by Tate Hutchinson
With a 66-31 record, a twelve-game divisional lead, and a league-leading six All-Star selections, the Yankees have been nothing short of a commanding force this MLB season. It seems like everything is going the Pinstripes’ way, but is their momentum enough to carry them to a World Series title this October?
The Yankees’ superstar outfielder Aaron Judge is putting up career-best numbers and is firmly in the mix for AL MVP this season. With 37 home runs at this moment, he holds a massive lead across MLB. Judge’s breakneck pace is showing no signs of slowing down, with four homers in the four games since the All-Star break. With Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo also among the top ten in HRs, it is safe to say the Bronx Bombers have lived up to their nickname this year.
Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, and breakout pitchers including Clay Holmes and Nestor Cortes have helped the Yankees to have a top pitching staff in baseball with a stifling 3.15 team ERA. And foremost, the breakout story of Matt Carpenter, a former All-Star released from AAA Round Rock in May, has been legendary. In 34 games with the Yankees, his scorching 1.303 OPS has propelled the Yankees even further than imagined.
Even with such a substantial lead in the AL East, New York’s divisional competition is as hard as ever. Tampa Bay, Toronto, Boston, and a surprisingly solid Baltimore team are all in contention for playoff spots, each team with a record at or above .500. If the Yankees secure a top seed in the MLB Playoffs, it is likely that their ALDS matchup could be against a division rival like the Jays or Rays.
Around the league, there are a few daunting opponents whose paths may cross with the Yanks this fall. Not far behind in the standings are the perennial threats of the Astros and Dodgers. Both teams being regulars in the Fall Classic in recent years, these two teams have talent up and down the roster and could prove a tough challenge for the Yankees. The rising cross-town rival Mets, defending champion Braves, and solid playoff teams like Minnesota, San Diego, and Milwaukee could make a lot of noise in the latter half of the season.
With the trade deadline approaching fast, the Yankees are in a position to add to an already elite lineup and rotation. Players like Luis Castillo, Ian Happ, and Bryan Reynolds could provide a spark to the Yankees with multiple years of team control. But the true prize of the deadline could just be the Nationals’ 23-year-old superstar, Juan Soto. With contract negotiations stalling between Soto and the team, any team who seeks to acquire the phenom must give up a haul, the likes of which have never been seen. The price, according to FOX’s Ken Rosenthal: four to five of a team’s top prospects, young talent at the Major League level, and an ability to afford a long-term contract nearing half a billion dollars over fifteen years.
Are Yankees management and the Steinbrenners willing to meet this enormous price to land a future face of baseball, or may Soto end up on a rival such as the Mets? As the trade deadline approaches, the fates of top trade candidates could decide whether the Yankees will take home the World Series title this October.