The beginning of the 2015 season was a rebirth of sorts for the Yankees. Going into the season, there was a bit of a weight lifted off the team. They had just finished back-to-back retirement tours for Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Despite both players being legends, it seemed as if the team had become burnt out from all the ceremonies and emotion. The 2015 team was excited to focus on baseball.
The season began about as well as could have been expected. Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira got off to blazing hot starts. Brian McCann, Brett Gardner, and even Jacoby Ellsbury had productive first halves. As the trade deadline neared, the Yankees were six games up in the division over the second-place Blue Jays, and were well-positioned to make a move to all but assure a division title. David Price and Cole Hamels were both available, and conventional wisdom was that the Yankees needed to add one of them to strengthen their roster for the postseason. At the very least, they could add Craig Kimbrel from the San Diego Padres to form a super-bullpen. Kimbrel, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller would be the one of the most devastating 1-2-3 punches in MLB History.
In terms of prospects and assets, Brian Cashman was fully loaded. Greg Bird and Luis Severino were knocking on the MLB door. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez were showing serious development. The Yankees had more than enough firepower to acquire an ace at the deadline.
Instead, Brian Cashman did nothing. Sound familiar?
We know how the story ends. A-Rod, Tex, Gardy, McCann, and Ellsbury essentially ran out of gas. The Blue Jays made bold moves for David Price AND Troy Tulowitzki. Cole Hamels was dealt from Philadelphia to Texas. The Blue Jays surged past the Yankees and easily won the division. David Price dominated the Yankees down the stretch. The Yankees spiraled from clear division favorite to a Wild Card team. They limped into the game with 87 wins, and got shutout at home by Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros. Season over.
The 2015 season left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth, but five years later, there’s no doubt that Brian Cashman made the right call. While adding an ace would’ve probably allowed the Yankees to secure the division and maybe a round, this simply wasn’t a championship-caliber roster. Sacrificing elite prospects (and current cornerstones) like Judge and Sanchez would’ve crippled this team’s future. The bottom line is that roster wasn’t winning a World Series whether they added a pitcher or not.
While the 2016 trade deadline is often cited as the transition point for the new core, the heavy lifting occurred one year earlier. By doing nothing, Cashman kept the structure in place for the current 5-10 year championship window.