BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo Credit: Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)
The Yankees boast the best record in Major League Baseball at 64-28 heading to the All-Star break. This is a team that can win some playoff games this year. Maybe they can get to the World Series and win that elusive championship No. 28 that eluded them since 2009. They are certainly in the conversation of the list of teams that are a World Series contender.
This is a loaded team. They can mash the ball, and they can play small ball as well as anyone. They can pitch, especially that bullpen. They can definitely win a championship with two bold moves.
The time has come for the Yankees to do whatever it takes to win a championship this season. If not now, when? Opportunities like this don’t come often. It’s been 13 years since this proud franchise won it all. 13 years of the Yankees not winning a championship is an equivalent of the New York Rangers’ 28-year championship drought and the Knicks’ 49-championship drought.
It sounds dramatic, but the Yankees are not used to long, championship droughts. If George Steinbrenner was alive to see his team go through that, he would have been frustrated by now. His son Hal Steinbrenner doesn’t share his father’s or the fans’ urgency whatsoever.
It’s about time the younger Steinbrenner does. He needs to have that same urgency he had when he authorized a spending spree in 2009 that had the Yankees win a championship for his ailing father. This means he needs to let Yankees general manager Brian Cashman go over the budget and acquire two stars that can give the team a better chance to win it all.
Soto will be available after he rejected a 15-year, $440 million contract that would have been the largest contract in baseball history. He sure didn’t sound like he wants to be a Washington National after rejecting the contract. He knows his current team will be bad for a while, so he does not want be like Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in wasting a productive career by toiling for a bad team.
This is where the Yankees come in. He can make the lineup even more formidable. Not only he can hit home runs, but he can also drive in runs by using the field. This is a guy that is made for the big moments. He burst into the scene during the Nationals’ World Series run in 2019 by hitting the go-ahead RBI single off Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader in the eighth inning of the National League Wild-Card game and hitting a back-to-back HR against future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw that tied the game in Game 5 of the NLCS. He would fit right in when it comes to playing with pressure. He is one guy that won’t blink when it comes to facing the Houston Astros.
Soto is only 23 years old. He has yet to be in his prime. For him to be an excellent player with leadership qualities at a young age is impressive. He would be worth the price of admission. He, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and the rest of Yankees hitters would make managers and pitchers nervous. He would bring competitive cohesiveness that is needed in October.
Soto knows the opportunity is there for him to be a Yankee, which is why he rejected that lucrative offer by the Nationals. The Yankees have to find a way to get him. They got everything the Nationals want, which is young players that they can build around that would make their accelerate their rebuild.
The Nationals know the Yankees farm system boast players that can be ready to play in the majors sooner rather than later. Anthony Volpe, Jasson Domniguez and Oswald Peraza would be guys the Nationals want. This is why the Nationals were happy to leak out that Soto is available. They know the Yankees will be interested, and it could be there’s motivation on their part to do whatever it takes to get championship No. 28.
Yes, Steinbrenner does not want to increase payroll and Cashman wants to develop his team organically, but getting a once-in-a-lifetime talent in Soto would be hard to say no to. This is a franchise that can build around him for the next 20 years. It would also increase pressure for Judge to stay with the Yankees and accept the offer on their terms. If he walks out after the Yankees get Soto, it would be his loss than the Yankees’ since they would have the Nationals slugger and use Judge’s salary to get better players.
While we are it, the Yankees should go get Castillo. He is a guy that can match up well with the Astros starters in October. He would put Nestor Cortes as the No. 3 starter. He would be the bonafide No. 2 starter out there to complement Gerrit Cole. As good as Cortes is, does anyone really trust him in that spot for Game 2? Castillo has the stuff and acumen to get it done. If it means giving up a prospect, so be it.
The Astros have the edge over the Yankees right now because they have better starting rotation depth. As good as Jameson Tallion, Luis Severino and Cortes are, it remains to be seen if they can do this for a full season, especially October. Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier showed they can get it done in backing up Justin Verlander in October for the Astros.
By acquiring Castillo, the Yankees can match up with the Astros. This is why getting him would be a huge coup for them.
Steinbrenner can’t worry about payroll at this point. This should be about winning championship No. 28. It has to be all hands on deck right now. If this is not the year, when will it be?
It was one thing not to trade prospects for Randy Johnson in 1998. No one posed a threat to their championship chances that season. This season is different. There are many good National League teams, and there’s the Astros, so the Yankees can’t afford to stand pat.
If Steinbrenner doesn’t authorize Cashman to make bold moves to go for the kill, then it sends a message he doesn’t really believe in this group to win it all.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6