What a fun past few days for the Yankees. The acquisitions of Joey Gallo, Anthony Rizzo, and Andrew Heaney have imparted life into the 2021 Yankees, who swept the Marlins in Miami over the weekend. Watching this year’s club had been a drag before the trade deadline, but now, things are looking up.
It was really refreshing to see the Yankees go for it at the deadline even with not-so-great playoff odds at the time. It was especially satisfying to see the front office address the lack of left-handed bats. We’ve been clamoring for that for a while! And to see it pay off immediately thanks to Rizzo’s big weekend was fun. Lefty power, what a concept. It’s almost like the Yankees have a history of big left-handed boppers.
The hole the Yankees have dug themselves still leaves the team with plenty work to do, but it’s hard not to feel much better after this past weekend. I have thoughts on the playoff hunt and more after the page break:
Even with injuries, the Yankees rotation has been fantastic. Domingo Germán joined Corey Kluber and Luis Severino on the injured list, and yet, I’m really not too concerned about the team’s starting rotation. Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, and Jameson Taillon have been very good. Nestor Cortes has been a godsend out of nowhere. And Andrew Heaney, even with the five-plus ERA, has a few underlying things going for him.
Having Cole goes a long way, but would you believe me if I told you that the Yankees’ starters rank first in FIP- and sixth in ERA- in all of MLB? Yup, it’s true.
Even though Cole had a dud at the Trop last week, I think he’s done more than enough to prove that he’s still an ace following the sticky stuff crackdown. Taillon has turned his season around and has been marvelous down the stretch (2.28 ERA in his last eight starts). Montgomery has been incredibly consistent and owns a 3.69 ERA on the year. Those three have carried the rotation, even as much of the rest of the roster sputtered, over the last couple of months.
Meanwhile, the cavalry is coming. Brian Cashman noted that Kluber and Severino could be back before the end of August. It’s not quite clear when Germán will return, but he could help too.
Point is: you can really dream about this rotation. Pitchers get hurt a lot, but there’s a nonzero chance that the Yankees enter October with Cole-Kluber-Severino-Montgomery as the front four. That could be a scary sight for opponents as long as the Yankees can make it to the dance.
The division could still be in play after all. Call me overly optimistic, but perhaps winning the East isn’t totally out of the question just yet. I thought the Yankees were toast after dropping three of four in Boston, but now I’m dreaming again. The trade deadline, the sweep of Miami, and the upcoming light schedule has me invested once more.
Seven games in two months is a steep climb, no doubt, but what fun is it to act like it’s out of the realm of possibilities?
All those Boston/Tampa Bay head-to-head games will give the Yankees a great chance to gain on either one of the two teams they’re looking up at. Plus, with six games remaining against the Sox, the Yankees could take care of business themselves to at least get into second place. Alas, I wish there were more games against the Rays. Those three could be pivotal (literally the last series of the regular season).
At the very least, I fully except the Yankees to leapfrog Boston, which could mean that they could get the top Wild Card seed and thus play host in the Wild Card game. That’d be big.
My one complaint about the Yankees deadline. I really expected the Yankees to acquire a shortstop by July 30th. Not someone to replace Gleyber Torres in the lineup, but rather, someone who could have served as a defensive replacement and upgrade over Tyler Wade off the bench.
Freddy Galvis, who the Orioles dealt to the Phillies, would have been a nice fit. What about José Iglesias? The Angels already dealt Andrew Heaney to the Yanks, so why not him too? Andrelton Simmons was another player the Yankees had been connected to. None of these guys would have cost an arm or a leg, even if the Yankees asked the trading teams to eat the rest of the money.
At least the Yankees upgraded its infield defense with Rizzo. We saw him make a few nifty plays at first base this past weekend, including some scoops. His play certainly will help out Torres at short. It just would have been nice to have someone with a plus-glove come in at the spot in the late innings.
Getting bullpen help from within. I tweeted about this over the weekend, but I’d like to expand upon it here. I’d like to see the Yanks try at least one of Deivi García, Clarke Schmidt, Luis Gil, and/or Luis Medina in relief, and soon. They’re all on the 40-man roster with varying degrees of electric stuff. And considering the lack of minor league season in 2020, I doubt the organization wants to put too many innings on those arms (aside from Schmidt, who’s just getting into games now). So, a transition to the ‘pen for the rest of 2021 before going back into the rotation next season makes a lot of sense to me.
Had the Yankees brought in another arm at the deadline (Daniel Hudson, perhaps?), maybe I’d feel differently. I don’t love the idea of messing with a prospect’s pitching role during development, but the Yankees are also in win-now mode. The more big league help, the better.
Regardless of how the team moves forward with those young arms, the back-end of the Yankees’ bullpen still looks great, especially if Zack Britton can find a semblance of his old self. Aroldis Chapman has rounded back into form, Jonathan Loaisiga is terrific, and aside from a few clunkers, Chad Green has been excellent. That’s a great foursome. All I’m saying is that another arm wouldn’t hurt.
Luke Voit’s future. There were plenty of Voit-related rumors around the deadline, but he stayed put once the dust settled. It must be a weird feeling for him to watch Anthony Rizzo come in and take his job while his name is bandied about, only to remain with the Yankees. It’s also probably tough to swallow considering how great Voit’s been in New York (when on the field). Since the Yankees picked up Voit in 2018, the first baseman has hit .274/.367/.522 (138 wRC+) with 60 homers in 1,014 plate appearances.
Frankly though, Rizzo is a better fit on this roster than Voit. Rizzo’s another lefty bat and a far superior defender at first. That doesn’t mean Voit can’t be useful going forward, though. The DH position can be Luke’s for the taking once he returns from the injured list, especially if Giancarlo Stanton gets more time in the outfield (as he should).
As for next year? Voit very well could be the team’s first baseman again. Rizzo is a free agent and Voit is arbitration eligible. The Yankees certainly could revisit trading Voit in the winter, especially if they re-sign Rizzo, but the nice thing is that keeping Voit provides a fallback option, and a great one at that.
It’s interesting, though, that Rizzo is only a year-and-a-half older than Voit. It doesn’t necessarily feel like that, but Voit was a late bloomer. Meanwhile, Rizzo has been far more durable than Voit, which could be appealing for the Yankees this winter. The Yankees certainly could use more durability going forward. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see Rizzo back in pinstripes with Voit dealt over the winter.
There will be plenty of time to discuss Rizzo vs. Voit in the offseason, but for now, the Yankees could trot out an absurd lineup the rest of this season with both of them in it.