Fresh off a sweep by the Baltimore Orioles that knocked the Yankees back into fourth place in the AL East, it's easy to feel a little pessimistic about the state of the team right now. The Yankees have now lost five games in a row for the second time this season and are still weeks away from seeing what the return of players like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson can do for an offense that is competing to be one of the worst in MLB.
All that considered, the team remains only three games out of a playoff spot if the season ended today. Obviously a lot can change between now and then; but the team has managed to just keep this ship afloat so far, even if she has sprung a significant leak and is badly taking on water at the moment. The trade deadline is a time when a team that needs a boost can get it and teams that are out of contention can reload for their future. The Yankees need to decide on which side of the spectrum they fall pretty soon. If they decide to be buyers, they need to make moves to help this offense out very soon. If they decide to sell of their assets instead, they need to decide who is worth keeping in the current mix.
I asked our staff whether they thought the team should be buyers or sellers at the deadline, and all of our responses are below. Surprisingly, the answers were nearly unanimous.
Tanya Bondurant: Unless things fall apart to an even greater degree than they already have between now and the trade deadline, the Yankees should be buyers. Even as they currently stand, the AL East and wild card can be anybody's to win, as no team has managed to completely distance themselves from the pack. With a few boosts to their horrible offense, the Yankees could potentially nab, at the very least, one of the two American League wild cards. The pitching is struggling right now, but I'm optimistic (naive) enough to believe that it's just a slump and that they can replace the weakest link with Michael Pineda before too long. Without offense, this team is going nowhere. Bring on Nate Schierholtz!
Jason Cohen: The Yankees have the worst offense in baseball right now and I highly doubt Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter will be able to save this team. They would have to make a lot of moves to upgrade at catcher, first base and outfield and it's just not worth wrecking the future for the hope of one season. It sounds too difficult now, but wait another month and see where they are. I do believe the Yankees should try to acquire talent for the future, if they can, but in the end they should be sellers.
Trade Phil Hughes to the Giants, trade Curtis Granderson to the Nationals, or wherever. I doubt Hiroki Kuroda would be going anywhere, but Boone Logan could be, and just try to get something for Joba Chamberlain, anything. That won't give us a new core or anything, but it would get us some young talent into the system that could hopefully make an impact.
Andrew Mearns: The Yankees should certainly be buyers at the trade deadline. Sure, the team they have out on the field right now isn't all that impressive, but since they're only a few games back, they're definitely in the playoff hunt, That should never be taken for granted. They should just be cautious about the caliber of prospect they would have to surrender to acquire talent. Be patient with teams, and eventually an affordable trade package should suffice; that's how the Yankees got Bobby Abreu for pennies in 2006.
Jesse Schindler: As of now I believe the Yankees will be buyers at the deadline, but that could change if they don't add a bat here pretty soon. They've survived this long with a weak offense and I don't know if they can last another month without completely falling apart. If the front office refuses to add payroll and they have to jump, say, three or four teams just to get a wild card spot come late-July, they might as well sell.
Chris Mitchell: As bad as the Yankees have been lately, they're still too close to the division lead to start selling off their players. The Yankees have lots of holes in their lineup, so I think it makes sense for them to seek out potential upgrades.That being said, I don't believe the Yankees have a good enough shot at making the playoffs to justify giving up any sort of prospect for a rental piece. Even if they were to fall eight or ten games out of first by the deadline, I am still not sure it would be in their best interest to start dealing guys like Robinson Cano and/or Curtis Granderson for prospects. This year represents the swan song for Mariano Rivera, and likely Andy Pettitte as well; so it would probably reflect poorly on the organization if they punted the season, letting those guys retire while surrounded by scrubs.
Michael Cook: The Yankees are in a perpetual state of contention, which makes it virtually impossible for them to be sellers. Not only will they either be in a playoff spot or near contention, but given the decline in attendance, trading off importance pieces would anger most fans, and have a pretty severe short-term impact. At the same time, the current roster does not lend itself to be buyers at the trade deadline, either. First, if/when Granderson, Jeter, A-Rod, and to a lesser extent Francisco Cervelli return, there will be a roster crunch that will make adding potential impact bats much more difficult to prepare for long-term. They also have a deep, if unspectacular, rotation and one of the better bullpens in the league. The two positions that could be targets are third base, given David Adams has options and hasn't hit enough to justify staying with the big league ball club; and catcher, assuming you can add a piece better than Cervelli, given Romine should be in the minors as we speak, and Stewart is not indispensable. However, two things hinder trading for these two positions. One, the team has been set on short-term contracts (read: one year) to try to stick to Plan $189. And two, most of their preseason top prospects have not lived up to expectations, and the team would be trading them as buy-low candidates.
Given all of this, I find it hard to believe that the Yankees will do much more than stand pat, with an outside chance of trading for smaller role-players that can play third and/or outfield. So, prepare for Marlon Byrd (The useful version of Vernon Wells), Cody Ransom ("The Re-Ransom-ing"), Scott Hairston (Gotta collect them all!), Justin Maxwell (We just can't quit you), Jason Bay (He's still playing?), Placido Polanco (All teh veteranz!), and Justin Ruggiano (the Marlins' DiMaggio). Some players that are sleepers to be picked up, depending on how finances of the trade look and what the cost of the trade in prospects is: Aramis Ramirez, Alex Rios, and Kendrys Morales. Prepare for a boring trade deadline in Yankee land.
