New York Yankees

Yankees could be looking at big offseason changes

If the Yankees don’t find a way to beat Houston in Game 5, it may force Brian Cashman to make sweeping changes in the Bronx this offseason.

The Yankees may have more than just their postseason dreams at stake tonight against the Astros. If New York bows out against Houston without a fight, it may cause GM Brian Cashman to make some exceedingly tough decisions this offseason.

As it stands, the Yankees are a team that’s built to dominate the regular season. The sheer power up and down manager Aaron Boone’s lineup can grind anything less that elite pitchers into dust. That’s a terrific recipe for New York to follow if they want to win the AL East. The team did so in grand fashion this season with a final regular season record of 103-59.

The power laden lineup was also good enough to earn the franchise a relatively easy sweep over the Twins in the ALDS. The Yankees were a bit fortunate to match-up with a team that lacked a true ace in their first round of the playoffs, but they still deserve credit for dispatching Minnesota in short order.

It is, however, becoming very obvious that the Yankee lineup loses a great deal of its effectiveness when faced with elite pitchers in the postseason. The Astros have cruised to three consecutive victories in the ALCS after dropping Game 1 at home. Much of their success has been built on the backs of their terrific starting pitching. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke have all provided Houston with excellent starts as they have taken a stranglehold in the series.

The power that defined the Yankee lineup earlier in the season has suddenly become silenced by the Astros’ pitching staff. It’s an outcome that many people could see coming even before the postseason began. New York’s lineup has consistently failed to come up with big hits with runners in scoring position in this series. That over reliance on power is costing the Yankees dearly when their games matter the most.

The team’s inability to match Houston’s aces is even more concerning. Masahiro Tanaka spun a wonderful gem against Greinke in Game 1, but he was unable to do anything of the sort in his Game 4 loss. In between, both James Paxton and Luis Severino failed to match their Astros’ counterparts. Paxton has another opportunity to best Verlander tonight, but no one really expects him to accomplish such an impressive feat. Even if Big Maple does manage to come up big, the Yankees are still going to struggle to defeat Cole again in Game 6.

Postseason failures in New York always have consequences for the roster that falls short. Cashman and his front office have done a good job of trying ot build the team methodically in recent years, but it’s easy to understand why ownership might think the roster is tragically flawed as it currently stands.

In particular, Cashman will need to do everything in his power to upgrade the starting rotation. Cole will emerge as the team’s top target in free agency and they cannot afford to be outbid for his services. Signing a top-flight free agent like Cole would be an expensive, but straightforward solution to the team’s biggest problem.

Adding one potential ace might not be enough. The tricky task for Cashman will be finding a way to swing a deal for another elite arm. That will almost certainly require the Yankees to part with significant assets that are already on the roster. At the very least, New York will need to part with huge pieces in their farm system to bring another team to the negotiating table. This winter will almost certainly serve as a time when Cashman feels compelled to deal future talent for present stars.

The lineup may also need a significant revamp. The way it’s currently constructed makes the Yankees too dependent on home runs. Don’t be surprised to see Cashman try to trade some established power hitters for some more versatile hitters who can theoretically be more valuable in the postseason. That will be a tricky line for Cashman to walk, but that’s also why he’s paid the big bucks in New York’s front office.

Next: 3 things the Yankees must do to win Game 5

The bottom line is that the Yankees have a lot of work to do if they want to close the gap on the Astros. They simply can’t continue down the same path and hope for different results. Instead, they’ll need to enact sweeping changes to better prepare themselves to win a 28th World Series title. Expect a busy offseason in the Bronx.

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