Five issues facing the Yankees in the second half
It would be a stretch to say Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is desperate to land a starting pitcher before the trade deadline, but it is a glaring need. Luis Severino has established himself as an ace (14-2, 2.31 ERA) and CC Sabathia has been mostly solid, going 6-4 with a 3.51. But Sabathia is 37 and, after him, the drop-off is dramatic. Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray and Domingo German have each had their moments, but the reality is their respective ERAs are 4.54, 5.46 and 5.49, respectively. Cashman has one of the top farm systems from which to make a trade, but the market is thin, with J.A. Happ, Michael Fulmer and Cole Hamels among the many starting options the Yankees have been scouting.
Stanton’s continued resurgence
Giancarlo Stanton couldn’t have had a much worse start to his career in pinstripes, slashing .230/.313/.425 the first month. But, despite some of his rough treatment by Stadium fans, those numbers have steadily improved. He slashed .264/.330/.516 in May and since June 1 those numbers are .317/.378/.581. Overall, Stanton is hitting .278/.346/.518 with 23 homers and 55 RBIs, numbers that aren’t terribly far behind those he put up last season in winning the NL MVP.
The Gleyber and Gary show
Rookie Gleyber Torres made an immediate impact after his big-league debut April 22 with his work at second base and, more significant, at the plate helping to spark the Yankees. He landed on the DL July 5 with a right hip strain but is slated to return shortly after the All-Star break. The Yankees have missed him, especially at the plate where he has amassed 15 home runs in 62 games. Gary Sanchez, meanwhile, is expected to return from his DL stint (right groin strain) on Friday. Though Sanchez hasn’t yet gotten it going offensively and Austin Romine has filled in admirably, if the Yankees catch Boston in the second half then Sanchez will likely have played a major role in it.
Many fans were ready to run Dellin Betances out of town when, coupled with his poor end to last season, he started poorly this season. But Betances seems to have recaptured the form that made him an All-Star in four straight seasons (2014-17). After allowing a run to the Red Sox May 10, which actually lowered his ERA to 5.62 from 5.79, the 6-8 righthander posted an 0.71 ERA over his final 25 appearances before the break, striking out 42 in 25 1⁄3 innings. The bullpen has been mostly terrific all season and Betances has established himself as the unit’s most feared arm along with Aroldis Chapman.
If there was one player not wanting the extended break this week it probably was Greg Bird. The lefty-swinging first baseman mostly struggled at the plate since his season started May 25, but there have been signs that he is finding his rhythm. Bird hit .281 with a .984 OPS the last nine games before the break, hitting three homers and driving in 12 runs. Of Bird’s 30 hits this season, 17 are for extra bases (including eight homers), and it can’t be understated what consistent production from Bird would mean to the Yankees’ lineup.