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TWiYB: This Week In Yankees Baseball – Week 17

I did my darnedest to remain positive as the Yankees lost series after series — and I actually think I did a pretty good job all things considered — but finally there are some good things to talk about!

The Yankees did the unthinkable and actually won a series, taking 3 of 4 from Seattle. They followed it up with a tidy 2-game sweep of Cincinnati to make it back-to-back (and belly-to-belly) series wins. It took the Yankees 37 games — 23% of the season — to do it, but the deed was done.

It’s amazing it took them that long but even more amazing they are not out of the division race. After Thursday night’s win, the Yankees are just a half game behind Boston, and actually lead them in the loss column. The Red Sox, who are 4-6 in their last 10 games, have to be kicking themselves for not burying the Yankees when they had their chance. Alternatively, the Yankees should be thanking their lucky stars they are in prime position to win the AL East.

In case you missed it, last week in Yankees baseball I broke-down the trade with Chicago, discovered Judge is human, and payed my final respects to Big Mike.

Yankees got their mojo back

The Rays gave the Yankees Thursday night’s game, no question about it. But the win was impressive because it’s a game the Yankees unequivocally lose if it were played anytime over the past 6 weeks.

I don’t want to sound too much like John Sterling, but baseball is a funny game. It flips on a dime. For 6 weeks the Yankees played like dog crap. If their offense scored 6 runs, the pitching would find a way to give up 7. If their starter actually gave them a strong performance, the offense would forget they’re one of the most potent groups in the game. The bullpen had meltdown after meltdown and the defense let them down on a few occasions as well. To put it simply, they lost their mojo.

But last night was different. Things went badly for the Yankees — Sabathia failed to get through 5 innings and Chad Green, who had been dominant for two months, had a bad outing — yet they still found a way to win. The tying run scored because the Rays pulled their best Bad News Bears impression after Gardner led off the 9th with a triple. For the Yankees it was a needed win against a division rival. But it also signified that the Yankees may have reclaimed their mojo that went missing for most of June and July.

Severino taking the next step

It’s the oldest cliche in baseball, but you can’t win without pitching. In the last 6 games the Yankees won, their starters gave up just 10 runs in 34 innings (and that includes a terrible start from Caleb Smith and a mediocre one from CC). The standout starter has clearly been Luis Severino, who turned in two 7-inning, no-earned run performances over that stretch.

Severino has been everything we hoped he’d be: A number-1 pitcher. He has lowered his ERA to 3.03 (4th in American League) and tallied 145 strikeouts, which is good for 10.2 per nine-innings pitched. Sevy maintains velocity throughout his starts, averaging 97.3-mph with his four-seamer. It’s not just velocity that is producing results; his changeup usage is up, and in his most recent start vs Cincinnati he threw the pitch 23 times. He also gives the Yankees length, leading the team by a long shot with 12 starts of at least 7 innings. In a season in which Masahiro Tanaka has been lost, Luis Severino has saved the staff.

The Toddfather’s Yankees Moment

When Todd Frazier stepped to the plate on Tuesday night in the bottom of the second inning with the bases loaded, everyone was thinking the same thing: This is the perfect setup for the Toddfather to go deep and have his first “Yankees moment.”

Oops.

In all the dramatic things I’ve ever seen… Frazier grounds into a run scoring triple play, only the seventh such play in baseball history. In reality, it was a more memorable moment than if Frazier had gone deep. The play would have been more scrutinized had the Yankees not won the game. Didi displayed some poor base running; he should have either sprinted to third base after Reds shortstop Jose Peraza stepped on the bag and threw to first, or he could have simply walked back to second knowing Headley was out on a force. Regardless, Frazier’s triple play will be a funny footnote in history.

It didn’t stop Frazier from enjoying his Yankee Stadium debut. He reportedly had 600 people from Toms River, NJ, in attendance (probably a bit much). He’s also commuting to the Stadium from Toms River (traffic!). To cap it all off, he gave an awkward white guy finger gun point thingy to acknowledge the bleacher creatures. I give it a 6.5 on the roll call salute scale, only because Frazier probably thought about what he’d do the entire flight home from Seattle.

Sonny szn

The rumor that’s hot in the internet streets this week is that the Yankees are the leading candidate to land Sonny Gray from Oakland. Granted, the trade has been “in the works” for days at this point, but the report seems to have more legs than just one of the many, many hot stove rumors commonly floated.

I’m not about to sit here and say that adding Gray to the rotation would not make the Yankees better. But I am going to question if Gray is the pitcher to “go all in” on, because that’s what Cashman will be doing with this trade.

Oakland is obviously interested in stockpiling their minor league system and are reportedly focused on outfielder Estevan Florial (Yankees #5 prospect; #90 in baseball) and infielder Jorge Mateo (Yankees #8 prospect; not ranked on top-100 currently but has been in the past). I’m not sure those two prospects alone will get the deal done, but they will be the headliners.

Gray is a good pitcher who had one unbelievable season. In 2015 he finished 3rd in Cy Young voting; he threw 208 innings, including 3 complete games, with a 2.73 ERA and 1.082 WHIP. He’s been a worse-than league average pitcher with injury problems since.

While I think Wally is slightly underselling Gray by calling him a “three or a four,” I agree with his overall point. The Yankees will pay a premium for a pitcher that may not put them over the hump. Let’s weigh the pros and cons of the deal should Cashman pull the trigger.

Pro: The Yankees would get a team-controlled pitcher they can build around with Severino and Montgomery.
Con: The Yankees would have to trade two highly-ranked prospects, including Florial after just having traded another young outfielder in Rutherford, and Mateo, the fastest guy in their organization.
Pro: We don’t have to watch Luis Cessa and/or Caleb Smith start anymore.
Con: Gray has a 4.67 ERA over the last season and a half.
Pro: Sonny Gray puns.
Con: Did you see those Sonny Gray puns? (sorry Rich and Justin)
Pro: He named his son Gunnar, which is badass.
Con: The price is going up as we approach Monday’s deadline because there are a half-dozen teams reportedly interested.

Verdict: I like the deal but I don’t love it. (Translation: I reserve the right to criticize the deal at any point in the future.)

Florial has risen the prospect ranks quickly, and some have said he’s the best outfielder in the Yankees system. He is also only 19-years old and, similar to the Rutherford situation, won’t help the Yankees for a while. Mateo was the Yankees prized infield prospect until he struggled in 2016 and Gleyber Torres showed up. This season, specifically in Double-A, has been a different story for Mateo; he is hitting .320/.403/.573 in 26 games with Trenton. Perhaps the Yankees feel Mateo’s value is high right now and they want to strike, or they realize Torres, along with Castro and Didi at the major league level, have the infield on lock for the foreseeable future.

As for rumors that Oakland is asking for either Clint Frazier or Gleyber in the deal for Gray, well Billy Beane can GTFO.

The other big-name starter out there is Yu Darvish.

Texas is only 4.5 games out of the Wild Card but are apparently giving up on the season. Darvish is a free agent, so they rather get something for him now than chase a playoff spot with 5 teams ahead of them. Darvish is probably the best pitcher available on the market, but that doesn’t make him the best choice for the Yankees.

Darvish is a two month rental that makes more sense fora team like the Dodgers or Cubs. He will test free agency, and while the Yankees could absolutely resign him in the winter, why not just throw money at him then instead of wasting more prospects now? I’d also like to go on record as saying I do not want the Yankees to sign another Japanese pitcher with injury history to a long term deal. Given the choice between trading for Gray and trading for Darvish, I’d prefer the Yankees to bring Sonny to the east coast.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @Andrew_Rotondi

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