So far this season, every roster decision the Yankees have made makes sense. In his two deals with the Cubs this year, Brian Cashman has turned Brendan Ryan and four low-level prospects into Starlin Castro, 20 saves from Aroldis Chapman, a Top-20 prospect in baseball and a Top-5 prospect in one of the most highly regarded farm systems in the MLB. The Aaron Hicks signing hasn't panned out, but made sense in theory. Sending down Luis Severino has helped mature him into hopefully being a force on the mound in pinstripes someday. For a season that on the field has been mostly underwhelming, the off-the-field decisions have given Yankees fans little reason to complain.
But with one week until the trade deadline, the Yankees front office looks to veer sharply from the course it is currently on. Amidst rumors of a split organization between the business people led by Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine who want the Yankees to be "buyers" and go for it this season, and the baseball operations faction led by Brian Cashman who insist on being "sellers", the direction of the franchise is unclear. But a recent quote to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports suggested the two sides might come to some sort of in-between compromise
"We're not playing in a narrow-minded world," said Cashman. "We want to be open to any and all ideas. Buy, sell, long, short. It's in our best interest to be creative and open-minded."
While compromise might seem like a reasonable course, the reality is that in sports, often the worst path is the one of half-measures. A look at the teams considered to be World Series favorites this season, the Indians, Nationals, Cubs and Giants, is a list of teams who were at some point willing to bottom out and rebuild. Every single one of the above teams had long stretches of multiple seasons of below .500 baseball in the past decade. Smartly rebuilding with an eye the future isn't "quitting" or "waving the white flag", it's just good business.
The Yankees success isn't measured in playoff berths, it's measured in championships. And even if they have an outside shot at making the one-game wildcard for a second consecutive year, this team has no realistic shot at a 2016 World Series ring. Their run differential of -24 puts them more in line with the below .500 Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals than any realistic contender. The pitching is wildly inconsistent. The lineup regularly features batters who are hitting below the Mendoza Line. There is just no reason to look at the Yankees and see them as a championship-level roster. The quickest way to get back to having one is making decisions for the future, not an uncertain present.
The chance to rebuild is here. If a Chapman rental is willing to fetch four quality players, imagine what a cost-controlled Andrew Miller with years left on his deal can bring in? What could a Carlos Beltran, who is currently hitting over .300 and is considered one of the greatest postseason hitters of all-time, be worth to a contender in need for a hitting outfielder or DH? What could an open spot on the roster do for promising young prospects like Aaron Judge if someone is willing to take big contracts such as Brett Gardner?
Compromise would be tantamount of inaction, a pointless pursuit of a worthless goal. Winning one or two postseason games doesn't mean anything to fans in the Bronx. Being meaningful contenders does, and any moves that don't have that focus in mind is an insult to the intelligence of one of the most knowledgeable baseball fanbases, as well as feeding into the cynicism that the front office now cares more about business and bottom lines than wins and rings. The Yankees don't need to get creative. They need to sell, and they need to do it now.