Yankees' Complete Guide, Preview for 2nd Half of 2021 MLB Season

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 15, 2021

Yankees' Complete Guide, Preview for 2nd Half of 2021 MLB Season

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    The New York Yankees entered the All-Star break tied with the Toronto Blue Jays for third in the American League East standings with a 46-43 record.

    They are 6.5 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays for second place, eight games behind the rival Boston Red Sox for the division lead, and 4.5 games back in the AL wild-card standings.

    Can series wins over the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros leading into the break serve as a springboard for a strong second half?

    We'll know early on. They play the Red Sox eight times in their next 10 games, and that stretch will likely determine whether they buy, sell or stand pat at this year's trade deadline.

    Ahead we've provided a preview for the second half of the season, complete with potential X-factors, a trade deadline outlook and a blueprint for this Yankees team to reach the postseason.

Second-Half X-Factors

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    Luis Severino
    Luis SeverinoKathy Willens/Associated Press

    RHP Luis Severino

    After missing the 2020 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, Luis Severino suffered a Grade 2 left groin strain in June while working his way back toward a spot on the MLB roster. He threw a bullpen session last Saturday, and pitching coach Matt Blake told reporters that things are "trending in the right direction" with his recovery.

    An August return is possible, and he would be a huge addition to their beleaguered rotation.


    IF DJ LeMahieu

    An AL MVP candidate the last two years, DJ LeMahieu hit a middling .270/.351/.367 with a 101 OPS+ and 19 extra-base hits in 85 games during the first half.

    The 33-year-old is hitting .309/.397/.464 with nine extra-base hits in 126 plate appearances over his last 27 games of the first half. Getting him back playing at an elite level would be a huge boost to a lineup that has lacked consistency beyond Aaron Judge.


    RHP Luis Gil

    Will we see top pitching prospect Luis Gil in 2021?

    The 23-year-old earned a quick promotion to Triple-A after opening the year with a 2.64 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 30.2 innings in seven starts at Double-A. Armed with an elite 75-grade fastball that touches triple-digits, he has a chance to be a significant part of the future.

Trade Deadline Outlook

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    Jon Gray
    Jon GrayRalph Freso/Associated Press

    If the Yankees still view themselves as contenders after their grueling stretch of games against the rival Red Sox, adding some depth to the starting rotation will likely be the top priority at the trade deadline.

    A rental starter like Jon Gray, Danny Duffy or Michael Pineda would provide a short-term solution, and old friend J.A. Happ is also likely available for next-to-nothing after a rocky first half with the Minnesota Twins.

    If they're focused on controllable arms, Texas Rangers All-Star Kyle Gibson has a team-friendly salary in 2022 and Minnesota Twins ace Jose Berrios is arbitration-eligible for one more year. Both of those players will come at a steep prospect price, though.

    On the other hand, if they fall out of the race during that stretch and decide to sell, there are not many obvious trade candidates on the roster.

    Lefty reliever Lucas Luetge would likely be of interest to contenders, and they could entertain the idea of shopping Chad Green with free agency looming for the relief ace following the 2021 season. The hefty salaries of Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton make moving them less realistic.

    The most likely course of action might be to simply stand pat and hope for improved play from the in-house talent while turning one eye to the 2022 season.

The Yankees Make the Postseason If...

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    There's an easy argument to be made that the Boston Red Sox are playing over their heads with a shaky starting rotation and the Tampa Bay Rays are going to feel the absence of Charlie Morton and Blake Snell even more in the second half when the innings totals start to climb on guys like Ryan Yarbrough, Rich Hill and Shane McClanahan.

    If those teams level off a bit in the second half, it would make it much easier for the Yankees to climb back into the division race.

    Unless the starting rotation finds some level of consistency and someone steps up as a reliable offensive producer alongside Aaron Judge, it's going to be a moot point.

    It's going to take several key players righting the ship after a poor first half, a return to health for Luis Severino and Corey Kluber, and perhaps a few outside additions for this team to make a legitimate postseason push.

    It's not impossible, but this doesn't look like the year to be mortgaging future assets.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.