Assuming a post-deadline fire sale is far-fetched at best, here are five ways the Yankees could proceed with their current roster options while making playing-time decisions based on the future of the organization. None of these is a way of giving up on this season, but they might do some good going forward.
Keep playing Austin Romine
I actually think Chris Stewart has done a fine job this year, and he might very well be back in some role next season, but the Yankees know what they have in Stewart. It’s Austin Romine who just might be developing into something more. Through most of this season, Romine’s done nothing to suggest he’s any more than a backup catcher at best — maybe even a AAAA catcher at worst — but he’s been hitting a little bit lately, and that has to be encouraging. I’m sure there are some who want to see J.R. Murphy get a ton of big league at-bats, but there might be more value in finding out what Romine can do than in giving Murphy a chance to take a step beyond where he needs to be. Murphy will be just fine taking this as a year of significant minor league development. For Romine, this might be his best chance to prove he’s ready to play at the big league level.
Give Vernon Wells and/or Alfonso Sorinao turns at first
It’s hard to think of Wells and Soriano as pieces of the Yankees future, but both are signed through next season. So is Ichiro Suzuki. Maybe the Yankees would be willing to release one of them — they’re not really paying Wells next season, anyway — but it’s also worth recognizing that the team is committed to this group of aging outfielders. There might be a better chance of getting some help out of them if they can help Mark Teixeira take a few DH days next season. There’s less drag on the roster if those aging players have some level of versatility.
Keep Phil Hughes in the rotation
Maybe this seems odd, but if David Phelps isn’t ready and Vidal Nuno isn’t healthy and Michael Pineda is still working through some shoulder issues, the Yankees best bet for Hughes might be to keep him in the rotation and hope he can put together a few strong starts that improve his free agent stock and make it easy to give him a qualifying offer that results in a draft pick. That’s harder to do that if he’s dumped to the bullpen. Adam Warren deserves some long-term rotation consideration, and there’s obvious value in getting Pineda a few starts, but the best bet for Hughes having future impact is using him to get a draft pick. And that’s easier to do if he improves his rotation stock.
Find at-bats for Eduardo Nunez
There’s a good chance the Yankees are going to be without Alex Rodriguez for at least part of next season, and who knows whether Derek Jeter — assuming he takes his final option year — is going to have the legs for shortstop. With David Adams struggling in his first big league exposure, Nunez might still be one of the Yankees best in-house infield options. The Yankees might need a shortstop next year, they might need a third baseman, and they might need a second baseman. That’s a lot of infield holes. It would be nice to have Nunez at least available as some sort of utility type.
Bring up Dellin Betances (and actually use him)
When the Yankees promoted Betances earlier this season, there was little reason to actually get him in a game. He was a fresh arm to eat innings if necessarily, but he was showing absolutely no reason to think he might actually have a future with the organization. That’s changed significantly in the past two months or so. With Betances pitching well out of the Triple-A bullpen — and with Mariano Rivera and Joba Chamberlain heading toward free agency — the Yankees owe it to themselves to find out whether Betances can fill a late-inning role next season. Dave Robertson, Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne have obviously been very good and deserve spots at the front of the lineup, but next year’s bullpen is going to be more than three deep, and Betances could very well fit somewhere. He’s out of options next season, too, so this would be his last big league tryout before it’s all or nothing.
Associated Press photos