The Yankees spent the last 10 games beating up on bad teams (4-1 against the A’s and Pirates), continuing their dominance over the Guardians (3-1) and couldn’t do anything offensively yet again in their rescheduled game in Houston.
1. A little more than a week off from the Thoughts and not much has happened. The Yankees swept the A’s (as they should), scored one run in a loss in Houston (as they always do), beat up on the Guardians (as they should) and then had one anemic offensive performance in Pittsburgh and one outstanding offensive performance in Pittsburgh. I would say the last 10 games have gone exactly as expected. No surprises.
2. I was surprised on Wednesday when the lineup for the second game of the two-game series against the Pirates was announced. This was the lineup Aaron Boone put together on Wednesday:
3. Matt Carpenter played in his first game as a Yankee on May 26, which was the team’s 45th game. Wednesday night’s game against the Pirates was the team’s 82nd game. Since his playing in his first game with the Yankees, the team has played 38 games. Wednesday was his 12th start.
Carpenter started on June 3 and then started again nine days later on June 12. He started on June 22 and then not again until July 2. He has had two stretches of at least nine days in which he didn’t start a game, despite being able to play first base, third base and right field, on a team whose third baseman has been absolutely atrocious and whose outfield has been Aaron Judge and sometimes Giancarlo Stanton, when he’s allowed to play the outfield.
So Carpenter isn’t good enough to start more than once in every three games on average, but when he does play he’s good enough to bat third?
4. It was refreshing to see Boone finally move Donaldson down to sixth in the order. He’s not deserving of batting that high either, but when the 7 through 9 is Joey Gallo, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Kyle Higashioka, Donaldson has to hit sixth.
Donaldson hit his seventh home run of the season on Wednesday night in the team’s 82nd game. Since it was the Yankees’ first game in the official second half of the season, by hitting that home run Donaldson increased his 2022 pace from 12 to 14 if he were to play in remaining every game (which he won’t.) So unless Donaldson gets “hot,” he’s going to post a single-season low for home runs. (His previous low is 24.)
After Donaldson’s home run in Pittsburgh, the YES broadcast made sure to comment that Boone said he has liked Donaldson’s at-bats of late. A little puzzling since Boone and the Yankees have made it clear in the past they don’t believe in the concept of players being “hot,” and if they don’t believe in it, then none of his recent at-bats should have any correlation to his at-bat resulting in the home run on Wednesday.
Donaldson has hit four doubles and now the home run (which was his second since May 16) in his last eight games. So if Boone thinks his at-bats have been better of late then why is he hitting .226/.242/.452 in those games. The .694 OPS over his last eight games is pretty much in line with his season totals of .226/.313/.387 and a .700 OPS.
5. A .700 OPS is abysmal, especially for a player with an .863 career OPS who the Yankees owe $24 million to this season and next. (I’m not upset with Donaldson for being traded to the Yankees and immediately being washed up at age 36. That’s on the Yankees for making a trade for a 36-year-old, oft-injured third baseman.) If you want to say he’s an above-average player in 2022 based on OPS+ (101) or wRC+ (102) because offense is down for the league, well that’s bullshit. A player of Donaldson’s resume, salary and treatment shouldn’t be hovering around the league-average 100 line. He shouldn’t need to be defended and excused because “offense is down around the league.”
6. Again, I’m not upset with Donaldson. The trade was foolish the day it happened and looks even more foolish with the results of the players involved since: Donaldson has been awful, Kiner-Falefa has been awful and Ben Rortvedt has been hurt all year. I’m not defending Gio Urshela (who has been a better player than Donaldson in 2022 at one-fourth the cost) or Gary Sanchez. The Yankees could have moved both of those players in other deals. They chose to move them to acquire Donaldson and his $48 million and Kiner-Falefa, whose rarely capable of hitting the ball out of the infield. The money owed to Donaldson shouldn’t matter since we’re talking about the Yankees, but it does matter because we’re talking about the Hal Steinbrenner Yankees and Donaldson’s salary will hinder them at this trade deadline and for building the 2023 roster. The Yankees chose to pass on Carlos Correa, who is having an awesome season, and allowed the Twins to free up the money needed to sign Correa by absorbing Donaldson’s $48 million. Through one half of the season, the entire deal has been a disaster for the Yankees.
