It's over. Ok, it's not technically over, but last night the Yankees were eliminated from winning division and are now six games back in the wild card, making it highly unlikely there will be any sort of late-season run. While there was something to be said about going for it back in July when positive regression and a few new pieces could have turned this team into a contender, it's time to stop wasting time pretending and start being productive by looking toward 2015.
The Yankees never really had any tradable pieces, but now with only two weeks to go, they should be shutting things down and letting go of the idea of contention. As I argued yesterday, they shouldn't be overworking David Robertson, but instead resting him. All players who have struggled with injury in the last month, like Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner, should be resting too. There's no point trying to get them to play through their various injuries because they'll be needed next year and the last thing anyone wants is for one of them to get seriously injured and cause a problem over the offseason. They should also stop using Chase Whitley as he's well beyond his innings total from 2013. He was a great surprise this year, but there's no reason to push him any more than they already have. Just shut him down and hope that he can be effective next year with a rested arm.
While they might not need to shut down Dellin Betances immediately, they shouldn't put too much stress on the team's breakout star. Right now he's tied with Mariano Rivera for the most strikeouts in a single season for a Yankees reliever. I normally don't like the idea of managing around a personal record, but Dellin has held up well all season long. I would at least let him get a chance to break the record and then shut him down for the year. Regardless of whether they bring back Robertson, the team is going to need Betances to be effective and healthy; thankfully we've gotten both in 2014, but there's no reason to take the chance.
Masahiro Tanaka needs to pitch. This season might be a lost cause, but the status of Tanaka will change everything about how they approach the offseason. He just threw a few uninspiring innings yesterday, but right now it's about health rather than effectiveness. If they can bring him up to the majors and get the sense that he can still get major league hitters out without destroying his arm, it will make the team's offseason much easier. Even if he ends up hurting his arm again, at least they'll know now that he'll need Tommy John surgery instead of finding out in spring training. Whether it works out or not, it has to happen.
Carlos Beltran claims that even by waiting until the end of the season to get elbow surgery, it won't affect his status for 2015. That might be true, but I think I'd be much more confident in the whole thing going forward if he just got it out of the way now. The team isn't making the playoffs and he's not going to score any points or fix his season in the next two weeks, so there's no reason to play in meaningless games when you have an injury that needs surgery. Even if it won't hurt his offseason routine, he has a chance to avoid doing anything differently at all. If it were up to me, he should have had the surgery the last time he was shut down with elbow pain. It just sounds better to get it out of the way sooner, rather than needlessly waiting around for it to happen later.
Most teams out of contention will take this time to let their prospects play in order to evaluate what they have and give them valuable MLB experience. The Yankees decided against that idea and instead mostly brought up Triple-A fodder as September call-ups, however the small amount of young players they did bring up should have their time in the sun. I would let Bryan Mitchell start for the remainder of the year, even if that only ends up being a start or two. Swap him with Chris Capuano, who doesn't seem likely to fit into the team's future plans, and try to get a sense of what he can offer next year. The only other guy they have is John Ryan Murphy, who should get a real opportunity to make up for his disappointing season. Allow him to at least split time with Brian McCann going forward and give him regular playing time. We know he has the ability to catch, but let's see how his bat plays with regular at-bats and try to end his season on a positive note.
Now is the time for the Zelous Wheelers, Antoan Richardsons, Brendan Ryans, and Stephen Drews of the world to get their playing time in. Now is the time to watch Derek Jeter play out the last days of his career. Anyone who is important to the team's future needs to be protected from harm because the last thing this season needs is a catastrophe that could have been avoided.