From general manager Brian Cashman's chair, his Yankees are still a talented team that just has not played up to its capabilities. The past several weeks have been spent observing in the hopes that the roster would declare itself as a contender or a pretender, one way or the other.
The All-Star break has delivered them exactly to the middle: 44-44, 7 1/2 games back in the American League East and with six teams to jump for an AL Wild Card spot. Yogi Berra once suggested that a direction-seeking dinner guest should simply take the fork in the road, but the Yanks no longer have that luxury. Buy or sell, Cashman & Co. must select their direction soon.
"The whole key right now is just trying to be able to be consistent," Carlos Beltran said. "For the most part this year, we haven't been able to do that. We need to start winning ballgames in order for the organization to keep the whole team together. Hopefully that's what happens."
Cashman said that he reports all offers to ownership, and so managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner could soon be entertaining proposals that would ship free agents-to-be Beltran and Aroldis Chapman to contending clubs in exchange for players who could help push for titles in 2017 and beyond. Andrew Miller and Brett Gardner are also among the chips that could interest teams looking to add pieces.
But when the Yankees take a hard look in the mirror, they have to wonder if there will be a surge waiting around the bend. The Yanks have 49 games remaining against their competition in the AL East, which is promising, except for the fact that they're just 10-17 against their own division this year.
Team president Randy Levine recently dismissed talk that the Yankees could be sellers in advance of the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline as "nonsense." Any raising of a white flag must come from Steinbrenner directly, and thus far, every indication has been that they will continue going for it.
"We're not in a great position necessarily, but if you're in this position, you want to be playing a lot of teams in your division, and we have that," manager Joe Girardi said. "That could be a really good thing."
Beltran has furnished the Yanks with a list of 15 clubs to which he must approve a trade. While he said that he'd prefer to remain in New York, Beltran has never won a World Series, and it's probable that he would give approval to join a team with a legitimate shot of grabbing a ring. According to ESPN, the Cardinals, Dodgers, Indians, Nationals, Rays, Royals and Tigers are among the teams that are not on Beltran's no-trade list.
WHAT ARE THEY PLAYING FOR?
The oft-repeated mission statement is "championship-caliber baseball," and after missing the postseason in 2013 and '14, the Yankees were pleased to get in the AL Wild Card Game last October. That said, nine innings of playoff action isn't enough to satisfy ownership.
THE ROAD AHEAD
New York's post All-Star schedule (74 games) includes 49 games vs. the AL East, nine games vs. the AL West, six games vs. the AL Central, six games vs. the National League West, and four games vs. the Mets. The Red Sox, Orioles, Giants and Astros await in what could be very much a make-or-break 10-game stretch coming out of the break. The Yanks are 18-14 since June 6, and 28-22 since May 18.
It has been fun to watch Didi Gregorius mature into an above-average player on both sides of the ball, and for the Yankees' chances in 2016 and beyond, that development must continue. Gregorius has smacked a career-high 11 homers with his line-drive approach, is battering left-handed pitching more consistently than any other lefty swinger in the Majors, and has solidified the defense up the middle. There may be even more in the tank.
PROSPECTS TO WATCH
Aaron Judge had been pounding on the door loudly as he assaulted International League pitching, but a left knee injury has momentarily squelched anticipation of seeing No. 99 patrol right field in The Bronx. His recovery has been estimated at three to four weeks, and Judge could receive a call soon after, especially if Beltran is wearing another uniform by then. Gary Sanchez was selected for the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game for a second consecutive season.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.