Anthony Rizzo Yankees
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees made some big moves at the trade deadline. It’s a long shot, but the rest of the season could be promising indeed.

This past week needed to be a big one for the New York Yankees. Not only did Thursday mark the trade deadline, but the Yankees started the week after losing three of four to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Oh, and the next series immediately after that was three games at Tropicana Field. Passing the next phase of the Florida Project would mean taking two out of three from the Tampa Bay Rays. It’s not exactly easy to stay focused during an important series in a season, especially one where the Yankees have seriously underperformed, let alone when teammates could be traded at any moment.

Cut to Thursday, and the Rays torched Gerrit Cole to no end. Tampa Bay won 14-0 and the Yankees headed to Miami on the back of a loss. It was a bad loss indeed, but there’s a silver lining.

This loss marked the sole low point for the New York Yankees all week. The rest of the time, they were grinding out tough wins on the back of clutch hitting and Aroldis Chapman being back in top closer form.

Oh, and Brian Cashman added Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo to boost the lineup, and then went and got Andrew Heaney just for extra flex.

This is real, Yankees fans. At long lost, on August 2, we might finally be feeling hope.

Two out of three in Tampa

If you can’t destroy the Tampa Bay Rays, get deep in the grind with them. Save for Thursday’s shellacking, the New York Yankees were absolutely fearless in their latest trip to the Trop. In the other two matchups, pitching was the name of the game.

Jordan Montgomery shut down the Rays in just five innings and earned his first win in eight starts. Even with zero run support, he managed a 2.93 ERA in July. Yes, the big lefty’s pitches seem a bit all over the place, but he’s throwing his cutter more and his fastball less. The improved control will come.

The next game was also a nailbiter, but the New York Yankees back from the COVID list carried the team. Nestor Cortes pitched five strong innings and Aaron Judge singled in the go-ahead run in extra innings.

Oh, and did I mention Aroldis Chapman struck out Nelson Cruz not once, but twice??? Remember, Cruz’s walkoff homer in Minnesota before he was traded to the Rays was the start of Chapman’s downfall. To see two lengthy at-bats end in him striking out against the Cuban fireballer had Wild Thing-Parkman intensity.

New guys in Miami

It’s hard to watch any team lose 14-0, particularly the New York Yankees. Still, it was hard to not be smiling amidst the carnage on Thursday. At long last, Brian Cashman remembered who he was and engineered not one, not two, but three clutch trades.

The first one, reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Wednesday night, was slugger Joey Gallo coming over from the Texas Rangers. The Yankees can count on him to strike out, draw walks, mash homers to Endor, and play Gold Glove defense in the outfield.

To give the pitching staff some support, Cashman then scored lefty Andrew Heaney from the Los Angeles Angels. He’s had a rough year, posting a 5.27 ERA, but his FIP isn’t awful at 4.05. Maybe he’ll have better luck in New York and serve as good depth once Luis Severino is back from Tommy John surgery.

But we haven’t talked about the *big* move yet. First came the Gallo trade, then Heaney happened at the buzzer. In between, Cashman acquired Anthony Rizzo from the Chicago Cubs.

Rizzo arrived Friday for the start of the Marlins series and made an immediate impact. His two home runs in the first two games gave the New York Yankees the lead. On Sunday, his RBI single tied the game in the eighth inning and he saved the lead by starting a clutch double play.

Rizzo is batting .556 with two home runs, three RBI, a .692 OBP, and a 1.915 OPS. Without him, the New York Yankees probably don’t sweep the Marlins.

Oh, and the best part? Cashman only traded minor league depth for all three players.

Looking ahead

For the first time since Corey Kluber’s no-hitter in May, New York Yankees fans can feel optimistic. We’ve craved spaghetti marinara all year long, and instead gotten a plate of egg noodles and ketchup. Cashman then remembered an important lesson. There’s the right way, the wrong way, and the way that he does it. Understand?

One more gangster movie reference because if I’m rewatching The Sopranos, so are all of you devoted readers. Just when we thought the New York Yankees were out, they’ve pulled us back in.

We all saw it over the weekend. Adding Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo’s left-handed bats brought balance back to the Yankee lineup. Pitchers approached the lineup differently because suddenly, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have some extra protection. A mistake to one of them suddenly carries a lot more weight.

Speaking to Erik Boland of Newsday, Judge said it best.

Even better, the New York Yankees return home with their new acquisitions to a favorable matchup. The Baltimore Orioles come to town for three games before the Seattle Mariners visit for four.

If certain chips fall into place, perhaps the Bronx Bombers will soon be part of some bigger conversations. And all thanks to Brian Cashman stepping up when it mattered.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.