Over the past two days, the Yankees have done a few things to ensure that they will keep their playoff-appearance streak alive for the 14th consecutive year.
First, they've beaten the Red Sox. Twice. At Fenway. The best way to make the playoffs is to win your games, and it's also a good idea to make up ground on the teams ahead of you. At the time of the publication, the Yankees stand only one game behind Boston, and they've been unbeatable since the All-Star break. And while a win is a win anywhere, winning at Fenway can only help the Yankees' confidence, and help them keep up their winning ways.
(It's also worth noting that the Yanks have been the best second-half team in baseball the past few years, so this run shouldn't be incredibly surprising. While I don't expect them to go undefeated the rest of the way, I do expect them to continue playing the way they're expected to, which would send them into the playoffs once again, and can realistically see them walk away with the division title.)
But winning two games isn't everything, even if they are against the Red Sox. The Yankees made sure they can win in future games by acquiring two good players that will help the team tremendously. In one trade, they acquired a much-needed outfield righty, and a bullpen lefty. Their pen has been great so far, but the one missing piece was a left-hander, and Damason Marte is exactly what they need. He's great (I should know, he's on my fantasy team), and he's already shown his value by striking out David Ortiz this afternoon. Xavier Nady is having a very solid year, and while he's never been elite, he's definitely a very productive player, and is a righty bat among a lefty-dominated offense. He'll also replace the weak platoon of Justin Christian and Brett Gardner, and will allow Johnny Damon to DH full time so he won't keep getting hurt.
In exchange, the Yankees sent Jose Tabata, Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, and Ross Ohlendorf to the Pirates. Tabata was at one point considered a top outfield prospect, but he's sucked at AA, and has looked overwhelmed at the plate. Plus, he's got a nasty attitude, and the Yankees could use without that. Karstens never really panned out and got hurt a lot, and could be more of a gain for the Pirates than a loss for the Yankees. Ohlendorf has been awful in the majors, and although he looks like Paul O'Neill, he isn't worth holding on to. The only player I didn't like giving up was McCutchen, but the trade was still very good for them. (The trade was originally reported with slightly different players.)
The Yankees are also working on acquiring Jarrod Washburn from Seattle. Washburn hasn't been very good in a long time, but he's looked very solid over the past couple of months, and will only be expected to be a fourth or fifth starter. I still think the Yankees need an ace to go far, but Washburn is a better option than Darrell Rasner or Sidney Ponson going forward. I just hope they don't give up too much for him, and I'll keep my fingers crossed for A.J. Burnett.
Finally, with Posada possibly out for the year, the Yanks should be going after a better-hitting catcher than Jose Molina, even if he's just a rental. I've heard a whisper that they may chase Jose's brother Benji in San Fransisco (also a member of my fantasy team). I think that's be a good idea, as Benji is always productive, and is not the kind of player you'd need to commit to for a long time, so Posada can return full-time next year.
It's going to be another exciting and suspenseful late-summer in the Bronx, and the Yankees appear ready to make a serious run at the playoffs once again.