Maybe the second half of the season will be a different story. Maybe Donaldson won’t unnecessarily bat in the Top 5 in the order with a sub-.700 OPS. Maybe Kiner-Falefa will make the routine plays at shortstop and not create one (or two) outs on the first or second pitch of every at-bat. I’m not expecting either to turn it around as the season gets older (and Donaldson gets older with it). I expect Donaldson to lose playing time and at-bats to Carpenter. Well, I don’t expect it since we’re talking about the Yankees and reputation and money owed is more important than actual productions or wins, but I want Donaldson to lose playing time and at-bats to Carpenter.
7. As for Kiner-Falefa, I fear that the Yankees plan on him being the everyday shortstop for the rest of the season. They were willing to pass on every available free-agent shortstop to use Kiner-Falefa as a stopgap to either Oswald Peraza or Anthony Volpe. So unless the Yankees are willing to move Gleyber Torres back to short (they’re not) or play Marwin Gonzalez every day (they’re not) then the only option to upgrade at short is for Peraza (very unlikely) or Volpe (pretty much impossible) to force the Yankees to call them up. It’s unlikely for Peraza and nearly impossible for Volpe because the Yankees don’t want to rush either, and neither has had a season worthy of a major-league call-up. They have both been good of late, but they’re still seemingly not close to being the answer yet.
8. The Yankees could have an answer to one of the three automatic outs in their lineup in Estevan Florial. The 24-year-old outfielder is having a breakout season at Triple-A, finally putting it all together with a .905 OPS. He’s deserving of a call-up and of getting a chance in the majors.
The Yankees have been and will continue to be connected to the Royals’ Andrew Benintendi and the Cubs’ Ian Happ, but before needing to go out and deplete the farm even more to acquire an answer to Gallo after already trading away four pieces from the farm a year ago to acquire Gallo, Florial should get a chance. The answer could already be in the organization. A 24-year-old, left-handed-hitting center fielder, who the Yankees have been grooming and waiting on since 2015!
Call up Florial and play him every day for the remainder of July and see what you have. Even that’s not the greatest sample size of everyday playing time in the majors, but it’s better than the current situation of him hitting bombs in Triple-A while Gallo and Hicks strike out, ground out and pop up pitches in the majors.
9. The Yankees have two in-house fixes to ridding themselves of two automatic outs in the lineup by playing Carpenter regularly and calling up Florial. The only way to rid themselves of the third is for all Yankees fans to collectively pray that Peraza goes off for the next month in Triple-A the way Florial has of late and then the Yankees will be forced to try something other than letting Kiner-Falefa hit a weak ground ball to short on the first or second pitch of every at-bat of his.
Living with one automatic out in the lineup is doable. It’s not ideal, but it’s doable. It’s less doable than it was entering the season when Yankees fans thought they were getting a Gold Glove at short with a contact-approach bat in the 9-hole, since what Yankees fans got was a slight upgrade from Gleyber Torres at short with a weak-contact-only bat. But I guess it’s doable.
10. The Yankees buried the Red Sox in the AL East long ago. The Red Sox haven’t had a chance to win the division in months. Over the next 10 days, the Yankees can severely hurt the Red Sox’ playoff chances as well.
The Yankees will play the Red Sox four times this weekend and three times next weekend. The Red Sox’ pitching staff is in shambles, their bullpen sucks, and if you don’t let the Rafael Devers-J.D. Martinez-Xander Bogaerts trio beat you, the Red Sox won’t beat you.
If these Yankees want to avoid the possibility of being eliminated by the Red Sox in the postseason for the third time in five years, they can make sure the Red Sox don’t get to the postseason by beating up on them for the next two weekends and in their 16 remaining games against them this season.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!