Yanks in dan­ger of decade with­out World Se­ries berth

The Day - - SPORTS - By RON­ALD BLUM AP Base­ball Writer

New York — The Yan­kees are in dan­ger of go­ing an en­tire decade with­out reach­ing a World Se­ries for the first time since the 1910s.

Aaron Boone’s rookie sea­son as a man­ager ended in fail­ure when New York fiz­zled in the AL Di­vi­sion Se­ries against Bos­ton and was elim­i­nated in four games.

“You’re al­ways chas­ing utopia,” Boone said af­ter the Yan­kees’ fi­nal rally of the sea­son fell short Tues­day night.

A year af­ter los­ing in the AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries was per­ceived as suc­cess, elim­i­na­tion by Bos­ton left a feel­ing of fail­ure for the ti­tle-wor­ship­ping Yan­kees.

New York went 100-62 for its best record since its last World Se­ries cham­pi­onship in 2009, yet fin­ished eight games back of the Red Sox. The Yan­kees have gone six straight sea­sons with­out a first-place fin­ish.

They’re set to re­tool around the young core of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Gley­ber Tor­res, Miguel An­du­jar and Luis Sev­erino, plus in-prime reg­u­lars Gian­carlo Stan­ton, Didi Gre­go­rius and Aaron Hicks. The Yan­kees got the power but were plagued by in­con­sis­tent pro­duc­tion on nights the long ball was lack­ing.

New York drove in 432 of its 851 runs on homers, at 50.8 the high­est per­cent­age in the ma­jor leagues, ac­cord­ing to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Yan­kees also were 10-21 when fail­ing to homer, ac­cord­ing to Sports Info So­lu­tions.

While they set a big league record with 267 home runs, they were 16th in bat­ting av­er­age at .249, eighth in on-base per­cent­age at .329 and tied for 25th in stolen bases with 63. They also were eighth in strike­outs, topped by Stan­ton’s ca­reer-high 211 and Judge’s 152 in two-thirds of a sea­son.

“The col­lec­tion hap­pens to be home runs and strike­out ver­sus home runs along with con­tact and high av­er­ages,” gen­eral man­ager Brian Cash­man said last month.

First up will be a de­ci­sion on New York’s $12.5 mil­lion op­tion on 35-year-old out­fielder Brett Gard­ner, who has been with the Yan­kees big league team since 2008.

“Got a lot of young guys in this room. The fu­ture is bright,” he said.

If the Yan­kees choose to pay a $2 mil­lion buy­out and let Gard­ner go, An­du­jar could be moved from third base — where his range is lim­ited — to the out­field. That would open third base for Manny Machado, one of the premier play­ers on the free-agent mar­ket along with Bryce Harper.

And with Gre­go­rius and Hicks el­i­gi­ble for free agency af­ter the 2019 sea­son, it would not be sur­pris­ing if the Yan­kees trade the short­stop, out­fielder or both when they are com­ing off su­perb sea­sons.

First base re­mains the po­si­tion most in flux. Luke Voit was ob­tained from St. Louis in July and took over from Greg Bird, who re­turned in mid-May fol­low­ing foot surgery and couldn’t shake what be­came a puz­zling sea­son-long slump.

And catcher re­mains a con­cern be­cause of Sanchez’s sea­son-long strug­gles, both of­fen­sively and de­fen­sively.

Cash­man’s pri­or­ity is likely to be pitch­ing, and Dal­las Keuchel and Patrick Corbin are among the free agent op­tions. Yan­kees starters av­er­aged 5 1/3 in­nings, 18th in the ma­jors, ac­cord­ing to Sports Info.

Only Sev­erino and Tanaka ap­pear as­sured of ro­ta­tion spots among the cur­rent group. Left-han­der CC Sa­bathia is set to be­come a free agent again at age 38, and he didn’t get an out in the sev­enth in­ning dur­ing the sec­ond half of the sea­son.

“We’ve got a lot of tal­ent, and I want to be a part of see­ing this thing through, be­cause it’s go­ing to go through,” he said.

J.A. Happ, a lefty ob­tained in July, will be 36 this month but could be of­fered a chance to stay. He was 7-0 down the stretch but lost the opener against the Red Sox. Righty Lance Lynn, also ac­quired in the sum­mer, is also a free agent but prob­a­bly will move on. Sonny Gray, flus­tered by the in­ten­sity of im­pa­tient and pas­sion­ate fans, likely would be bet­ter off if he is traded to a smaller mar­ket.

Given likely in­juries, New York prob­a­bly will want at least eight start­ing pitch­ers able to fill the five slots. Righthanders Jonathan Loaisiga, Chance Adams, Domingo Ger­man and Luis Cessa are in­ter­nal can­di­dates along with left-han­der Jus­tus Sh­effield.

Re­liev­ers David Robert­son and Zach Brit­ton also are set to be­come free agents, and New York might try to re-sign one or both to re­main in a for­mi­da­ble bullpen headed by Aroldis Chap­man and Dellin Be­tances.

Out­fielder An­drew McCutchen also is set to go on the mar­ket along with in­field­ers Neil Walker and Adeiny Hechavar­ria.

“We’re chas­ing the per­fect of­fense,” Boone said. “Un­for­tu­nately, it wasn’t good enough, and we’ll con­tinue to work at get­ting to that point where we’re as com­plete in ev­ery de­part­ment as we can be: of­fen­sively, pitch­ing, de­fense.”

AP PHOTO/JULIE JA­COB­SON

The Yan­kees’ Gian­carlo Stan­ton, left, and Brett Gard­ner watch play from the dugout dur­ing the sev­enth in­ning of Game 4 of an Amer­i­can League Di­vi­sion Se­ries against Bos­ton on Tues­day night at Yan­kee Sta­dium. Bos­ton won, 4-3, to clinch the se­ries.

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