The Yankees clearly still have all intentions of making the playoffs, and as long as the Baltimore Orioles don't go on an excellent run right out of the All Star Break the team's hopes will be kept in the realm of possibility until at least the trade deadline. One thing that's certain when sitting five games out of first place is that the Yankees have very little room for error, whether it be managerial decisions, roster choices or something as simple as a baserunning gaffe. I bring this all up because as soon as Friday the Yankees will be granting high-leverage at bats to Carlos Beltran. Considering his performance to this point in the year the team would probably be best served to not just grant him unlimited opportunities to turn his season around like they have been.
Now in fairness to what they eventually team decide to do, this team is probably dead in the water if Beltran doesn't come back as some semblance of the hitter he has been over the last few years. He was brought aboard for this season (and the next...and the next) to be one of, if not the premier power hitters in this lineup. Mark Teixeira has been a pleasant surprise, but besides him it looks like there's a legitimate chance for there to not be another 20 home run hitter in the Yankees lineup in 2014. That's a ghastly lack of power from a team that plays half their games in a park with a right field porch that's at Little League distance. This lineup needs a good Beltran, but even desperate teams need to cut their losses at some point.
A 78 wRC+ thus far combined with shaky knees and a bone spur make for not a lot of optimism surrounding Beltran's return. Compound the offensive concerns with the fact that he cannot play the outfield and is taking up a DH spot that might be better saved for other veterans needing a rest and I think it's in the team's best interest to only give Beltran a brief period to start hitting. If he turns things around, obviously you take the bad aspects and deal with them in order to have a legitimate threat in the lineup. If it doesn't happen soon, though, the team should look into putting him on the shelf for the rest of the year and having that nasty bone spur removed. No sense in having the man suffer while he's not helping the team. In his absence, I'd probably prefer a DH by committee in order to keep the veterans fresh, with a default to a Francisco Cervelli/ Brian McCann DH/catcher combination when nobody needs a rest. It's obviously not ideal since you want a plus hitter slotting in as your DH, but short of Beltran's resurrection or a trade that's probably the best current use for the position.
Beltran's going to get plenty of opportunities to revert to his old form in 2015 and 2016, so this certainly would not be the last we see of him. But at some point this year even a team barely clinging to the edge of playoff contention cannot solely wait around and hope. They need to field the best possible team they can. So here's wishing that Beltran comes out of the gate swinging a hot bat and this all becomes moot.