Saturday, July 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Out of playoffs again, Yankees figure to keep getting younger in offseason

NEW YORK — There were two celebrations at Yankee Stadium during the season's final week — both in the visitors' clubhouse.

This is not what New York and its fans are accustomed to.

The Yankees like to spend the season wondering how deep they will go in the postseason, not whether they will reach it.

"The goal here is not to get into the playoffs. The goal is to win World Series," manager Joe Girardi said before Sunday's season finale, when the oval home clubhouse already was filled with boxes to be shipped to players' homes.

New York has not won a postseason game since Derek Jeter broke his ankle in the 2012 AL Championship Series opener. The Yankees have failed to reach the playoffs in three of the last four seasons.

General manager Brian Cashman finally persuaded owner Hal Steinbrenner in late July to start jettisoning veterans and initiate a youth movement. Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova were traded for prospects, and Alex Rodriguez was released.

"As an organization, we thought it was in our best interest to make trades and try to get back to the World Series-caliber type of team that we know that is going to take some work," Girardi said.

Rookie catcher Gary Sanchez came up from the minors Aug. 3 and finished with a .299 batting average, 20 homers and 42 RBIs in 53 games. Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin arrived 10 days later and made an instant impact — homering back-to-back in their first major-league at-bats.

"I love the guys that we have here," said outfielder Brett Gardner, at 33 a senior Yankee. "I love a lot of the young players we saw that came up over the course of the season. I'm a pretty big Gary Sanchez fan. So I think we've got a lot of young guys that are ready to contribute at this level."

Girardi directed a blunt message to the young players on the final Friday of the season.

"There's a lot of work to do to get to where we want and there's younger kids knocking on older players' doors, and for the younger kids that have had some success, the hard part is not getting here, the hard part is sticking," he recalled telling them. "As people adjust to you, you have to make adjustments as a ballplayer. So I think next year's camp could be extremely competitive and you need to be ready."

WHAT WENT WRONG?

New York scored 680 runs, more than only Kansas City, Oakland and Tampa Bay among AL teams, and was shut out an AL-high 13 times. The inability to play small ball and move runners was most evident on the road, where the Yankees went 36-45. Home runs, especially to right field, seemed to compensate at Yankee Stadium, where they went 48-33.

WHO'S BACK?

Greg Bird missed the entire season following shoulder surgery and is the favorite to start at first base next year; Girardi says Austin will be given a chance to win the job during spring training. Bryan Mitchell figures to compete for a rotation spot after missing most of the season following a toe injury late in spring training. He had a 3.24 ERA in five September appearances. Luis Cessa and Chad Green also could compete for spots in a rotation that includes Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda.

WHO'S GONE?

New York probably won't offer a contract to Nathan Eovaldi, allowing him to become a free agent after the right-hander had Tommy John surgery for the second time. Relief pitchers Branden Pinder, Jacob Lindgren and Nick Rumbelow also will not be available for most or all of next season following elbow ligament replacements.

WHERE DOES LUIS SEVERINO GO?

The 22-year-old right-hander followed a strong debut in 2015 with an awful 2016, and he could become the next Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes, a pitcher the Yankees are uncertain about how to use. Should Severino start or come out of the bullpen?

WHO COULD COME UP NEXT YEAR?

New York's farm system has transformed from one of the worst to one of the best. Outfielder Clint Frazier, shortstop Gleyber Torres and left-hander Justus Sheffield were acquired in the summer trades and joined a minor league system that already included touted infielder Jorge Mateo and outfielder Blake Rutherford. With an 84-78 record, three wins fewer than last year, the Yankees will draft 17th in the first round in June.

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