Editors' pick: Originally published July 15.
If the New York Yankees want to be a playoff team, they'll need to prove their worth starting this weekend.
Tickets are still available at reasonable prices for New York's 10-game home stand against the Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles and San Francisco Giants. All three teams would qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today. Good baseball is always a draw, but the three series hold special importance for the Yankees' long-term future.
New York has stumbled to a 44-44 record, and its success in July will determine if the team becomes a buyer or seller before the Aug. 1 trade deadline. Teams out of contention and looking to rebuild their rosters are sellers.
The Yankees have discussed trading one or more of their three bullpen stars, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman.
The Red Sox head to the Bronx for a three-game series beginning this evening. Boston holds a wildcard position and a powerful offense. The games will also offer some of the last opportunities to see Boston slugger and Yankees' tormentor David Ortiz. Ortiz announced that he would retire after this season.
Tickets start from just $30 on Ticketmaster.
On Monday, the Yankees will start a four-game series against the A.L. East-leading Orioles. The series will offer the best opportunity to make up ground. The first 18,000 fans will receive a replica Yankees hat at Monday's and Wednesday's game.
Tickets are available for as low as $17 in the outfield bleachers.
If the Yankees win most of their games against Boston and Baltimore, the three-game set with the Giants will showcase a team with a new sense of purpose. The Giants, who have Major League Baseball's best record, are an infrequent visitor to Yankee Stadium as they play in the National League's Western Division. But they have the type of deep pitching that characterized their World Series wins in two of the last four seasons, and the franchise has deep New York roots. The Giants moved to the West Coast from the old Bronx Polo Grounds in the late 1950s but are still remembered fondly by some older fans.
Tickets against the Giants start from just $17.
The Cuban-born Chapman, who throws over 100 mph, is the most probable trade chip. But the Yankees could also shop outfielder Carlos Beltran for the right return. Beltran has been a bright spot in the Yankees' anemic offense, leading the team in average, hits, home runs and RBIs this season. The 39-year-old could be an offensive spark for a playoff-bound team.
Rumblings of trading Mark Teixeira have also made the rounds over the last several weeks, though the injury-prone slugger's full no-trade clause gives him final say in the matter. The aging first baseman, who returned to the lineup after rehabbing a right knee cartilage tear, has been limited to just 59 games and has failed to produce offensively this season. However, perhaps a change of scenery might inspire him.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held TK positions in the stocks mentioned.