CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 7: Brett Gardner #11 of the New York Yankees hits an RBI single during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on July 7, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Brett Gardner
In 2016, the New York Yankees have remained consistently inconsistent. They’re second to last in the AL East (where they’ll most likely remain thanks to a tail-spinning Rays team) with a 42-43 record. They’re 5-5 in their last ten games. They’re 11-9 in their last 20 games. The Yankees have been unable to accumulate any meaningful winning streaks all year, but have kept themselves in contention by winning several key series.
However, despite victories against some of the best teams in the league, the Yankees have been dealing with a season-long bout of mediocrity that they have been unable to shake. At 85 games, we’re far past the “small sample size” period that fans and commentators have been clinging to. With key players unable to fill their roles, and inconsistent play from almost every part of this Yankees team, it’s time for them to declare their status as sellers, and look towards 2017 with a focus on youth.
The 2016 season has been one of inconsistency because of small individual failures. This Yankees team is comprised of many moving parts that can win if they come together under a full moon with the planets aligned. If one small part stops working, say a reliance on Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Carlos Beltran to have a good year, the balance is thrown off and other parts stop working as well. If several parts stop working, like when the Yankees had an abysmal average with runners in scoring position, things go very poorly and it’s easy to see how they built such a deep hole. A weak middle of the lineup, and aging stars have dragged this team down. Factor in some questionable front office decisions and it’s a miracle the Yankees are only 7.5 games back in the AL East and 4.5 behind the second wild card spot.
This season has been marred by inconsistency throughout every aspect of this Yankees team. Pitching has been up and down, with players pitching well for three or four games, before going on wild slides where they can’t get out of the first inning. The Yankees have been decent defensively, but Chase Headley, Didi Gregorius, and Starlin Castro have combined for 21 errors, with Gregorius responsible for 11(!) of those.
And then you have the offense. What’s there to say about this offense? Actually, a number of things. First, you have the resurgence of Didi who has ten home runs, with four coming in the past week. But at the same time, it’s disheartening when you realize Gregorius is third in home runs on this team. And with a .296 batting average, he’ll probably be the first and only player to crack .300 unless Carlos Beltran can keep this up (Refsnyder is hitting .297 but only has 74 at bats).
A weak middle of the order isn’t getting any help from the top. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury have terrible on-base percentages, .354 for Gardner and .348 for Ellsbury, good for MLB rankings of 67 and 77. Ellsbury and Gardner have combined for 28 stolen bases, but the offense would certainly get a boost from more aggressive base running.
With Jacoby’s horrendous contract, the possibility of moving him to another team is slim to none. However, with flashes of decent play throughout the season, Gardner remains a viable trade piece that can be used to bring in new assets and clear outfield space for Aaron Judge. The Yankees should move several aging/unproductive players, as well as one or two bullpen components and bring in some new faces.
Let’s say they move Beltran, Teixeira, Gardner, and Andrew Miller. With more room to play around with, the Yankees should call up Judge and Sanchez immediately after the All-Star break. Sanchez should DH, with Romine backing up a refreshed McCann. Judge can roam the outfield, and Refsnyder should continue to collect meaningful at bats.
Let’s face one harsh reality: while 2016 hasn’t been horrendous, it also hasn’t been good. And if things are to stay the way they are, I can promise you 2017 will be an outright disaster. If the Yankees call up their young players, they may not remain as close to .500 as they have all year, but they will be putting themselves in a position to win in 2017 with even more hope for the future.