The Yankees - on pace to win 106 games - are on vacation with the rest of baseball. But when they come back from the All-Star break, they will have to undergo some changes.
That's an amazing statement, but the reality is if the season ended today, the Yankees would be a wild card team because the Red Sox have been that much better.
There are several alterations and adjustments on varying scales the Yankees could undergo to help attain their goal. In all likelihood, the Yankees will not complete each, but some combination of the following shifts could push New York back to the top of the American League East.
Forget Machado. Get the starting pitcher
Manny Machado would make the Yankees or any team better (to different degrees), and the club's general manager Brian Cashman has to do his due diligence in regard to the Orioles' shortstop. However, Machado doesn't help this club right now as much as a starting pitcher would. The Yankees are already averaging 5.2 runs per game, which is second-best in the game to the Red Sox (5.4).
Machado increases that production by minuscule amounts. Removing Domingo German and his 5.49 ERA from the rotation, while deferring to a pitcher that can undercut the mark by at least 1.5 runs makes a huge difference for approximately 12-13 starts.
After performance - and this drum cannot be beat enough - the Yankees have potential injury concerns with Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia. Not to mention the ongoing issues with Sonny Gray and overworking their ace, Luis Severino.
The thought that any starting pitcher addition has to be a No. 1 or No. 2-type starter is a fallacy because of the potential downturn attached to each pitcher outside of Severino. So, in my view, even a solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher would benefit the Yankees down the stretch and that should be their focus.
Beef up the already-beefed up bullpen
The Yankees bullpen has been lights out for over six weeks, pitching to the expectations we had for them as the season commenced. That said, there are some question marks.
Can Aroldis Chapman make it through the rest of the season battling knee tendinitis? Can Dellin Betances continue to maintain solid mechanics? Is David Robertson going to ever discard of the tightrope he tends to walk? Is Chad Green strong enough to provide the extra innings necessary?
The Yankees might believe they are fine with the bullpen construction, although they will likely consider adding to the relief crew if they cannot secure the rotation arm they sorely need. I would argue that even if the Yankees obtain a starting pitcher, if a deal is to be made to allow the them to shorten games with another stud reliever like Brad Hand, they should jump on it because it removes a sore spot like Chasen Shreve.
More importantly, an additional strong bullpen piece would allow Yankees manager Aaron Boone more flexibility as he continues to climb the bullpen management learning curve.
Walk away from Walker
If there is a knock on the Yankees, even in this day of youth dominance on their own roster and in the game, it is that they continue to fall in love (and stay in love) with visibly declining veteran players. Each year, the Yankees seem to hang on to veterans like Neil Walker when it is readily apparent he is not a difference maker.
Yes, Walker is a bench player once Gleyber Torres returns from the disabled list, but there are multiple players - Brandon Drury, Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade - I would rather see with the big league club taking reps and providing higher upside than Walker.
When the Yankees need a player off the bench in September and October, whether that's for power with Drury or speed/defense with Wade, that individual needs to have been a part of the action over the second half of the season. Walker simply gets in the way of that and provides none of the necessary qualities required from a bench impact standpoint.
Beat up on bad teams too
It is not like the Yankees purposely play down against teams with losing records, but the results speak for themselves.
The Yankees have been masterful this season when playing the best of the best, sporting a 36-18 record against teams at or above the .500 mark. However, when they face the dregs of the game, they seem to waste away the opportunity going 26-15 against teams with losing records.
For the Yankees to be able to gain ground against the Red Sox, New York will have to do the same thing Boston does against bad teams - dominate them (Boston owns a 36-11 record versus teams under .500).
We know the Red Sox will make some changes of their own, so the Yankees must come out of the gate for the second half ready to embrace as many of these changes as possible in an effort to push them to the top of the AL East.