Sunday was a busy day for the Yankees, both on and off the field. By the end of it, the Yankees were series winners against the Minnesota Twins, had parted ways with a home grown Yankee and had received word that another three homegrown players had earned trips to the 2014 All-Star Game.
The most important development was the Yankees winning three of their last four games, thanks to an offensive explosion during which they scored nine runs, just enough to lead to a 9-7 victory, despite a shaky and short outing from Hiroki Kuroda.
After a disastrous stretch through the A.L. East, including going 3-7 in their last ten games, three wins in four games, regardless of the opposing team, is a welcome change of pace. Of all the occurrences on Sunday, this offensive onslaught was likely the most welcome and is one the Yankees will most need to continue in order to have a successful second half of 2014.
On the flip side, Alfonso Soriano, a former Yankee farmhand who made a triumphant return to the New York Yankees in the second half of last season, but who struggled painfully in 2014, was designated for assignment.
Last year, Soriano hit 17 HRs with a .850 OPS in only 58 games, doing more than his part to keep an overachieving Yankees team relevant into the last month of the season. Through 67 games in 2014, he had only 6 HRs and a .611 OPS. Manager Joe Girardi had already starting sitting Soriano more, in favor of Ichiro Suzuki. Sunday’s move, one Girardi, in pre-game sessions with the media, called “extremely difficult, because [Soriano’s] been a great Yankee and a great player,” just made it official that Soriano was the odd man out.
For fans who remember Soriano breaking in with the Yankees in 2001 (his first full major league season), with his power, his speed and his love for the Yankees, it was a disappointing end to Soriano’s Yankees career.
Meanwhile three Yankees found out they made the 2014 All-Star Game team. For Derek Jeter, it was really a foregone conclusion. It will give baseball a center stage in which to honor the Yankees captain in the final season of his prodigious career. For Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances, it was validation of the amazing first half of 2014 for both.
The final major move on Sunday came in the area that everyone expected: starting pitching. The Yankees traded rotation fill-in Vidal Nuno to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Brandon McCarthy. On its face, it seems like a straightforward trade of two struggling pitchers, both with season ERAs over 5, with the main winners being the NY media as they now have the outgoing, far from shy McCarthy to provide ample quotes for them each day.
Still there is one thing that McCarthy brings to the table that Nuno couldn’t: innings. McCarthy has averaged 6.2 IP over his past 10 starts while Nuno barely averaged 5.2. An inning might not sound like a lot but, to an overworked bullpen that is the Yankees best component, it can mean quite a lot, including one less two-inning appearance for Betances or a day off for Adam Warren or Shawn Kelley.
McCarthy is not going to save the Yankees season, not with his inconsistency and habit of giving up more than a hit per inning against the National League, but his history of starting gives him the higher value, at least to the Yankees.
Brian Cashman likely isn’t done making pitching moves just yet, even with Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel off the market, but the McCarthy move is at least a step in the direction of sparing the bullpen.
At the end of a busy Sunday, the Yankees were not much better than they were before they started. They said goodbye to a loyal player while adding depth to the bullpen and length to the starting rotation. However, in a division that is still struggling to find itself, it might just be that a little bit could make a big difference.