Hal Steinbrenner recently proclaimed that he expected the Yankees to be "in the thick of it" come the trade deadline on August 1st. The Yankees, despite a 35-36 record are not exactly buried in either the AL East or Wild Card race at this time. As the season approaches the half way point, players who have slumped so far in the first half, could have breakout second half performances. It has been known to happen that way.
Or it could all come crashing down like the proverbial house of cards.
But let's try to stay on a positive note, at least for a while. When you think of the 2016 Yankees, what is there to like? The obvious, the big three of the bullpen come to mind first. Then there is the season Carlos Beltran is having. Didi Gregorius is becoming a mainstay at shortstop and, though he doesn't draw a lot of walks, may soon be a .300 hitter in the majors. CC Sabathia is enjoying a resurgence and Masahiro Tanaka is flirting with ace performances every time out. Brett Gardner, despite not hitting for a high average is getting on base and is on pace to score 95 runs for the season. Austin Romine has distinguished himself as a solid backup catcher this season.
So far so good. Now, what's not to like? Let us count the ways.
1. The bullpen is a disaster behind the big three. Part of the problem has been that several of the high profile prospects for the pen, Jacob Lindgren, Nick Rumbelow, Branden Pinder and Bryan Mitchell, have suffered injuries that have kept them out for lengthy periods. The Yankees have had to rely on retreads like Kirby Yates, Andrew Swarzak and ineffective prospect, Nick Goody to round out the pen.
2. The Yankees have used four starters behind Sabathia and Tanaka (five if you count the one start by Chad Green), Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino and Ivan Nova, who have combined to go 13-20, 5.63 ERA. Nova's six appearances out of the bullpen are included in the totals, but you get the idea.
3. Trades that brought Aaron Hicks and Starlin Castro have not given the Yankees lineup much added punch. Sure, Castro delivered in that first series against Houston and he hit the walk off home run against Colorado on Wednesday, but the stuff in between makes Castro only so-so.
4. Chase Headley is playing better defense but is having a mostly unimpressive season with the bat.
5. The middle of the order guys, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Brian McCann are having the worst years of their respective careers, and many are counting the days until they will no longer be Yankees. For the record, Teixeira is done after this season, A-Rod after 2017, and McCann, with his full no trade clause, is a Yankee through 2018 with a club option for 2019. Add Jacoby Ellsbury in the lead-off spot, who is having an okay year but is locked in until 2020, also with full no trade protection.
6. Among the top tier prospects, Greg Bird is lost for the season, Aaron Judge, despite a recent surge, is still only hitting .259 at AAA, and Severino is back in the minors trying to regain the stuff that brought him to the majors last August.
7. The Yankees are in the midst of a fourteen game stretch which was to be the soft part of the schedule. Eleven games into that stretch, the Yanks record is 5-6 with three games to go, against the Twins this weekend.
It seems as if there is plenty more to dislike about this team this season than to like. Certainly Hal Steinbrenner must be thinking the same thing. Of course, Steinbrenner is not going to say something like "we're done" but he might just sense it. There is still time before the deadline to decide whether to buy, sell or a little of both, but regardless of the record or proximity to the playoffs, he cannot be liking what he sees. I cannot imagine he believes there will be enough players improving their performances early in the second half to stave off some serious roster shuffling.
Seems as if changes are imminent. Hang on, this could be a wild ride come August 1st, the likes of which we haven't seen in the Bronx in a long time.