Murti: Yankees Need Starters To Pitch Better, Stars Get Healthy

Sweeny Murti
August 01, 2019 - 11:45 am
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The Yankees have been fun to watch all year, more entertaining than they’ve been in a while.

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And then the trade deadline came and went, a show about nothing.

They were never close, nothing was even realistic. That’s what Brian Cashman said after Wednesday’s deadline passed. Without specifics, Cashman said that asking prices remained high, uniquely high compared to past trade markets, and that he was never prepared to make a move that would be considered overpaying.

“I feel strongly the decisions that were made were for the benefit of the franchise,” Cashman said. “The fallback has always been, ‘We know we have a good club already.’”

Are they good enough as is?

That’s the only real question now.

The Yankees are in a different position than they’ve been the last few years. The 2017 team was a game away from the World Series, but that was only after a 21-9 finish pushed them into the playoffs, where they fell behind in the Wildcard Game as well as both the ALDS and ALCS. Those Yankees pushed beyond where they probably should have been.

Last year, they were good.  But they weren’t good enough. They ran into a buzzsaw in Boston that was as powerful as the 1998 Yankees were.  No shame in losing there, but after falling to the eventual World Champs two years in a row, the Yankees came ready for 2019.

Related: Yankees Fail To Upgrade Rotation Before Trade Deadline

They have established stars now, not young kids.  They have a championship-caliber bullpen, not a potentially good one.  They have a manager who isn’t just learning on the job anymore, he is expected to take the Yankees to the World Series.

All of it is lined up for the Yankees.  And they have played that way for almost two-thirds of a season.  The last ten days have called that into question because of a historically bad stretch of starting pitching. Before that stretch, even if the staff wasn’t overwhelming it could be considered—as long as that bullpen was healthy—able to compete. 

But compete can’t be good enough.  They have to do better. And it sounds silly to say “just do better.” But is there another solution now that we know they didn’t and cannot fix their biggest weakness? The starters need to pitch better.

James Paxton and J.A. Happ need to pitch better. Masahiro Tanaka has to pitch better. CC Sabathia has to get healthy and pitch better. Luis Severino can’t have more setbacks, and when he returns he has to pitch like the ace he is.

And it’s not all on the pitchers anymore.  Aaron Judge has never given the Yankees a healthy second half. Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, and Luke Voit are now all on the IL.  Sure, Gio Urshela and Mike Tauchman are nice stories, but they are parts of the machine, not the main cogs.  The Yankees—especially with pitching concerns—need all their offensive pieces in place to make this happen.

There was always room to tinker in years past.  Cashman’s job didn’t used to end on July 31st.  But now he is a spectator, hoping his stars get healthy in time to turn it into a championship run that’s been a long time coming. 

The Yankees didn’t just rebuild overnight. They have been rebuilding ever since the night Derek Jeter broke his ankle in the 2012 ALCS. They have not won a division title since then and have won only one playoff series since then.

And so at this critical juncture the Yankees decided that the best play was not to play, not in a trade market they felt was stacked against them and never evened out.

Was it the right move? We won’t know until October.