It has been a frustrating 2016 season so far for the Yankees, who sit a game under .500 at 35-36. They welcome the Twins to town tonight for a three-game set which could very well return them to the better side of .500, but they have plenty of more work to do to convince the rest of baseball that they are legitimate contenders. After all, their season-high is two games over .500, and they haven’t even been there since April 12th. They have a -22 run differential and much like 2013 and 2014, they simply don’t look like a good baseball team. (Those teams even had better records at this point in the season.)
Somewhat strangely though, Jon Heyman reports that there have been “zero conversations” of selling. On one level, it makes sense to not want to sell just yet. The Yankees are currently in a weird in-between state where they have avoided completely bottoming out. There might be four teams in front of them, but they are still only 3.5 games behind a playoff spot. Although the six-game AL East deficit is larger, it is far from insurmountable, and the Red Sox, Orioles, and Blue Jays are far from perfect, too.
At the same though, it is baffling that there has been absolutely no discussion of selling at all. Heyman’s story should be taken with a grain of salt since reporting this could very well just be a ploy to make teams more motivated to convince the Yankees to sell, but if it is in fact true, then that is disappointing. I am not necessarily in the camp of selling just yet, but there should at least be some base level talks about the possibility. Like it or not, there is a very real possibility that with another frustrating month, the team will have essentially no choice but to sell, and they need to be ready for it.
On another concerning note, Heyman also said that the Yankees have apparently not only had “zero conversations” about selling soon-to-be free agent Aroldis Chapman; they have even considered extending him:
Signing Chapman to an extension hasn’t been ruled out, either. He has said he likes New York.
Writing that extending Chapman “hasn’t been ruled out” confirms that there have at least been discussions. This news is unsettling. Sure, Chapman’s a great relief pitcher and the upcoming free agent markets are pretty barren as far as starters go, but I would hardly be incredibly inspired about the next couple seasons just because there might be another reliable arm out in the bullpen. His dodgy legal history is not exactly a comforting thought, either.
Perhaps their interest is a byproduct of the disappointing results from the homegrown “Scranton Shuttle” crew of relief arms, but having too many big reliever contracts is a risky proposition. The idea of what Chapman’s future might be when his crackling fastball fades is daunting. Furthermore, in the 2014-15 off-season they understandably decided to sign Andrew Miller, but they did not even make a legitimate offer to bring back one of their own, David Robertson. Once he declined the token qualifying offer, they bid him adieu, saying that signing both relievers “was not even given a thought” and that they wanted the qualifying offer. Chapman might (barely) be a better reliever than Robertson, but why would the same rules not apply to him?
Chapman should be one of their key trade chips should they decide to sell. Frankly, they could probably even deal him for prospects and contend roughly as well as they could without him. If they’re so desperate to bring him back, they could re-sign him in the off-season anyway, allowing them to have their cake and eat it too. So they should at least be having conversations about that idea, let alone the possibility that they will need to deal other good trade chips.
Fans can only hope that the Yankees are properly evaluating the situation at hand. Failure to do so could result in some serious struggles for not only the rest of 2016, but 2017 and 2018 as well. Some fans might want that to improve draft pick stock, but it is hardly management’s typical modus operandi. This could get ugly.