Major League Baseball is built upon historic franchises and the rivalries between them that galvanize the fan bases. However, there are times when one team in a rivalry isn’t playing well and things just don’t feel right, but there always seem to be a catalyst. Damian Dydyn explains why the 2016 non-waiver trade deadline served as a potential catalyst in a renewed Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees rivalry.
Between 1998 and 2009, the Red Sox and Yankees enjoyed the greatest sustained run of competitive play in their heralded rivalry. The Red Sox went to the playoffs eight times in those twelve years, making the league championship series four times, and winning the World Series twice in two trips to the Fall Classic. Meanwhile, the Yankees made the playoffs eleven times, making the ALCS seven times and winning the World Series four times* in six trips. Just outside the rivalry’s golden age, the Yankees won a title in 1996 while the Red Sox won in 2013, but the Red Sox were not terribly competitive in 1996, and 2009 marks the last time the Red Sox and the Yankees were both competitive in the same season.
Recently, both teams have been loaded with expensive veteran contracts and both teams needed to hit the reset button to get back on track. While the Red Sox may be a step or two closer to another competitive run, the Yankees have closed the gap considerably in the last week by trading away Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Beltran, Ivan Nova, and Andrew Miller and restocking their farm system.
In those three trades the Yankees added prospects Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller, J.P. Feyereisen, Gleyber Torres, Adam Warren, Billy McKinney, Rashad Crawford, Dillon Tate, Nick Green, and Erik Swanson. Combined with homegrown youngsters Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, Gary Sanchez, and James Kaprielian, New York now boasts seven prospects in Baseball America’s top 100 list and six on mlb.com’s.
By contrast, the Red Sox place Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, and Michael Kopech on both lists, with both Moncada and Benintendi being consensus top 10 prospects. They are joined by recent draftee Jason Groome, who appears at number 40 on MLB’s list but had not yet signed when Baseball America published their mid-season update. Both teams are competing for top farm system in the league, with the Red Sox having better top-end talent and the Yankees having more depth.
Both teams are loading up with young talent at the major league level as well. The Yankees deploy Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Rob Refsnyder, Greg Bird (on the DL), and Luis Severino — all aged 26 or younger — with Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka just 27 and Dellin Betances, 28. That’s a lot of talent about to enter, or having just entered, their prime.
The Red Sox counter with a major league roster featuring Xander Bogaerts, Travis Shaw, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and Eduardo Rodriguez at age 26 or younger, with Brock Holt, Sandy Leon, Drew Pomeranz, and Rick Porcello just one year older. They also have Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez, on the DL and in AAA, respectively, at ages 24 and 25.
Though the Red Sox are within striking distance of the division title, they have been scuffling recently, and it may be a year or two before they become a favorite for a World Series run. The Yankees are at least that far away, languishing at .500 thus far in 2016. However, both teams look to be on track and in excellent shape in the near future. This convergence of young stars and competitive teams bodes well for one of Major League Baseball’s most storied rivalries.
This could all change if one or both teams engages in an arm’s race for Chris Sale or Jose Fernandez this winter. While both teams are brimming with promise, any number of things could go wrong to derail this potential clash of titans.
The upcoming free agent market is very thin, so immediate help for either club may be difficult to come by. This coming winter the free agents of note at each position appear to be:
Aside from relief pitchers, there isn’t a lot available that either team is likely to be looking to add. The Red Sox have Hanley Ramirez and Travis Shaw at first base and DH, with Rafael Devers likely to end up in one spot or the other if he doesn’t flame out. The Yankees expect to slot Greg Bird in at first with Alex Rodriguez likely to serve as DH next year, barring him being designated for assignment.
The Yankees may splash some cash on Jose Bautista or Ian Desmond this winter, but with Bryce Harper due to hit the market in 2017, they may show restraint before attempting to break the bank and free agent contract records for the young slugger. They are the Yankees of course, so spending, like winter, is coming.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, are very likely set in the outfield for the foreseeable future. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts are both under control through 2019, and Andrew Benintendi is making the case for a promotion later this season with Yoan Moncada also an option once he is moved off second base.
Neither team needs much long-term help at catcher. The Red Sox boast three options under control through at least 2019 in Vazquez, Swihart, and Leon. The Yankees have 28-year-old Austin Romine and prospect Gary Sanchez at 23.
The one area both teams could use some help is starting pitching. But, as the list above demonstrates there isn’t any real help looming. While the overall free agent market in the 2017/2018 winter projects to be loaded with talent, the starting pitchers available – with the noted exception of Jake Arrieta – are anything but big impact names.
Even still, with the Yankees having Tanaka, Pineda, and Severino to build around, and the Red Sox controlling Price, Pomeranz, Porcello, and Eduardo Rodriguez, each is poised to go on a run of sustained competitiveness in the near future. If the Red Sox can get their starters to come around and perform as expected down the stretch, they may already be in the first year of their run. For those of us who miss the good old days of the Red Sox and Yankees slugging it out down the stretch and in the playoffs, the future is very bright.
Damian Dydyn has written about an illegal slide, Mookie Betts, rookies adjusting, and managing a fantasy baseball team.
Follow Damian on Twitter @ddydyn.
[Editor’s Note: Thank you to sonsofsamhorn.net member Van Everyman]