NEW YORK — The New York Yankees spent Wednesday expressing plenty of bluster and braggadocio, saying their skid is nothing but a pothole on their way to a World Series championship and they didn’t have an urgency to grab reinforcements.
Well, after losing to the New York Mets 3-2 to get swept in a two-game Subway Series, the Yankees’ actions proved to be much more powerful than their words.
The Yankees made the first major move of the trade deadline, acquiring Kansas City Royals All-Star outfielder Andrew Benintendi for three minor-league pitchers, and left no doubt they are looking for more help. Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto is out of the picture now, but Cincinnati Reds ace Luis Castillo and bullpen help are on their radar.
“Obviously, he’s a great player,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Despite the road bump in the road here, we have a ton of confidence. But anytime you bring in reinforcements and All-Star-level players, they’re just going to make a longer, tougher, more formidable team. We’ll certainly welcome him and get him assimilated.”
The trade comes amid the Yankees’ longest skid of the season. They have dropped 10 of their last 15 games, scoring five runs against the Mets in the series, one of which wasn’t produced by a home run. Their lead over the Houston Astros for home-field advantage has been sliced in two games.
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The Yankees insist there’s no panic. They’ll tell you they’d rather have a losing streak now than in late September or October. Still, despite the confidence and best record in baseball, the Yankees’ front office decided to take no chances, sending minor-league pitchers Chandler Champlain, TJ Sikkema and Beck Way for a three-month rental in Benintendi.
“We know we’re really good, and we know we’re going to hit a snag in the season, and we’re equipped for it,” Boone said. “We’re ready to deal with it. We actually embrace a little bit of the adversity, but we’ll power our way through it. No question in my mind.
“We’re unfazed. We know where we’re going.”
Certainly, the addition of the left-handed hitting Benintendi makes the Yankees more balanced. While Benintendi has only three home runs, he’s hitting .320 with a league-leading 34 multiple-hit games. He has reached base in 31 of his last 33 games, and is batting .398 since June 27 with a .457 on-base percentage.
“It’s definitely a big piece to what we’ve got going on here,” Yankees slugger Aaron Judge said. “He’s a really good player. He’s been hitting over .300 all year, playing really good defense, and being kind of a sparkplug over there in Kansas City. If you’re not careful, he can leave the yard any time at Yankee Stadium.
“So, anytime you bring in a guy like that into the type of culture we got, give us a little pump. I think he’s going to fit right in.”
The only real risk with Benintendi, who won a Gold Glove award last season and hasn’t made an error this season, is that he’s unvaccinated. The Yankees still have three games left in Toronto — which requires vaccination cards to enter the country — and could meet them in the postseason. Benintendi said last week that he would consider getting vaccinated if traded to a contender, joining a team that’s fully vaccinated.
Benintendi could be the perfect piece for a team filled with sluggers, but Boone bristled when asked if he thought the Yankees had too many free swingers.
“It’s fake news that we have too many power hitters, too many sluggers, that’s fake,” Boone said. “We got savages in the lineup, and really good hitters.
“Benintendi is a great hitter. Gets on base at a really high-clip. That’s another really big-league hitter to add to the mix that’s going to lengthen out our lineup and potentially give you that balance you’re looking for.”
The Yankees could use a boost. This is a team that was on pace to have the greatest record in baseball history, but suddenly looks like one that’s not even the best in New York.
Their lineup was suffocated by three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer on Wednesday, while their starting pitching was torched in the series with Jordan Montgomery and Domingo German lasting a total of seven innings.
The Yankees still have the best record in baseball at 66-33. They have an 11½-game in the AL East. This may be their most talented team since winning the 2009 World Series.
But they’ve lost five of seven games to the Astros this season, and not once in this series did they have a lead after a full inning.
“We’re still one of the best teams in the game,” Judge said.
The Yankees now have the woeful Royals (39-59) coming to town for a four-game series Thursday.
Goodbye troubles, hello rejuvenation.
“Losing games is never a good thing, but if you’re going to do it, now is the time to do it,” Yankees infielder/outfielder Matt Carpenter said. “Every team is going to go through adversity. There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll get hot again get rolling, and you time it heading into October playing your best baseball.”
It was a year ago at this time when the Yankees made a series of moves at the deadline, acquiring first baseman Anthony Rizzo, outfielder Joey Gallo, reliever Clay Holmes and starter Andrew Heaney.
They wound up in the playoffs, but lost to the Boston Red Sox in the wild-card game. This time, they’re convinced they’ll be playing deep into October.
“Any time you’re adding at the trade deadline it’s always a good thing, always a boost,” Rizzo said. “I love the group we have in here right now, but all additions are usually a good thing. We have a lot of guys who have played a long time here, so a skid like this, it’s a long season. Better to have it now. It’s just part of the ebbs and flows of the season.”
Now they could use some pitching help. They have an ace in Gerrit Cole, but there are red flags with the rest of the rotation. All-Star Nestor Cortes (8-3, 2.48 ERA) is 6 1/3 innings pitched away from last year’s total. They’re unsure when Luis Severino will return. Jameson Taillon (10-2, 3.93 ERA) is yielding a 6.98 ERA with an .890 OPS in his last six starts. Montgomery is 3-3 with a 3.50 ERA. They’ve already had five starts of 3⅔ innings or fewer alone this month, equaling the entire total of the first three months of the season.
Squarely on their radar now is Castillo, who would form a 1-2 punch with Cole in the rotation.
“We’re good, we know it, but we also know obviously we’re very beatable,” Boone said. “We’re going to try and not let anything get in the way of that kind of focus.”
Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale.