The New York Yankees are a mediocre baseball team that also happens to employ a plethora of talented players that more competitive teams would gladly pay a decent price to acquire. If the Yankees were any other team, the path forward would be quite clear: Have a fire sale at the deadline, restock the farm system, and get ready to execute a quick rebuild. The Yankees, of course, are making things as difficult as possible.
People have been asking if the Yankees will be sellers at the deadline for a solid month now. It’s a fraught question, not just because the team carries around the kind of reputation that makes selling appear beneath them, but because there seems to be a real rift in the front office. Last week, team president Randy Levine tried to bat the vultures away from his underachieving club:
The next day, ESPN’s Wallace Matthews reported that Levine and team owner Hal Steinbrenner were in a power struggle with general manager Brian Cashman, who is ready to begin the selling process. Cashman is reportedly willing to trade away core players, but he simply can’t do that without the blessing of Levine and Steinbrenner.
Things have only gotten more uncertain since, with the Yankees’ play on the field complicating matters. They took three of four games from a spectacular Indians team heading into the All-Star break, and then bounced back from a series loss against the Red Sox by coming up one game short of a four-game sweep of the Orioles. They are now seven games off the division lead, but could still, technically, overcome the 5.5 game deficit needed to secure a Wild Card spot.
But these short bursts of winning baseball and glimmers of hope feel like a mirage. It’s hard to look at this Yankees roster and find a cluster of players that seem capable of turning it on and leading the team to another level. I don’t even think the most ardent Yankees fan would be able to finish a sentence like, “Hey, if Eovaldi and Nova start pitching like aces, and if Headley starts hitting...”
What the Yankees can do is dictate just about every move that happens this trade deadline. With ace relievers like Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, and Andrew Miller potentially on the block, they have an abundance of the one resource competing teams are always desperate to acquire. And in a year where the market for pitchers is pretty thin, they could probably convince a couple teams that Nathan Eovaldi, Ivan Nova, and Michael Pineda just need a change in scenery. There are plenty of tradeable bats on this roster, too, chief among them old man Carlos Beltran, who is hitting .300/.339/.548 with 20 homers.
No team is in a better position to come out of the trade deadline with a sparkling haul of young talent. The only question will be if they have the smarts and the guts to be the thing the mighty New York Yankees are never supposed to be: quitters.