WASHINGTON – The last time the New York Yankees finished with a losing record was 1992, or the year Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler were born.
Remember that the next time someone on Twitter tosses out the hypothetical return for Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman, trying to figure out which Cubs prospects are untouchable, and at what cost Theo Epstein’s front office should buy one of those flame-throwing relievers.
A franchise with 27 World Series banners would first have to raise the white flag at the trade deadline. Just ask Adam Warren, the homegrown Yankee the Cubs added to their pitching staff by trading Starlin Castro at the winter meetings.
“I don’t feel like it’s the Yankee DNA to say: ‘I give up,’” Warren said. “Knowing who the Yankees are, they expect to win the World Series every year. It’s hard with the expectations, not only from management, but also the fan base. It’s tough to sell.”
The Yankees woke up on Wednesday at 31-33, in fourth place and 6.5 games back in the American League East. Both the Cubs and Washington Nationals will be watching to see what happens in The Bronx and if the Yankees can stay within striking distance of the second wild card. The Nationals in particular could feel a heightened sense of urgency now that closer Jonathan Papelbon is on the disabled list with a strained intercostal muscle.
The Castro deal gives some insight into what the Yankees are thinking, trying to stay relevant while also building for the future. That’s an extremely difficult balancing act under this collective bargaining agreement, in an industry awash in new TV money and Big Data that somewhat levels the playing field.
The Yankees selected Warren in the fourth round of the 2009 draft out of the University of North Carolina, where he overlapped for a season with Miller. New York reluctantly gave up Warren, a valuable swingman with the guts to perform in a big market and the potential to eventually become a starter in the National League. But Warren will also turn 29 in August and can become a free agent after the 2018 season.
In Castro, the Yankees saw an up-the-middle everyday player who already earned three All-Star selections and hoped he would raise his game while wearing those pinstripes. The Yankees could also absorb the $38 million guaranteed through Castro’s age-26 to age-29 seasons.
“Just from observations over the last couple years, things are changing a little bit,” Warren said. “I do think they’re more focused on getting younger talent.
“So maybe they do see it as an opportunity to do that. I think they’re going to at least ride it out for a while and see where their team is at, because I don’t think they’re going to give up in June.
“If they were to do anything, it would be later. I don’t know. It’s hard for them with their expectations just to sell pieces and kind of give up on the season.”
New York almost built this year’s team backwards, going into scavenger mode after the Chapman trade between the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers collapsed at the winter meetings, making a crass calculation with a player who would begin this season serving a 30-game suspension covered by Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy. Between Chapman, Miller and Dellin Betances, the Yankees would give manager Joe Girardi a dominant bullpen to shorten games and extinguish teams – and then reassess in July.
Jon Lester saw enough of the Yankees while pitching for the Boston Red Sox that he made a cameo appearance tipping his cap to Derek Jeter during that farewell Nike commercial. Lester and Miller also played together on the Red Sox team that won the 2013 World Series. Lester would vouch for Miller if the Cubs want to make a trade-deadline splash, but…
“I can’t remember the last time they (were sellers),” Lester said. “You know what, though, say they do trade an Andrew or a Chapman. I would say they would trade those two guys before they trade Betances, just because of the youth aspect of it. To me, that’s not giving up, because you still have two – unless you trade both. In that case, then you need the yard sale and start over.”