Now, we might get some first-hand evidence.
Since that early-August period of Yankees-Twins nonsense, both teams have lost the plot and shed their pedigree. At the tail end of 2019, we thought the hilariously-lopsided playoff rivalry of the 2000s had been given new life by the Bomba Squad and DJ LeMahieu’s Bombers. Instead, both sides took major steps back in 2020, with the Yankees losing the ALDS and falling effortlessly behind Tampa Bay and the Twins gagging immediately upon entering the postseason to the underwhelming Astros.
At the time, nobody knew both teams would be in much bigger trouble the very next year.
The 2021 Yankees might be operating as sellers if they had anything worth selling, and the 2021 Twins have slid below even the middle of the pack, making buying a fool’s errand despite their supposed contender status.
It’s safe to say the Yanks need a change, but anything they do should have value for 2022 and beyond, too. There’s no point in renting to charge headlong at the second Wild Card, especially as the team’s farm system takes a huge step forward for the first time in forever.
Enter lefty slugger Max Kepler, who’s on a reasonable contract through 2023 with a 2024 team option. According to Jon Morosi, the Twins are entertaining a Kepler deal, and the Yankees are a perfect fit.
Yankees trade rumors: Max Kepler of the Minnesota Twins?
In a supposed “down year,” Kepler’s still been able to provide exactly the kind of pop the Yankees need in 2021.
He’s posted a 113 OPS+ in his first full season following his 20th-place MVP finish in 2019, a season that featured 36 live-ball home runs. He’s got the power to approach that number with the short porch, though, and attacks the gaps with regularity. Morosi compared him to Paul O’Neill in a follow-up tweet, and from what little we’ve seen of his attitude and swing, we understand it.
Of course, he’d have to continue to prove his pedigree against the Red Sox and Rays for us to truly believe he’d help bring about a similar culture change to the one O’Neill ushered in.
While the addition sounds underwhelming at first, keep in mind he’s having a better 2021 than Giancarlo Stanton. Does that help or hurt?
Falling after this weekend’s series loss to the Red Sox, the trade deadline is poised to arrive at the perfect time (read: the literal worst possible time).
This team needs upgrades to even survive until the end of the season healthy, and it would help if Brian Cashman could acquire a few helpful pieces who’ll be here next year, too.
Instead of adding Trevor Story and then paying him in both prospects and cash at the end of the season, it might make more sense to move on someone like Kepler first — especially since he drills from the other side of the plate.