1992 was the last time a New York Yankees team finished a season under .500. An incredible feat that may be coming to an end in the 2020 season.
A season that started with huge hope after the Gerrit Cole signing has been ruined by injuries, and they are now at .500 with just weeks left of the season.
Unfortunately for the 27-time World Series champions, their Injured List would be the bedrock of an excellent team. Starters Luis Severino and James Paxton have missed most of the year with arm injuries, and star outfielders Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are also on the IL, although on the comeback trail.
These injuries mean that Yankees are around 15th in both ERA and offensive WAR, and out of the two automatic playoff berths in the AL East.
Their 2-8 run after the deadline has been extremely damaging particularly in allowing Baltimore to re-enter the wild card race and letting the hot Blue Jays increase their lead in 2nd. Fangraphs still have their playoff odds at 83%, due to their 1.5 game lead in the Wild Card race and the likelihood of the return of Paxton, Judge and Stanton.
Whilst the current run is demoralising and concerning, there is hope that this is a blip that can be corrected with returnees from the IL. Some have questioned whether the Yankees should have strengthened their struggling club at the deadline.
Brian Cashman has been mostly cautious at trade deadlines, but the issues with their pitching staff in particular, and the availability of Lance Lynn and Mike Clevinger had the Yankees featuring prominently in deadline rumours.
Perhaps regretfully for Cashman, the Padres ended up with Clevenger and Lynn stayed in Texas. Andy Martino of SNY reported that the ask for both the top starters was two of top prospects Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt and outfielder Clint Frazier.
This asking price seems somewhat steep for Lynn as he is a free agent after next season and is 33. The opportunity to get Clevenger was likely to be more tempting. He has been a top 10 pitcher since his major league debut and cannot be a free agent until 2023.
The issue with giving up Frazier and one of the pitchers is that they can all help the club this year. Frazier has a 156 wRC+ and has been a saviour in the absence of Judge and Stanton, whilst Garcia pitched 6 shutout innings on debut and although Schmidt struggled in his first outing, he is now in the bullpen that is without Tommy Kahnle and has had trouble closing games recently.
With Paxton due to return, Cole improving and Masahiro Tanaka performing well, it is difficult to make a strong case that the Yankees would be wise to give up two members of their current team, even for Clevinger. Even with the years of control, Luis Severino should come back for 2021 and make their rotation a real strength.
In this 60-game sprint, losing multiple players to the IL is much more detrimental, particularly stars like Stanton and Judge. Their injury records are becoming worrying, but there is no question of their abilities and the Yankees have their services for the foreseeable future, alongside Cole. 2020 has been disappointing for the Yankees, but they are still set up well for future success, even without Clevenger.
Stats correct as of 9/9/2020