The Yankees need to maximize 2019 because the Rays aren’t going away

Yandy Diaz isn’t amused.

After a thrilling victory Tuesday night, the Yankees have a six-game AL East lead on the Rays. Better yet, they have a two-game advantage on the Twins for the American League’s best record.

It’s remarkable to think the Yankees are off to a 60-33 start with injury after injury overtaking this roster. By all appearances, this team is right in the middle of its contention window with a core of Gleyber Torres, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez and more.

Though the Yankees are one of the favorites this season, you can easily argue team will be a favorite for years to come, and perhaps the singular favorite with improvements to the starting rotation. The Bombers have yet to sacrifice a significant prospect to upgrade their roster, yet they are poised for a third straight playoff appearance.

They have a chance for a special run. But so do the Rays.

Tampa Bay had a ragtag approach to win 90 games in 2018 with a rotation strung together by openers, followers and cheap, young talent. This year’s team has built upon that while slowly adding prospects like Brendan McKay to the roster, all while seeing Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and others blossom. Their only big free agent acquisition, Charlie Morton, is an AL Cy Young favorite.

Meanwhile, they still have either the best or second-best farm system in baseball, depending on how you view the Padres. Wander Samuel Franco is the top prospect in baseball and might be just 12 months from contributing. We’ve already seen Nate Lowe and McKay, and players like Jesus Sanchez aren’t too far behind.

That’s all to say that the Rays have a pipeline of talent ready to fix the weak spots on their roster, or replace key contributors when they get too expensive. In all, the Rays have a chance to keep getting better and challenge the Yankees, Astros and Red Sox for the title of best AL roster.

That doesn’t mean the Yankees need to go all-in on 2019, but the Bombers need to make the most of their opportunity. This season’s division chase could get close, but they won’t start 2020 with a six-game advantage, not to mention the 10-game lead they hold on Boston.

If anything, the Yankees could follow the Dodgers’ model: Use their financial advantage to maintain a core and excel in player development while making necessary upgrades each summer without sacrificing the core. Los Angeles has added Rich Hill, Yu Darvish and Manny Machado on rental deals at the last three deadlines, yet they’re looking ready to make a third straight World Series, all while holding off any rising challengers in their division.

The Yankees have enough prospects to make whatever upgrades they need this year without mortgaging the future. However, the top-line starter they’d want is either on their IL (Luis Severino), unavailable due to #Mets (Syndergaard) or tough to find. They made need to make incremental upgrades or add to the bullpen instead.

Regardless of how Brian Cashman handles the trade deadline, the Yankees will be a top-end team come October. This could be their year, even without a Madison Bumgarner in tow.

But next year might be the Rays’ year. Or the Red Sox’s year. The lack of a dynasty coming after the 2016 Cubs or 2017 Astros showed how fleeting success can be, even when you have what appears to be a sustainable future.

So what appears to be a wide-open window could be a mirage. The Yankees need to treat it as such and not leave it to the future. In other words, hold off all challengers before they can properly form and beat you.

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9 Comments

  1. Rob4224

    Unless the Rays ownership decides to start spending alot more money they will never keep a core together long enough to be a real threat long term.

  2. dasit

    if they stay healthy (big if) snell, glasnow, mckay and chorizos alone will keep the rays in the division mix for years

    that’s a hell of a rotation they’ve built

    • dasit

      chirinos!
      stupid autocorrect
      (though i love me some chorizo)

  3. NYYROC

    I respect that they are usually good with a small payroll. Sometimes I think they are Hal’s business model. 🙂
    Even with their success they can’t draw fans. They deserve better, baseball deserves better. Imagine if a team that competitive year in and year out played for a rabid fanbase. It would be pretty exciting.

  4. Weird, its almost as if signing a Harper and/or Machado to give this team an advantage over the Rays/Sox over the next 10 years wouldn’t have been such a terrible idea….

  5. vincent g

    I’m pretty unfamiliar with the opener and typical days of rest. I was wondering if anybody knew if a scenario like this could happen:

    Game 1: Chad green opener followed by Paxton
    Game 2: tanaka
    Game 3: Chad green opener followed by severino
    Game 4: German
    Game 5: Chad green opener followed by Paxton
    Game 6: tanaka
    Game 7: Chad green opener followed by severino

    For context, one inning for Paxton’s starts, and two inning s for sevys starts.

    • ΣδυG 。・ 』

      I think that’s way too little rest for Green. In theory it could work but Green would be gassed and we need the relief corps fresh more than even in the playoffs! Especially if our pitching staff is more known for the relief corps instead of starters

  6. The Rays are an extremely well run team with a huge disadvantage. The fact that they can compete as they do with a payroll less than what the Yankees pay three players (Tanaka, Ellsbury, and Stanton) is incredible. I give them a lot of respect for that.

    That said, they have almost no margin of error. They owe Blake Snell $47 million over the next 4 years. If he tears a shoulder labrum or something that team is done. They can’t shrug off an Ellsbury type of situation like the Yankees can. It’s not enough for them to be good – they need a fair amount of luck too.

    Right now they are peaking while the Yankees are a complete juggernaut in the division. So even when everything goes right they are starting from behind. As a Yankee fan I can’t complain. But from a ‘what’s best for baseball’ perspective, it’s not good at all when teams like the Rays start with such a disadvantage relative to other teams they compete with.

  7. SM

    If the NYY can’t out execute the Rays with a massive payroll advantage, a talented young core, and a good farm system, every decision-maker they have should be fired. Since I think they can, it would be foolish to over-leverage this season.

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