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Thursday, July 31, 2014
Should the Yankees be sellers?

By Wallace Matthews



ARLINGTON, Texas -- When I first asked this question a couple of weeks ago, there was still at least the illusion of hope that by adding a spare part or two, getting a couple of injured players back, and getting the kind of production they expected out of certain guys, the Yankees could somehow turn the corner and make a serious run at a playoff spot this season.

At the time, I knew it was unrealistic to think the Yankees could be anything but buyers at the trade deadline.

Now that it is roughly a half-a-day away, however, and having seen how poorly this team performed in three games that were expected to be as close to guaranteed wins as you can get in a baseball season, it now seems futile, and even foolish, for them to be anything but sellers.

Truthfully, is there anyone out there who really believes that even with a significant trade or two, that these Yankees can make anything meaningful out of this season?

Derek Jeter
The Yanks should start to prepare for the post-Derek Jeter era by selling their dead wood on Thursday.
There was a time earlier in the season when you could make the argument that the Yankees were just a player or two away from being a reasonably good team.

Now, the only way you could make that case is if the two players are Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

So really, what are you expecting Brian Cashman to do by 4 p.m. Thursday that will make a real difference for his club?

Neither Jon Lester nor David Price is walking through that door, and even if both did, they would probably wind up suing for lack of run support, as Hiroki Kuroda should have in Wednesday night's 3-2 loss.

Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Giancarlo Stanton and Troy Tulowitzki aren't walking through that door, either.

The players they might get are either not good enough to make that much of a difference (Marlon Byrd, Alex Rios, Josh Willingham) or so costly (Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, John Danks) that they will only continue the vicious cycle of albatross-like long-term contracts that have gotten the Yankees into the mess they are in now.

The truth is, the Yankees should be doing what the Red Sox are in the process of doing now, stripping themselves of all dead wood, and dead money, and planning for a future that may well be a couple of seasons away.

They should be looking for teams to take Ichiro Suzuki and Brian Roberts, Kuroda and Carlos Beltran off their hands in exchange for prospects. They should be trying to trade Francisco Cervelli and maybe a David Phelps or an Adam Warren while they still have some value. They should be looking to downsize, and then reload with younger, hungrier, less-costly players this offseason to lead them into the post-Derek Jeter era.

They won't do that, of course, not as long as they remain, technically, within striking distance of the division (5 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East and three games out of the second wild-card spot), and not as long as they continue to have 45,000-plus expensive tickets to sell for 30 more nights, and ratings to be maintained on the YES Network.

That kind of move would take guts and foresight and the willingness to give up a few bucks now for the promise of a lot more down the road.

For those reasons, it is virtually guaranteed that Cashman will make some kind of move(s) by the end of business on Thursday, if only to maintain the illusion that the Yankees have not given up on the 2014 season, and neither should you, the paying customer.

But in reality, as it stands, the only meaningful night that is likely left on their calendar is when they honor the retiring Jeter at home on Sept. 7.

Watching their offense struggle to score more than two runs on two nights this week, and, in between, watching their formerly reliable bullpen struggle to hold a 10-4 lead only served to remind you that there is something very wrong in the makeup of this team, and adding a player or two to the mix for the final two months isn't likely to correct it.

Believe me, for selfish reasons I don't want the Yankees to play out the string over their remaining 55 games -- it is truly miserable to be around, and have to write about, a team that is going nowhere -- but it seems that at some point, someone in the Yankees organization is going to have to make the tough call to pull the plug on one season in the hopes of salvaging others in the future.

Joe Girardi
Joe Girardi still believes the Bombers can make the postseason. Do you?
Because unless something changes drastically, this cycle will continue, the cycle of building around older, often overpaid players who stick around beyond their expiration dates, choking the payroll, clogging up rosters spots and generally impeding the development of the franchise.

The Yankees came to Texas this week riding the crest of a 7-3 homestand, and needing to win this series and the upcoming three games against the Red Sox to finally get some momentum going in their sputtering season. Since both are last-place teams, that hardly seemed like a lot to ask.

But seeing them sleepwalk through the rubber game Wednesday night -- a 3-2 loss in which their only runs came on solo home runs and their last 19 hitters went down with barely a whimper -- told you that even that may have in fact been too much to expect.

This is a team that no matter how temporarily hot, or cold, it gets, always seems to gravitate back toward mediocrity. The loss Wednesday night left them at 55-52.

After the game, I asked Joe Girardi and Jeter if they still believed that this team could pull it together over the last two months of the season.

"I do, because I've seen this team play very well at times," Girardi said. "Our pitching has done a really good job considering what we've been through. I do. If we consistently score runs, we're going to win games."

Added Jeter: "I’m just optimistic by nature. It’s just how I think. I’m just wired that way. I’ve been on a lot of teams that have gone through ups and downs. We have a lot of guys here that have had success, we have a lot of guys here that have played for a while. You just have to have confidence. When you run out of confidence, that’s when you’re in trouble. I’m just optimistic.”

Clearly, both were going on a combination of blind faith and memories of Yankees teams of the past. When asked specifically if he could explain why his team's offense, which looked so good on paper before the season, could perform so poorly on the field, Girardi simply said, "I don't know."

There really is no acceptable explanation except for the most painful one of all, that this was simply a poorly constructed roster, built upon too many players who were past their prime and whose capabilities were grossly overestimated by the front office.

Going forward, the Yankees could have the nucleus of a good team with Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka, Dellin Betances and David Robertson, but the rest all can, and should, be replaced, and as quickly as possible.

As quickly as by 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon.

Now, will they have the courage to do it?