On July 30th, the Yankees-Red Sox series which starts tonight seemed like just another run of the mill mid-summer series between the two storied franchises. Now, less than 48 hours later, the series is stock full of intrigue and interest due to the moves both teams made at the trade deadline. The two teams even made a trade with each other for the first time since August, 1997. This once seemingly uninteresting series between a third place team and a fifth place team now illustrates the different directions the two organizations are moving. One making a last ditch, final effort to get an aging team back into the playoffs, the other abandoning a sinking ship and cutting their losses with two months left in a lost season.
The Red Sox were the biggest story on trade deadline day, shipping out the majority of their pitching staff to other teams. First they sent ace free agent to be, Jon Lester to Oakland along with October hero Jonny Gomes for Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes will bring a lot of power to an already potent lineup, and provide stellar outfield defense. Cespedes has one of the best arms in the majors, and Boston may shift the Cuban born slugger to center or right field to take advantage of his outstanding throwing ability since it would be overkill in the small left field at Fenway Park. They also made some trades in their division going against conventional thinking, trading Andrew Miller to the Orioles and Stephen Drew to the Yankees. In return, they received Kelly Johnson, who is currently on the DL. John Lackey was dealt to the Cardinals in exchange for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. The sum of the Red Sox trades will lead to a potentially devastating lineup, which will have to score a lot of runs for the team to win games, as they aren’t left with much a pitching staff. But looking forward to 2015, one can see that by shedding payroll and acquiring prospects now, they will be big time players for several free agents like Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields, and will be able to have the prospects needed for any kind of big time trades as well perhaps for Cole Hamels or Giancarlo Stanton should they go on the trading block.
Meanwhile, the Yankees have been making moves for a few weeks. Over the last month, they have been able to acquire Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, Chris Capuano, Esmil Rogers, Martin Prado, and Drew. All of these smaller moves were upgrades to the team and the costs were minimal. The only legitimate prospect the Yankees gave up was Pete O’Brien to the Diamondbacks in the Prado deal. The Yankees were able to hold onto the few prospects they have in the system and upgrade the team. There is no doubt that the Yankees are a stronger team on August 1st than they were on July 1st. Of course, it remains to be seen whether those upgrades will be enough to secure a playoff berth or not.
The new life breathed into this weekend series will certainly spice up the atmosphere surrounding the games, as we get to see Cespedes in a Red Sox uniform for the first time, as well the newly acquired Yankees. Drew will report to a different locker room tonight than he expected to, as he now has the added motivation of playing for a new contract and the chance to succeed Derek Jeter at shortstop for the Yankees next season. But make no mistake, deadline deals or not, this is a must-win series for the Yankees. While the Red Sox have essentially punted on the remainder of 2014, the Yankees have made it known that they are in it to win this season. And they need lots of wins to get where they want to go. The best way to pile up wins, is to beat the weaker teams on the schedule. This season, the Red Sox are a weaker team, and the Yankees need to win at least two out of three.