Bill Madden: Yankees limping toward much-needed All-Star break with lots of problems to fix (2024)

It is almost incomprehensible what has happened to the Yankees — going from the best team in baseball to an absolute train wreck with the wheels falling off everywhere in two short weeks — and it’s unclear how all this gets fixed, other than the All-Star break can’t come too soon for them.

Even when they were sporting the best record in baseball, 49-21 back on June 12, the Yankees were showing their first signs of leakage — in the bullpen — with Brian Cashman indicating his top priority at the trade deadline was a fine tuning of his relief corps and even possibly a more high voltage closer alternative to Clay Holmes. But then the losing began — two out of three to the Red Sox, two out of three to the Orioles, two out of three to the Braves — and Giancarlo Stanton went down as usual, this time with a hamstring pull — and the Yankee lineup was suddenly an empty hole from 4 through 9. DJ LeMahieu looks finished. Gleyber Torres looks lost. Jahmai Jones is not an answer. Ben Rice is probably not ready and even Juan Soto kind of disappeared.

New holes at first base, second base and third base, and a new issue now surfacing for Cashman — a lack of depth.

Compounding all of this is the untimely breakdown of what had been the Yankees’ biggest strength — the starting rotation. Through the first 72 games the Yankees starters were consistently excellent with a major league-leading 2.77 ERA. And that was without Gerrit Cole! In their next 11 starts going into this weekend series with the Blue Jays they gave up 50 earned runs in 52 innings. Most egregious: Luis Gil, who’d been the front runner for the All-Star Game starter nod, battered for 21 hits and 16 earned runs over 15 2/3 innings in his last four starts, and Carlos Rodon clobbered for 28 hits, including five homers, over 13 2/23 innings in his last three starts, his ERA soaring from 2.93 to 4.42.

The two-game Subway Series against the Mets at Citi Field, in which Wednesday’s game was interrupted by a biblical rain storm, was especially embarrassing. Their Queens rivals outscoring them 21-9, at the same time Michael Kay got into a hissy fit with the Mets broadcasters, Torres got unceremoniously benched, and on the other side former Yank Adam Ottavino was caught on camera seemingly calling someone a d-bag after being abruptly pulled by Mets manager Carlos Mendoza. It was two days of Crazy Town.

Meanwhile, the Yankees’ slide combined with the Mets’ sudden resurgence (to .500 entering the weekend after being 11 games under June 4) may have drastically altered their trade deadline plans. The Mets were seemingly headed toward being sellers, but now, finding themselves smack in the middle of the wild card race, they might be only one or two bullpen pieces away from being a real threat in October. On the other hand, Cashman figures to be in competition with the Mets for bullpen help but now also may have to be in the market for corner infielders.

For sure, the Yankees really need the All-Star break to recharge their batteries. Gil has already thrown more innings than in the last three seasons combined and you have to wonder if he’ll be able to remain a starter for three more months or have to go to the bullpen to preserve his arm. As for Rodon, the suspicion is he’s been tipping his pitches and just needs a session or two with Yankee pitching coach Matt Blake.

When it comes to the depth issue, that could eventually be addressed from within. Both the switch-hitting center fielder Jasson Dominguez and infielder Jon Berti should be coming off the injured list in early August. We’ll see in the meantime if J.D. Davis can provide some pop at third base, if Rice can make the necessary adjustments to the big leagues on the fly, and if LeMahieu can regain his swing the second half as he did last year.

Vlad Guerrero Jr.? I don’t know how those silly rumors got started but if you think logically, why would the Yankees trade valuable prospects for a guy who’s going to be a free agent and who they couldn’t afford to re-sign because they’re going to need all their financial resources to retain Soto?

The one consolation for the Yankees in this unexpected slump is that the Orioles haven’t been playing that well either and they have major pitching issues: They’re down two starters and have a porous bullpen absent any high octane throwers — and that’s going to be a whole lot harder to address.

IT’S A MADD, MADD WORLD

Even though they’ll be without Edwin Diaz for another week, a window of opportunity to advance in the NL East may have opened up for the Mets Friday when the Phillies lost their two best hitters — Bryce Harper (hamstring) and Kyle Schwarber (groin) — who now join their other best hitter, J.T. Realmuto, on the injured list and may be out for a while. That’s a whole big chunk of the Phillies offense. On the other hand when the Mets go to Washington Monday, the Nationals are calling up James Wood, the overall No. 3 prospect in the minors. The 21-year-old Wood was the center piece for the Nationals in their trade of Juan Soto to the Padres last year and his major league debut has been much anticipated. He was slashing.346/.458/.578 at Triple A with 10 homers and 10 stolen bases.

Bill Madden: Yankees limping toward much-needed All-Star break with lots of problems to fix (2024)
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