we could see a lot more of next season, mixing in the likes of Brett Gardner and Chase Headley into that equation as well. Of that lineup, McCann and Ellsbury are the only players over 26 and five of the nine are 24 or younger.

They could easily be the future of the Yankees and then perhaps down the track you bring in Bryce Harper to play a corner outfield spot, add another bat for the hot corner and use Judge as the designated hitter every so often. Seems plausible, doesn’t it?

On the pitching side of things, the Yankees would be looking mostly at some relievers like James Pazos, Ben Heller, and Nick Rumbelow who they could get some more innings into later this year. Maybe even test them out a little by pitching in the seventh or eighth inning of a one-two run game. Now is the time to do exactly that because winning games don’t have the same importance that it had in the months of May and June.

Another reliever who deserves a shot in September is Conor Mullee, who has just returned from the MLB 15 day disabled list after recovering from some numbness in his hand. He’s pitched to a 1.19 ERA in 37.2 innings at Triple-A this year working out of the bullpen. Before his injury, Mullee had been given a shot with the Yankees where he allowed one earned a run in three innings of relief, and he’ll likely return to the big leagues soon.

Dellin Betances is still going to be the closer, but other than Adam Warren there aren’t many relievers that Joe Girardi trusts in the bullpen right now. Both Chasen Shreve and Johnny Barbato have had their moments in the last two years, but neither has proven themselves in the late innings of a close game.

With Ivan Nova gone and Chad Green struggling in his last outing against the Mets, the Yankees might be best putting Luis Severino back into the rotation now. After the first seven starts of 2016 he had a 7.46 ERA, but since then he’s gone back to the comforts of Triple-A Scranton and pitched quite well. In 10 starts, Severino is 7-1 with a 3.25 ERA to go along with 57 strikeouts and 15 walks.

He’s started to get a little more confidence back at the big league level too, throwing 8.1 innings (3 appearances) of one run, one hit ball in the last week or so. Why not put him back in the rotation and see if he can keep up this nice little run of form and maybe pitch as well as he did at the end of last season.

The Yankees also have right-hander Luis Cessa who could get an opportunity to start later in September as well. Coming over from Detroit during the offseason, Cessa has gone 5-3 with a 3.23 ERA in 13 starts at Triple-A. Aside from Green, Cessa has been Scranton’s best starter all year and allowed three runs or fewer in 10 of those starts.

Moving forward, Severino and Tanaka may be the only two current Yankee starters who are still with the organisation in five years time. Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi feel as though they aren’t too far away from being traded, while CC Sabathia is on his last legs. Even Tanaka may take advantage of his opt-out clause that is triggered at the end of next season.

A rotation similar to the one below is probably what the team will consider, and note that I am going with six starters because you might as well give guys some extra rest after a long year. If they send Chad Green back to Triple-A for the rest of this month then could call him up and have him ‘piggyback’ Cessa.

RHP Masahiro Tanaka
RHP Michael Pineda
RHP Luis Severino
RHP Nathan Eovaldi
LHP CC Sabathia
RHP Luis Cessa/RHP Chad Green

Dellin Betances could be the closer for years to come, but then they have to look at a couple of guys who could help in the late innings. It’s possible that Mullee, Pazos and Jacob Lindgren may develop into those roles but the thing with young players is you just never know.

Let’s not forget that one of the reasons the Yankees haven’t been handing out any big contracts these last few years is because they are saving themselves for the 2018 offseason when the likes of Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez will become free agents. They could add a couple of late-inning relievers like Andrew Miller as well because many of their young position players won’t be earning big dollars just yet.

The front office has probably been licking their chops over some of those names already and would certainly want to bring in even one of those players who immediately make any team postseason contenders.

If you’re a fan of the New York Yankees, you have to be excited about what the team did at the deadline because it shows the front office is ready for progress to be made. Seeing young guys get their first hits in the big leagues is an exciting time because it provides a reason to be optimistic about the team’s future. When it comes to the Yankees, that optimism may lead to a championship sooner than people realise.

Could we be looking at the next great generation of Yankee superstars? It’s certainly possible that there could be some really good players making their MLB debuts in the coming few seasons, but it’s hard to contend with the days of Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Williams, and Pettite.

Regardless of what happens in the coming months, the Yankees have made that difficult step towards rebuilding the team by trading a couple of their big-name players at the trade deadline. With Beltran, Chapman and Miller now went, it’s time to keep looking towards the future and forget about the past. Hopefully seeing Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Aaron Judge and others in the coming months will help get fans excited about what is to come.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com