Photo by Associated Press.
Originally Published: July 31, 2016 10:50 p.m.
NEW YORK — Watching a second straight loss to last-place Tampa Bay convinced the New York Yankees it was time to shift more fully into sell mode.
So late Saturday night, owner Hal Steinbrenner gave the go-ahead.
Six days after trading closer Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs for four prospects, New York dealt reliever Andrew Miller to Cleveland for four more.
"We're trying to get back to a situation where we can build an uber team and a sustainable one," general manager Brian Cashman said. "So we'll see where it takes us, but that's the effort that we've got going on here, and I think fans should be excited by that."
New York's 5-3 defeat Sunday completed a weekend sweep that left the Yankees (52-52) seven games behind AL East-leading Baltimore and 5 1/2 games back for the AL's second wild card, with three other teams to overcome.
Seeking its elusive 28th championship, New York hasn't won a postseason game since Derek Jeter shattered an ankle in the 2012 AL Championship Series, a night that looking back ended an era of greatness that included titles in 1996, '98, '99, '00 and '09.
While the Yankees kept adding free agents around the core group of Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, amateur drafts yielded relatively little and Major League Baseball restricted the Yankees and other high-revenue teams with taxes on high payrolls and penalties for exceeding defined thresholds on amateur spending.
Cashman all but admitted the Yankees were slow to adapt.
"The chessboard that's lined up that we're playing is not the same chessboard that we were playing back when I just started in the late '80s," he said. "It's a recognition of how the industry's completely different today and the operating standards are completely different today, and there's just a sounder recognition of that. And if you want to become a super team, there's certain ways to go about that that you have to strongly consider. And although they may be tough decisions, the one thing the Yankees have always stood for and do stand for is the effort in trying to become a super team."
Convinced they are unlikely to reach the playoffs this year, the Yankees are pivoting to the future. New York hopes to get under the luxury tax threshold by no later than 2018, which would put the team in prime position to spend again after that season. Bryce Harper, Jose Fernandez, Manny Machado and Clayton Kershaw are among the stars who could be on the market that fall.
With inconsistent starting pitching and among the American League's poorest offenses, the Yankees are in danger of their first losing season since 1992 and appear to be several years from assembling a dominating team. Carlos Beltran, Ivan Nova and Mark Teixeira are eligible for free agency at the end of the season, and CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, Brian McCann and Brett Gardner also could go free after 2018 (New York has 2019 options for McCann and Gardner).
"There's no doubt that they're trying to add good players to the organization for the future," Beltran said. "Maybe they're really serious about rebuilding."
With his average at .205, 41-year-old A-Rod seems to have little future at New York's designated hitter in 2017. As the Yankees try to go young, their focus will be on trying to find productive, relatively inexpensive players to fill the big league roster while waiting for prospects to develop.
Shortstop Jorge Mateo, catcher Gary Sanchez, outfielder Aaron Judge and pitcher Luis Severino were thought to be the best of their minor league system before the addition of shortstop Gleyber Torres from the Cubs and outfielder Clint Frazier from the Indians. New York views Frazier, the fifth overall pick in the 2013 amateur draft, as a Mike Trout-type player. "An electric bat. His bat speed is already legendary," Cashman said. "A very exciting high-energy guy that shows up for the national anthem in a dirty uniform."
Left-hander Justus Sheffield — Gary's nephew — and right-handers Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen also were part of Sunday's trade. Cashman has brought back Adam Warren and Tyler Clippard to fill out the pitching staff, an attempt he said was "to cushion the blow." Still, the Yankees are unaccustomed to dealing stars for prospects.
"Trust me, I didn't sleep a wink last night, and there's a lot of sleepless nights we've had," Cashman said,
Manager Joe Girardi will have to make due until the kids grow up. For now, the Yankees are left to spin the present like other also-rans.
"I don't ever wave a white flag. This organization never waves a white flag," Girardi said. "I don't view it as that, and they better not view it in that room as that."