As the Yankees go to Boston to start the month of August, they are a more talented team that the one the one on July 1. Unfortunately, they have also lost some ground in the AL East race. The Yankees did not acquire an elite player in past month, but did upgrade at several positions on the roster. While the Yankees may still miss the playoffs, they are now at least in a position to make a run for a playoff spot. The fact the Yankees were able to overachieve as much as they did in the first half is a credit to manager Joe Girardi and his coaching staff. He lost four of his top five starting pitchers. He lost his closer, David Robertson and his top home run and RBI producer, Mark Teixeira for an extended time. Despite their massive contracts, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran contributed very little at the plate. They have a negative run differential but have a winning record.
As the Bombers enter the dog days, it is easy to see the upgrades and the potential for a second half run. Vidal Nuno was 2-5 with a 5.42 ERA before he was traded for Brandon McCarthy. Since coming to the Yankees, McCarthy is 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA. Yangervis Solarte made the team out fo spring training, and was red hot for the first six weeks of the season, even leading the team in average and RBI at one point. But the league made an adjustment against him and he stopped hitting. Chase Headley, the 2012 NL RBI champion and MVP runner up, has struggled with injuries for the last year and a half, but is the first legitimate major league third baseman the Yankees have had since Alex Rodriguez. At second, Stephen Drew will be playing the position for the first time in his career, but is younger and more athletic than Brian Roberts and should upgrade the defense and provide more offense than the aging Roberts.
When the Yankee season began, they had one of the worst infield defenses in recent memory. Now, Teixiera is relatively healthy and in the lineup along with 2012 Gold Glove winner Headley at third and Drew at second. Jeter is still at short and still has no range, but the rest of the infield’s defense has been upgraded which should help mask the Captain’s defensive shortcomings. The addition of Martin Prado to play primarily right field also gives the Yankees a starting nine with a bona fide major league player at each position for the first time in 2014. No longer are the Bombers going to run out Quadruple-A players like Solarate or Dean Anna or has-beens like Roberts or Alfonso Soriano or mediocre journeymen like Johnson or Scott Sizemore. They don’t have an All-Star at every position, but they do have an average or better player across the board.
Only time will tell whether or not these moves are enough to get the Yankees back into the playoffs. In reality, they will need a few breaks to go their way to make up the six games they are behind the Orioles in the AL East. A boost from the return of Michael Pineda or less likely the return of Masahiro Tanaka might be the final piece of the puzzle. Perhaps GM Brian Cashman can find lightning in a bottle on a waiver deal. Perhaps a jolt arrives from Scranton. Only one thing is for certain, the Yankees have a better, more talented team today than they have all summer.