The 2023 New York Yankees, dubbed a "disaster" by their own general manager, can now be officially labled "eliminated from the playoffs."
MLB's premier team was eliminated from playoff contention Sunday with a 7-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, marking the first time the Yankees have missed the postseason since 2016. Their streak of six straight playoff appearances was tied for fourth-longest in MLB history (and aided by MLB's playoff expansion in recent years).
It's a position few expected for the Yankees at the beginning of this season, when the PECOTA projection system pegged them at 99 wins, the highest total in MLB. The Yankees essentially took last year's 99-win team and added $162 million man Carlos Rodón to the rotation while losing marginal contributors such as Andrew Benintendi, Jameson Taillon and Aroldis Chapman. And, of course, they gave Aaron Judge $360 million.
The moves added up to a $298.5 million 40-man payroll on Opening Day, second-largest in MLB.
Even so, it didn't take long for many to start worrying in the Bronx. The Yankees' 15-14 start in the first month of the season wasn't a disaster, but it put them a full eight games back from the AL East lead due to the Tampa Bay Rays' record unbeaten run to start the season.
The Yankees improved their record to 34-24 by the end of May ... and were still six games back. It never got better from there, with the team going 11-12 in June and seeing the bottom drop out in July, with Judge sidelined for much of that span after fracturing his toe in a collision with a Dodger Stadium wall. The Yankees could've cut their losses and sold at the trade deadline — or bought, if they believed they had a run in them once Judge came back — but they ended up doing basically nothing.
By the end of August, GM Brian Cashman was admitting the obvious and beginning to regroup for next year. Now, the team's only goal left to fight for is avoiding their first sub-.500 season since 1992.
The 2023 Yankees were a disaster from top to bottom
To get a sense of just how brutal this season has been for the Yankees, you have to look at their Opening Day lineup and parse what happened to each one of their players. Some had fine campaigns — Gerrit Cole remains the front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award — but the sheer number of disaster seasons is breathtaking.
Let's take a look:
1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B: LeMahieu opened his Yankees career with back-to-back top-five finishes in MVP voting and entered 2023 hitting .296 as a Yankee. The 35-year-old is currently hitting .242.
2. Aaron Judge, CF: Judge has been by far the Yankees' best hitter this season, but the month-and-a-half he missed in June and July might've cost the team more than anything else, as they once again rolled out a lineup lacking a supporting cast.
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B: The Yankees signed the former Chicago Cubs All-Star to a two-year, $40 million extension last winter and seemed to be rewarded with a career year, as he was slashing .304/.376/.505 through May 28. Unfortunately, on that day, Rizzo sustained a neck injury and hit .172/.271/.225 for the rest of the season until the Yankees started suspecting he had sustained a concussion. He was shut down for the season Sept. 6.
4. Giancarlo Stanton, RF: Baseball's former exit-velocity king missed a month-and-a-half due to a hamstring injury early in the year and posted his worst season at the plate, slashing .189/.273/.419 while also raising some questions about his health. He has $128 million remaining on his contract after this season.
5. Josh Donaldson, 3B: Donaldson followed last year's career-worst season with an even bigger disappointment this year. He spent all but 33 games on the injured list due to hamstring and calf injuries, slashed .142/.225/.434 at the plate and was released at the end of August.
6. Gleyber Torres, DH: The player everyone expected New York to trade over the past year or so might be the only hitter who exceeded expectations this season. He is currently slashing .270/.342/.455 in a career-high 152 games.
7. Oswaldo Cabrera, LF: After a decent rookie season, Cabrera ranks toward the bottom of the Yankees' roster with -1.0 bWAR this season.
8. Jose Trevino, C: Last year's winner of the AL Platinum Glove, identifying him as the league's top defender regardless of position, posted a career-worst .570 OPS (min. five games) and was knocked out for the season in July due to a ligament tear in his right wrist.
9. Anthony Volpe, SS: Widely ranked as a top-10 prospect in baseball and considered a leading Rookie of the Year prospect, Volpe struggled mightily at the plate in his first season of MLB action, slashing 208/.284/.387 and leading the team in strikeouts. Statcast is a fan of his defense, at least.
Let's go through the rotation as well — or at least, the rotation the Yankees hoped to have at some point this season.
1. Gerrit Cole: All good here.
2. Nestor Cortes: After posting a 2.61 ERA in his first two seasons with the Yankees, Cortes recorded a 4.97 ERA before getting shut down for the season due to a rotator cuff strain.
3. Carlos Rodón: The Yankees signed Rodón to a $162 million contract but had to wait until July 7 for him to make his debut due to forearm and back injuries. He then struggled on the mound to the tune of a 5.74 ERA.
5. Domingo Germán: The good: He threw a perfect game. The bad: Everything else, from his 10-game foreign substance suspension to an incident that reportedly saw him become drunkenly belligerent in the clubhouse. He finished the season by checking into alcohol rehab.
In addition to those five, the Yankees had Clarke Schmidt (4.65 ERA) and Jhony Brito (4.43 ERA) both make at least 10 starts, while last year's trade acquisition Frankie Montas made just his second rehab start with the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate Saturday after missing all season with a shoulder injury.
There were also stories such as center fielder Aaron Hicks being designated for assignment with more than $20 million remaining on his contract and top prospect Jasson Dominguez tearing his UCL eight games into his MLB career.
You could at least say the Yankees' bullpen was good, maybe even great, with an MLB-leading 3.37 ERA, but that's about it. Among Yankees players who mattered, we can charitably say that two people, Cole and Torres, had the seasons Yankees fans were hoping for.