Hungry call-ups from minors bring some life to Yankees
With the trade deadline fast approaching, Brian Cashman already has acquired the one thing his Yankees so desperately needed.
Didn’t even need to dial up a rival GM, either. All Cashman had to do was execute a series of moves he never intended to rely on. And the reason we know that is because Cashman told us himself.
Back on June 29, as the Yankees cratered, Cashman held his second on-field media briefing of that week, and was asked if there was anyone worth tapping at the minor-league level to help revive the lifeless bunch in the Bronx.
"There’s no cavalry sitting at Triple-A to say, take this person out and put this person in," Cashman said then. "I don’t feel like right now that I have definitive, obvious upgrades that I can promote from within."
At the time, Cashman wasn’t wrong. It’s just that he wasn’t entirely right either. Everyone had grown so accustomed to watching the same plodding, big-swing, station-to-station roster routinely fail on a nightly basis that any potential solution felt too complicated, too unwieldy, to try midseason.
It took Cashman’s hand being forced by injuries and COVID-19 to call up this latest round of RailRiders, giving Greg Allen and Estevan Florial, among others, an opportunity to inject some energy before the Yankees’ championship hopes drifted off to sleep permanently.
Does that mean the Yankees are better with Allen, Florial and Tyler Wade playing regularly than having Aaron Judge and Gio Urshela back in the lineup ASAP? Of course not. But it’s also fair to suggest this infusion of hungry twenty-somethings has added a missing dimension to a team that was lacking just that. Cashman didn’t merely call up bodies to fill out his major-league roster. He imported a sense of urgency from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Allen is 28 and now on his third team. He’s no kid. But the way he’s performed since arriving in the Bronx has put guys like $325 million slugger Giancarlo Stanton to shame. With the Yankees determining Stanton is apparently too physically fragile to take over for the absent Judge in rightfield, that duty has fallen to Allen, who was 4-for-8 with a double, triple, three walks, two stolen bases and one RBI in his first four games.
Allen returned to rightfield again for Wednesday’s mini-series finale against the Phillies, batting seventh, and his athleticism should earn him a more lengthy stay, even as others get healthy. In the previous night’s 6-4 win, Allen made a big impact with his feet, helping to manufacture runs using methods not typically seen around the Bronx.
"It’s definitely a different element," Aaron Boone said Wednesday afternoon. "Something that’s certainly played a factor for us these past few games where that’s come into play a little bit. And right now, with what we have, we’ve got to do things in a different kind of way. It’s been nice to see, these last few games, guys step up and play really well."
Take Tuesday night for an example. Allen did most of the heavy lifting early, scoring the first two runs — one sparked by his triple, the other on a walk, stolen base, flyout and botched throw to third that nearly doubled him up. After all that hustling around, the Yankees swatted four solo homers, including Florial’s first of his career.
When it comes to the Yankees’ impatience with young talent, Florial is Exhibit A. He’s been the Next Big Thing going on six years now, and the only reason the average fan knows Florial still exists is the media’s repeated asking of Cashman and Boone about his next promotion. The Yankees have bent over backward to keep him in the minors despite yet another season-ending injury to Aaron Hicks — leaning heavily on 37-year-old Brett Gardner and also risking Judge in that spot — until Sunday’s injury to fellow RailRider Trey Amburgey (hamstring strain) and Tim Locastro’s knee surgery left them no choice but to summon Florial.
While it’s true Florial wasn’t exactly killing it at Scranton, hitting .211 with eight homers and a .719 OPS over 43 games, if he’s as great as the Yankees keep insisting, maybe pushing him into the spotlight — and keeping him there for more than a minute — might ignite something special in the short term. Tuesday’s homer and two RBIs got him back in the lineup Wednesday, batting ninth.
"He’s a really, really talented player, but he’s also a really, really special person," said Gardner, whose spent plenty of time with Florial in spring training over the years. "It’s just exciting to see him get this opportunity and be able to perform on the biggest stage. No situation is too big for him, and I think you can say that about a lot of these young guys on our roster."
For most of the season’s first half, staying in the AL East race seemed like too huge a task for the regular Yankees. Cashman eventually got around to finding a few replacements that actually seem willing to embrace the challenge.