The Yankees actually did it.
They broke up their Big Three at the back of the bullpen, Dellin Betances Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman.
Chapman was traded to the Chicago Cubs for a nice package of top shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, pitcher Adam Warren, and minor-league outfielder Billy McKinley.
It also does not mean their season is over by any means, as they still will have enough to go out and win games. That was the message for the past week from manager Joe Girardi on down, that they don’t let trades affect their day-to-day business of going out and winning.
“This isn’t a white flag,” general manager Brian Cashman said in a conference call on Monday afternoon. “This is a re-arrangement, as well as us capitalizing on and maximizing the acquisition cost of Chapman.
“This was an easy call and this was the right call.”
The Yankees are looking to the future while making a run for the playoffs, and this deal has the right balance of that. They received two prospects and a proven major-league arm for a player who will be a free agent at the end of the end.
It also is a distinct possibility that the Yankees could re-sign Chapman in the offseason, unless the Cubs lock him up before he hits the market.
Torres, 19 years old, is the centerpiece of the deal. He has spent the entire 2016 season with Single-A Myrtle Beach, batting .275 (98-for-356) with 62R, 24 doubles, 3 triples, 9HR, 47RBI and 19SB in 94 games. In midseason rankings, the consensus top prospect in the Cubs organization was listed as baseball’s 24th-best prospect by MLB.com, 26th-best by ESPN and 27th-best byBaseball America. He entered the 2016 season named by Baseball America as the Cubs’ top prospect and the No. 41 prospect in all of minor league baseball.
In his minor league career, he has hit .285 (292-for-1,025) with 153 runs, 55 doubles, 14 triples, 14 home runs, and 144 RBI in 270 games.
McKinney is currently at Double-A, and he was acquired by the Cubs from Oakland in the Addison Russell trade in 2014. McKinney, 21, batted .252 (75-for-298) with 37 runs, 12 doubles, 3 triples, 1 home run and 31 RBI in 88 games with Double-A Tennessee in 2016. He entered the season tabbed by ESPN as the Cubs’ fourth-best prospect (69th-best in baseball) and by Baseball America as the organization’s seventh-best prospect. In midseason rankings, he was tabbed by MLB.com as the 75th-best prospect on the Top-100 Prospects list (fifth-best in the Cubs organization).
Warren returns to the Yankees after being sent to the Cubs last offsesason in the Starlin Castro trade.
The Cubs really didn’t have a role for Warren, as he came out of the bullpen and was rarely used. He was 3-2 with a 5.91 ERA (35.0IP, 23ER) and 27K in 29 games (one start) with the Cubs this season. He made his lone start on July 6 vs. Cincinnati, holding the Reds to 1 earned run in 5.0 innings pitched. He also made two starts for Triple-A Iowa, posting a 4.15 ERA (8.2IP, 4ER) without recording a decision. .
After arriving in The Bronx in 2012, Warren was a solid arm in the rotation and the bullpen. Last season, he made 17 starts and appeared in 43 games, with a 7-7 record and 3.29 ERA, as he allowed 48 earned runs in 131 1/3 innings, and allowed 114 hits and 39 walks, with 104 strikeouts.
The bullpen now will likely go Warren in the seventh, Betances in the eighth, and Miller as the closer.
This trio will still be able to close out plenty of ballgames, as Miller is one of the best closers in the league.
Miller had 36 saves as the Yankees closer in 2015, with 100 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings pitched. This season, he notched seven saves in April when he had to serve as closer when Chapman was suspended, and he has 74 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings pitched.
The Yankees were right to keep Miller, as he is under contract for two more years and is as reliable and arm as there is. The fact that he can close made Chapman expendable.
The biggest thing the Yankees need is strong starting pitching if they are to make a run for the playoffs.
Starting with Masahiro Tanaka’s performance a week ago Sunday night against Boston, the rotation did an excellent job on the homestand, in which they went 6-4 against Boston, Baltimore, and San Francisco.
The Yankees received eight quality starts in a row from their rotation of Tanaka, Ivan Nova, Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia, and have won six of their eight games.
It was the longest streak of quality outings they received from the rotation this season, and it trickled down to the rest of the team.
This will be the determining factor as to whether or not the Yankees make the playoffs.
The key for the Yankees will be what they can get out of the other guys in the bullpen.
Anthony Swarzak is coming on, and had a strong outing in last Tuesday’s win over Baltimore.
Chad Green, who made two starts before shifting to the bullpen, pitched 2 1/3 innings to get the save on Sunday in their 5-2 win over the Giants.
The more that Girardi can rely on everybody in his bullpen, they will be strong going forward. What he can get out of his six of seven guys out there will make up for losing the 105-mile-an-hour flamethrower.
It will take a while for the Yankees to get used to life without Chapman, but there is plenty of time for them to establish a new identity.