2016 New York Yankees
2016 New York Yankees / Franchise: New York Yankees / BR Team Page
Managed by Joe Girardi
History, Comments, Contributions
There was something very un-Yankee-like about the 2016 New York Yankees: for the first time since 1991, they had not signed a single free agent in the off-season. They had not stood pat, however, making trades to acquire players such as closer Aroldis Chapman and OF Aaron Hicks, but after being shut out at home in the Wild Card Game to end the 2015 season, there was a sense in the fan base that they should have been more active. Indeed, the beginning of the year was rough, as they went on a stretch in mid-April during which they lost 7 times in 8 games, including being swept at home by the Oakland Athletics on April 19-21. They were in last place in the AL East at that point, and their 5-9 record gave them just one more win than the worst total in the majors.
Heading into spring training, the Yankees were concerned about the health of 1B Mark Teixeira, who had made numerous trips to the disabled list over the past couple of seasons. These worries became more serious when young Greg Bird, who had filled in very well for him the last six weeks of 2015, went down with a season-ending injury in the spring. Teixeira was healthy when the season started, but health woes caught up with him in May, placing him on the disabled list. Dustin Ackley filled in for him. but he soon hurt himself. The Yankees called up veteran minor leaguer Chris Parmelee to help out, but he went down with a hamstring injury in early June, and now there was little left in the cupboard. The Yankees had passed on signing James Loney when he had been released by the Tampa Bay Rays earlier in the year, and he was now helping out the cross-town New York Mets in the absence of Lucas Duda. The last options available were calling up Nick Swisher from the minors, but he had not given any signs that he could hit from the left side any more, or playing a minor leaguer out of position at first base. In the immediate, they were playing second baseman Rob Refsnyder at first base in the hope that Teixeira would soon return. On June 13th, they picked up Ike Davis, who was playing in the Texas Rangers minor league system, to lend them a hand at the position.
With the Yankees still in last place in the AL East in mid-June, although only a few games below .500, the question had to be asked: was it time for the team to start selling some of their players in order to acquire younger talent? A particular question related to their trio of top closers - Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances - and whether this constituted an unaffordable luxury for a team with plenty of holes elsewhere. Realistically though, even though hometown fans were growing impatient, the team wanted to wait until the trading deadline before making any bold moves. When the trade deadline came, the Yankees chose their camp, however, and - gasp! - they were sellers. First to go was Chapman, sent to the Chicago Cubs for a nice haul of four young players, and next, on July 31st, was Miller, who went to the Cleveland Indians for four other youngsters. That left the closer's role to Betances, who had seemed to be the one to assume it ever since he had emerged as the final set-up man for Mariano Rivera two years earlier. Also traded was P Ivan Nova. And there were calls for other bold moves to accelerate the inevitable rebuilding, such as getting rid of Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, who both seemed to be on their last legs at this point, and trading OF Carlos Beltran, one of the better Yankees player this season, but who at 39 was unlikely to still be productive when the Yankees would contend again. Indeed, Beltran was traded to the Texas Rangers the next day in return for three prospects, while the Yankees did acquire one major leaguer, RP Tyler Clippard, picked up from the Arizona Diamondbacks in return for a minor leaguer. A few days later, on August 5th, Teixeira announced that he would be retiring at the end of the year. Two days later, a similar announcement came from Rodriguez, although he was not going to wait until the end of the season: he and the Yankees had agreed that his last game would be on August 12th, after which he would be given his unconditional release and fulfill the remainder of his contract as a special advisor and instructor with the team, serving as a mentor to younger players in the organization.
The youth movement provided immediate returns, as the youngsters given playing time took full advantage. The main protagonists were C Gary Sanchez and OF Aaron Judge who both went on a power splurge in August. Judge and 1B Tyler Austin set a record in their debut game on August 13th by both hitting homers in their first at-bat. Other youngsters contributing were OFs Ronald Torreyes and Aaron Hicks, as well as young veterans Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro. Thanks to their hot hitting, the Yankees were back in the wild card race at the end of the month, although their starting rotation remained a big point of concern behind Masanori Tanaka. The Yankees' hopes for a postseason berth were dashed when they were swept in a key four-game series against the Boston Red Sox on September 15-18th. They had come to Fenway Park brimming with confidence, having recently swept the Toronto Blue Jays as part of a seven-game winning streak, but they had also lost two of three at home in a rare visit by the Los Angeles Dodgers to New Yankee Stadium. In any case, in the first game against the Red Sox, they took a 5-2 lead into the 9th, only to see their relief corps surrender five runs for a 7-5 loss. Losses in the next three contests put them five games back in the wild card race, with little realistic chance of leapfrogging a number of teams and making up the difference with only two weeks left. Worse, Aaron Judge had been lost for the season to an injury, while Jacoby Ellsbury and Castro both left the third game with injuries, forcing the Yankees to once again scramble to find valid bodies to put in the line-up. They picked up DH Billy Butler, who had just been released by the Oakland As, and 2B Donovan Solano off the scrap heap to ensure they had enough players to compete.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Carlos Beltran, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller
- AL Gold Glove: Brett Gardner (LF)
- 2016 Topps All-Star Rookie Team: Gary Sanchez (C)
- Bryan Hoch: "Slugging Sanchez leads Yanks' youth movement: Baby Bombers' breakout among top baseball stories of 2016", mlb.com, December 28, 2016. 
- Bob Klapisch: "It's time for the Yankees to cut Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira", USA Today Sports, August 1, 2016. 
- Bob Klapisch: "Yanks sitting back and enjoying the ride", "NorthJersey.com", The Bergen Record', August 27, 2016. 
- Gabe Lacques: "Buyers or cellar? Angels, Yankees find themselves in unfamilar place — last", USA Today Sports, May 12, 2016. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Bizarro World: Yankees sellers, Indians buyers at trade deadline", USA Today Sports, August 1, 2016. 
- Mike Vorkutov: "Yankees at the crossroads: Buy or sell at the trade deadline", USA Today Sports, July 24, 2016.