The Yankees are in an unfamiliar spot right now. They're 44-44 on the season and 5 1/2 games back of a Wild Card spot with six teams ahead of them in the standings. SportsLine puts their postseason odds at 0.2 percent. FanGraphs is a bit more charitable at 8.0 percent. Either way, their odds are long.
It's been a long time since the Yankees were this far out of the race at the All-Star break. Even in 2013 and 2014, when they failed to make the postseason, they were much closer to playoff position at the end of the first half. The Yankees were three games back with two teams ahead of them at the 2013 All-Star break. In 2014 they were 3 1/2 back with three teams ahead of them.
Sitting 5 1/2 games back and having to jump six (six!) teams to get into a postseason spot is daunting. Not impossible, just really, really difficult. Most teams in that position would look to trade veterans at the deadline and begin planning for next year. That's not how the Yankees do business though. Here's what team president Randy Levine told Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports on Thursday (via Twitter):
"We've said it over and over again. All this talk of buying or selling at this point in time is just speculative. We believe in this team. The Yankees have never been quitters. We have two weeks until the trading deadline. We'll see where we are then."
That has been the company line all season: "We're not out of the race yet. We'll worry about the deadline when it arrives." It's not just Levine either. Owner Hal Steinbrenner has made similar statements over the last few weeks. The Yankees, right now, consider themselves in the race.
It seems not everyone in the organization shares that opinion though. Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York reports the baseball operations department, led by GM Brian Cashman, is ready to sell at the deadline. Ownership is not willing to do that just yet, however. From Matthews:
According to a baseball source who spoke to ESPN on condition of anonymity, the opposing factions are composed of the baseball operations people, led by general manager Brian Cashman, who believe the team should sell off its assets and plan for the future, and the business side, which is led by owner Hal Steinbrenner and team president Randy Levine, who hold to the belief that the club is still in contention.
According to the source, the baseball people would be willing to trade the core of the team, players such as closer Aroldis Chapman, first baseman Mark Teixeira, starting pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova, and right fielder Carlos Beltran, who has been the team's best hitter all season and its only position player to make the All-Star team.
Chapman, Teixeira, Beltran, and Nova will be free agents after the season. Eovaldi will be a free agent after 2017. Matthews also mentions Andrew Miller, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brian McCann as possible trade candidates. Every team would love to get their hands on Miller, but moving Ellsbury or McCann figures to be more difficult given their pricey contracts and no-trade clauses.
There are some very nice trade pieces in there. Miller's excellent, and plenty of contenders could use a closer of Chapman's ability. Beltran is having a fine season and would add a premium veteran presence to a contender in need of a run producer. The Yankees could import some really nice young players by trading those three, which would help set them up for 2017 and beyond.
The larger point here is that the baseball operations folks in the front office are ready to act now and sell. In their assessment the team is not good enough to contend, and when you watch them on the field, it's hard to disagree. The Yankees have been as many as two games over .500 for exactly one day this year, when they were 4-2 a week into the season.
The second half opens Friday, when the trade deadline will be two weeks and three days away. The Yankees open the second half with 13 straight games against the Red Sox, Orioles, Astros, and Giants, four legitimate contenders. Those 13 games could make or break their season. Then again, the Yankees and their fans have said that about other stretches this season, yet the team keeps hovering around .500.
It's easy to say the baseball operations department should make the baseball decisions, but it doesn't really work like that. No GM has true autonomy. They all have to run all major moves by ownership, especially decisions as large as selling away veterans at the trade deadline. That's the way most businesses work. Ownership has the final say on major decisions.
Can the baseball operations folks -- Cashman specifically, since he's the man in charge -- convince Yankees ownership to sell at the deadline? The answer to that question is going to have a huge impact on the franchise going forward. These next two weeks might be the most important in team history in a long time.