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The Yankees Won’t Win the 2017 World Series, but Their Next Dynasty Is Imminent

Dropping Game 7 of the ALCS to the Houston Astros hurts, but even making it that far is gravy for a team that’s seasons ahead of where it was supposed to be—and now built to consistently contend for years to come

League Championship Series - New York Yankees v Houston Astros - Game Seven

There’s a Passover sing-a-long called “Dayenu,” which translates roughly to “it would have been sufficient.” It follows a quick cadence and easy pattern, which manifests in the following sample lyric: If He had provided the Sabbath and not brought the Jewish people before Mount Sinai, it would have been sufficient. If He had brought the Jewish people to Mount Sinai and not given them the Torah, it would have been sufficient. And so on.

The Yankees’ 2017 season, despite a deflating 4-0 loss to Houston in Game 7 of the ALCS on Saturday night, was full of Dayenu sentiments. The season was supposed to be a transitional one for a team that had stayed on the fringes of playoff contention in recent years—and even reached the 2015 wild-card game, only to fall to this same Astros club—despite being outscored in 2013, 2014, and 2016. In trading Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, and Carlos Beltrán at the 2016 July deadline, New York had signaled its rebuilding intentions, and this season was supposed to be about monitoring the youth.

So, in 2017, if the young players had shown general improvement, it would have been sufficient.

If the young players had shown general improvement and Gary Sánchez had not confirmed that his scorching 2016 summer was signal rather than noise, it would have been sufficient.

If Gary Sánchez had confirmed that his scorching 2016 summer was signal rather than noise and Aaron Judge had not become an MVP candidate, it would have been sufficient.

If Aaron Judge had become an MVP candidate and Luis Severino had not matured into an ace, it would have been sufficient.

If Luis Severino had matured into an ace and the bullpen had not secured a complete handful of dominant arms, all of whom are contracted for at least another season, it would have been sufficient.

If the bullpen had secured a complete handful of dominant arms, all of whom are contracted for at least another season, and the minor-league system had not advanced infielder Gleyber Torres, who is now the top prospect in baseball, it would have been sufficient.

If the minor-league system had advanced infielder Gleyber Torres, who is now the top prospect in baseball, and the front office had not kept its future financial commitments scarce in preparation for the star-studded 2018 free-agent class, it would have been sufficient.

If the front office had kept its future financial commitments scarce in preparation for the star-studded 2018 free-agent class and the team had not avoided its first losing record since 1992, it would have been sufficient.

If the team had avoided its first losing record since 1992 and had not contended into late September, it would have been sufficient.

If the team had contended into late September and had not reached the playoffs, it would have been sufficient.

If the team had reached the playoffs and had not won the wild-card game, it would have been sufficient.

If the team had won the wild-card game and had not won a game against Cleveland after it lost the first two games of the ALDS, it would have been sufficient.

If the team had won a game against Cleveland after it lost the first two games of the ALDS and had not come back to win the whole series by defeating Corey Kluber in Game 5 on the road, it would have been sufficient.

If the team had come back to win the whole series by defeating Corey Kluber in Game 5 on the road and had not advanced further in October than the rival Red Sox, it would have been sufficient.

If the team had advanced further in October than the rival Red Sox and had not won a game against Houston after it lost the first two games of the ALCS, it would have been sufficient.

If the team had won a game against Houston after it lost the first two games of the ALCS and had not produced the Bronx’s most dramatic eighth-inning comeback since the Aaron Boone game, it would have been sufficient.

If the team had produced the Bronx’s most dramatic eighth-inning comeback since the Aaron Boone game and had not stayed alive until an eventual Game 7, it would have been sufficient.

If the team had stayed alive until an eventual Game 7 and had not survived yet another sudden-death contest, instead falling one win short of the World Series, it would have been sufficient. And so it was.

But the young players showed general improvement; Gary Sánchez confirmed that his scorching 2016 summer was signal rather than noise; Aaron Judge became an MVP candidate; Luis Severino matured into an ace; the bullpen secured a complete handful of dominant arms, all of whom are contracted for at least another season; the minor-league system advanced infielder Gleyber Torres, who is now the top prospect in baseball; the front office kept its future financial commitments scarce in preparation for the star-studded 2018 free-agent class; and the team avoided its first losing record since 1992, contended into late September, reached the playoffs, won the wild-card game, won a game against Cleveland after it lost the first two games of the ALDS, came back to win that whole series by defeating Corey Kluber in Game 5 on the road, advanced further in October than the rival Red Sox, won a game against Houston after it lost the first two games of the ALCS, produced the Bronx’s most dramatic eighth-inning comeback since the Aaron Boone game, and stayed alive until an eventual Game 7.

The Yankees didn’t survive yet another sudden-death contest, instead falling one win short of the World Series, but this team’s future is as bright as the New York City skyline. The Yankees are in the same position as the Cubs were in 2015: a surprise league-championship-series qualifier built more with the next few seasons in mind. Those Cubs, of course, won the ensuing World Series, and the Yankees’ current eight-year titleless stretch is about the franchise’s equivalent of Chicago’s 108-year drought.

Matt Holliday, who appeared in just one playoff game, and July trade acquisition Todd Frazier are the Yankees’ only position-player free agents this winter. On the pitching side, CC Sabathia is a decent bet to re-sign with the team, while Masahiro Tanaka could opt out from the three years and $67 million remaining on his deal.

Elsewhere, the entire core is still intact, and no prospect from the Yankees’ haul at the 2016 trade deadline—which includes Torres—was even on the team’s playoff roster. The fruits of the semi-rebuild are still ripening, and Bryce Harper and Manny Machado would look mighty fine in pinstripes two Opening Days from now. Two-way Japanese phenom Shohei Otani could sign with New York as an international free agent and don the uniform by this upcoming April.

The Yankees haven’t experienced this balanced combination of talented youth at the MLB level, minor-league depth, and free-agent flexibility since the mid-’90s glory days, when the team won five pennants and four World Series titles in a span of six years. The franchise is now better situated for a title in the immediate future than it’s been in years. In the long term, anything less than a perennial World Series contender in the Bronx won’t be sufficient.