It is now July 1st and we have no idea what the 2016 New York Yankees are. Are they a middling .500 club or are they the team that came from behind to beat the MLB-best Texas Rangers in back-to-back games in walk-off fashion? The truth is they are somewhere in between.
There have been quite a few bright spots for the Yankees this season. Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman have given the Yankees the best back-end of a bullpen in the game. Didi Gregorius has been absolutely great this season. Carlos Beltran, before he tweaked his hamstring, was on pace for 40+ home runs. C.C. Sabathia has been outstanding. Masahiro Tanaka has been exactly what was hoped for. Even Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi have been good, though they have been bad just as often but there is hope with them.
The biggest concern for the Yankees has been the middle of their order. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have been black holes the entire season. Brian McCann has been in an extended slump though he has shown some life lately. Those three players are the very heart of the order and too often the Yankees’ lineup has gone into cardiac arrest.
Teixeira and Rodriguez are the biggest disappointments this season. Last season, both had solid years and gave the Yankees some hope heading into this season. Teixeira was coming off a 31-homer, .255/.357/.548 campaign that was cut short by injury. Rodriguez hit 33 home runs to lead the Yankees while slashing .250/.356/.486. If the Yankees were getting that kind of production from Teixeira and A-Rod this season they might actually be in first place or at least leading the Wild Card race which they are currently only three games behind.
Sadly, it doesn’t look like Rodriguez will come close to the player he was last season. He is swinging at pitches well out of the zone and actually looks like he is cheating a little by swinging earlier to make up for reduced bat speed. Teixeira, however, did homer in back-to-back games after coming back from the DL and might be able to add some pop in the middle of the order. That isn’t something we should expect right now but it is something the Yankees desperately need.
This is also the problem. The Yankees are expected to be sellers. However, the team has been throwing out hints that they would keep Betances, Miller, and Chapman and hope to re-sign Chapman in the offseason. They will probably keep Beltran as well. It isn’t the Yankees’ DNA to sell and it isn’t something they have done since 1989 when they dealt Rickey Henderson back to the Oakland Athletics for Greg Cadaret, Eric Plunk, and Luis Polonia.
Right now, the Yankees are waiting to see if there are any signs of life from Teixeira or Rodriguez. There might be hope with Teixeira but it might just be time to cut ties with Rodriguez and allow a player like Rob Refsnyder or Aaron Hicks to get a shot. They certainly can’t be any worse and with Aaron Judge being named the International League Player of the Month for June. He could be a legitimate option for right field while allowing the Yankees to DH Beltran. If the Yankees’ really want to make a run at the postseason they need to inject life into the middle of their order even if it means eating a ton of money by releasing Rodriguez.