Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman did yeoman’s work at the trade deadline, bringing outfielder Joey Gallo, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and pitcher Andrew Heaney to the Bronx in three separate trades. These additions strengthened the roster, but there are in-house players who also have the potential to help the Yankees as the club chases its 28th World Series championship this autumn and eyes another title run in 2022.
First and foremost, perhaps nothing could improve the Yankees’ chances of a deep playoff run more than a Giancarlo Stanton resurgence. Admittedly, even with his recent putrid slump, Stanton has been fine in 2021. Big G has been healthy for most of the season, playing in 84 games thus far. In them, he’s put up a 122 wRC+ and hit 16 dingers. He’s been fine.
But the Yankees almost certainly were not thinking they would have to settle for “fine” this quickly when they acquired him for pennies on the dollar in late 2017. And he has shown flashes that he is by no means finished in his age-31 season. He was torrid in late April and early May. Between April 23rd and May 6th, Stanton hit six homeruns in 12 games, batted .481, and compiled a 285 wRC+.
Obviously, no one expects that level of performance over 162 games, but his hot stretch shows that Stanton, when he is right, is still a game-wrecker. Even a return to the back of his baseball card — a right-handed slugger with a career .540 SLG and 141 wRC+ — would go a long way toward bolstering the Yankees as they try to chase down a plethora of teams ahead of them in the standings.
“Fixing” Stanton is critical to the Yankees’ success in 2022, also. Stanton has seven years remaining on his contract and he is due $29 million next season. This for a club that has strongly shown that if winning a championship is Priority 1-A, obsessively fretting about the salary cap … er, competitive balance tax … is Priority 1-B.
Regardless of whether anyone likes it, Stanton will almost certainly be an anchor in the lineup and on the payroll for the next several years. It is absolutely imperative, as the Yankees approach tough decisions on homegrown talents and new acquisition Joey Gallo, that Stanton provides bang for the buck. A return to form during the stretch run this season would be reason for optimism that he can be better than “fine” in the next couple of seasons. Because if “fine” is the new baseline, the final years of Stanton’s contract are going to be uglier than a pair of used bowling shoes.
Luis Severino represents another internal impact player who has the potential to facilitate a title run, although given his injury history and recovery timetable, there is significant reason to temper expectations of what Sevy can deliver down the stretch in 2021.
The most recent news on the once (and hopefully future) ace is that Sevy will make a rehab start on Tuesday. Manager Aaron Boone estimated that Severino threw close to 50 pitches in a simulated game on Thursday, and he praised Severino’s pitching and repertoire.
With a return to the Bronx seemingly imminent, it’s worth thinking about how Severino’s presence can help. The Yankees rotation, uncharacteristic clunker from Gerrit Cole this week aside, has performed admirably recently, and could theoretically add back Corey Kluber later this fall. But if anyone falters or if Aaron Boone thinks Severino can best help the club as a starter, perhaps Sevy can be a five-and-fly starter down the stretch.
On the other hand, the bullpen has been … an adventure … in recent weeks. Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Chad Green have all struggled in multiple recent outings and even Jonathan Loaisiga has scuffled since returning from the COVID-IL. Although Severino has not pitched out of the bullpen in several years, it is pertinent that when he last did so in 2016, he excelled.
In 23.1 innings of relief that season, he struck out better than a batter per inning, surrendered zero home runs, and held opponents to a .105 BA and a .179 wOBA. If he does not slot into the rotation down the stretch, Severino could potentially be a devastating late-inning weapon as the Yankees try to protect leads that have all-too-often gotten away from them thus far in 2021.
Like Stanton, if Severino can find his form down the stretch, it also bodes well for the Yankees in 2022. I am not sure I believe in the idea of a championship window, considering how injury and regression can come out of nowhere to wreak havoc on a club. And if championship windows do exist, the Chicago Cubs’ fire sale at this season’s deadline five years after their World Series title evinces that windows perhaps don’t remain open as long we might want.
But if windows are real, and if the Yankees’ is currently open, then 2022 is the last season I am confident thinking falls into a legitimate period of championship contention. Upon looking at the Yankees rotation for 2022 as it stands right now, a hypothetical vintage Luis Severino slots in nicely as a complement to Gerrit Cole as a legitimate number two starter.
Perhaps as Jameson Taillon continues to recover from his own injury woes, he can eat up innings and provide near-ace value to the Yankees. But neither Domingo Germán nor Jordan Montgomery have consistently shown the ability to pitch deep into games. Meanwhile, in Sevy’s last two healthy seasons, he combined to toss 384.2 innings at a high level.
A bounce back in the second half from Giancarlo Stanton and a healthy and effective return from Luis Severino could go a long way toward helping the Yankees get into the playoffs and chase down a championship that has eluded them for over a decade. But more than that, in light of roster construction and budgetary constraints, their respective returns to form also represent a crucial component to future success for the Yankees.