Brian Cashman looked like a quarterback calling a play, surrounded in a huddle of reporters Friday, not far from the Yankees’ home dugout about two hours before first pitch.
For more than 11 minutes, Cashman gave his state of the Yankees, which at this time of year entailed quite a bit about the general manager’s assessment and plans for the ever-approaching trade deadline. That meant gauging the starting pitching market, specifically if the Yankees and Mets could ever engage in a mammoth deal for a Jacob deGrom.
It is what entices as the calendar flips from June to July. It entices further because, if the teams could ever partner on such a deal — somewhere between unlikely and impossible — it would be one of the biggest New York baseball stories ever and impact the balance of power in the majors.
But here is a dirty little secret of the game: The trade deadline is alluring. It is a finishing school, though — contenders attempting to be even more than that. The heavy lifting of roster formulation is done in the first four months and mainly involves internal solutions.
You might remember the biggest transaction the Red Sox made last year near the deadline was not obtaining Addison Reed or Eduardo Nunez. It was promoting Rafael Devers on July 25. At that point, Boston had the majors’ lowest OPS out of third base. Devers changed that by, among other things, drilling a memorable homer off Aroldis Chapman, abetting the Red Sox in holding off Yankees to win the AL East.
The Yankees this year turned earlier during the in-season calendar to summon Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. But it just might have more impact than anything else they do to augment their roster this year. Like Gary Sanchez (AL Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2016) and Aaron Judge (AL Rookie of the Year winner last season), Andujar and Torres have delivered talent and the energy of youth to the Yankees’ everyday attack.
“The first thing you do is give opportunity to what you have to see if it can help you,” Cashman told me earlier Friday in a phone call. “You look at what is already in the system first. Andujar and Torres have strengthened our infield and our lineup.”
A few hours later, Andujar and Torres emphasized their impact during perhaps the Yankees’ best overall game of the season: a crisp, methodical, thorough 8-1 undoing of the Red Sox that created a tie atop the AL East between The Rivals.
“It was unfair to expect too much production out of them, but they have taken opportunity and run with it,” Brett Gardner said.
Torres tripled off the center-field wall to open the second and Andujar followed with a bloop RBI single to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. In the fourth, Torres lifted a sacrifice fly and Andujar launched a two-run homer two pitches later and the Yankees led 4-0. Together, Andujar and Torres were 5-for-7 with four RBIs and teamed on a well-executed double play in support of an in-command CC Sabathia.
“I’m not surprised any more,” Aaron Boone said of his neophytes.
With an injury to Shohei Ohtani, Torres is now the AL Rookie of the Year front-runner and Andujar is not far behind. Andujar came up to replace an injured Brandon Drury, and when Drury returned to the majors Friday, it was as a backup. Andujar has an .830 OPS, 12 homers and 37 extra-base hits — the same as Manny Machado in 72 fewer plate appearances.
Torres has recovered from a spring in which he tried too hard to make the team and struggled. He has an .893 OPS, slowly working himself up from ninth in the order to the middle of arguably the best lineup in the sport.
Neither Andujar nor Torres has flinched about playing in the majors, in New York, performing in The Rivalry or enduring a poor game or two. The most heard compliment for the two is how good they are at making adjustments so early in their careers.
“Both should be under serious consideration to make the All-Star team,” Gardner said. “They are talented kids. They have bright futures.”
The Yankees’ present is considerably enhanced by their presence. One reason adding deGrom or any significant starter will matter so much is that Andujar and Torres showed up with this season already in progress and helped make an already good Yankees team something even better than that.