Michael Brown: Buyers...for now. They'd have to continue to massively struggle to lose sight of that second wild card. Acquiring some decent veteran righty bats should solve a lot of problems, but don't go beyond that.
Derek Albin: As of now, I think they should be buyers. Guys like Carlos Ruiz, Michael Young, Nate Schierholtz, etc. shouldn't be very costly and won't hit the 2014 payroll. They aren't the biggest names, but in this lineup, they would represent major upgrades. The division is still too close to concede, although if it gets ugly over the next couple of weeks, I would likely change my attitude.
Mason Stark: Both. The Yankees clearly don't have the best team in terms of balance or total talent, but the division is very close and likely to go to the end. Pitch-first teams usually do well in the playoffs, so I recommend a couple of things: Don't totally give up. Thanks to the Yankees sporting league bottom production out of a number of positions on the field, it makes it very easy to improve the lineup with minimal cost. Look to trade for low cost rentals that could move your weak spots from 29th to 17th in terms of production. Second, see if you can do something big and remove a ton of future risk off your books. I suggest they try to trade CC Sabathia. Maybe it's just the elbow surgery, but his age and the significant decline in velocity puts a lot of risk that his days as an elite pitcher are over. If he doesn't rebound next year, then you're going to eat a lot of that contract. See if someone might bite this year, and gamble on Michael Pineda/Ivan Nova/David Phelps going forward. The Yanks' position player prospects coming into this year have been somewhat disappointing so far. See if you can improve that potential by dealing CC.
Joe Flynn: This is not a deadline to be half-assed. In previous years, the Yankees could afford to stand pat in July knowing that they had an excellent shot to make the playoffs. As of now, they are still in the playoff hunt, thanks to a sterling performance in April that looks increasingly like a mirage. They are currently the least-talented team in the AL East. There's no David Justice trade out there, no one single bat that will put the Yankees over the top. This team needs an entire Supreme Court bench full of David Justices (SCOTUS pun alert!). No matter what they do - buy or sell - they need to do it with gusto.
Personally, I think their decision should hinge on their plans for resigning Robinson Cano, their best player and/or trade chip. In my opinion, the Yankees decision regarding Cano isn't terribly complicated - he's going to be a free agent, and he's going to get "stupid" money. The exact figures aren't terribly important - some team will give him a stupid amount of money and years. It doesn't even matter which team - some team will offer a stupid contract. It always happens. The Yankees painted themselves into this corner years ago with their "no extensions" policy, and now they must decide whether or not Cano is that special kind of player who is truly worth a stupid contract. And they need to decide now, not when that inevitable stupid contract offer comes in the winter.
If they decide Cano isn't worth that kind of commitment, then they need to deal him and whatever spare parts other teams might find valuable. Any possible Cano trade, and whatever trades to follow, should be made with an eye toward the future. Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain should go regardless, but if they trade Cano, then they shouldn't make the mistake of trading them for a veteran stopgap bat.
I'm not 100% sold on the idea that they must trade Cano; the only scenario I find unacceptable would be the Yankees holding onto him and letting him go this off-season for nothing. Oh, I can see it already: the front office will leak a message to the press that they fully intended on making Cano a Yankee for life, but some dark horse team "unexpectedly" offered him a monster contract. No, no, no! No more half-measures. If the front office isn't fully committed to paying Cano stupid money, then they need to make the tough choice now, and focus improving this team down the road.
Craig Edwards: Buyers, because Jayson Nix. And David Adams. And Lyle Overbay. And Chris Stewart. And Vernon Wells. So many things have gone wrong and they are still in contention. Average offensive contributions from multiple spots in the lineup would allow for another playoff run. They are the Yankees.
Chris Kirby: This team isn't by any means out of contention. They're within striking distance of the division with so much time left this season and only a couple games out of a playoff spot. There's no clear winner in the East, and with two wild cards this team could still be right in the mix. The pitching is still a strength, and Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson are supposed to be back next month. That alone should be a big boost to the offense. This team really isn't that far off. They just need some offense, and they should be looking to acquire a right-handed hitter at the deadline.
Also there's the question as to how much being sellers would really help the team as a whole. Who on this team that they would be "selling" bring in anything of real value? They're not going to trade Robinson Cano regardless of how this season turns out. Who else could they "sell" that would bring in enough to make it worth giving up on the season?
Matt Ferenchick: I just can't see the Yankees being sellers. I know they've played horrible as of late, and while I don't expect them to make the playoffs at this stage, but they are only four games out of the Wild Card. Maybe my opinion will be different in two weeks if they continue to play poorly, but right now I just can't go for them selling off pieces.
Greg Kirkland: They're going to be buyers. Whether I think they should or not is pretty irrelevant simply because I know what team I root for. But if you want my opinion on the matter, and I know you do, they'll definitely be buyers. Despite the offense, the season is still not as bleak as we think. The division is still winnable and with that thought in mind the Yankees will do something by the trade deadline. It would really only take a few more bats to help and Brian Cashman tends to do well when it comes to these types of situations.
Brian Stramaglia: I think they will be buyers, because they're the Yankees, and that's what they do. They could use an upgrade at almost every position, and the standard for an upgrade isn't exactly high. It'll be interesting to see who goes, and how, since several players they need an upgrade over aren't kids who can just be sent down.
Do you think the Yankees should be buyers or sellers at the deadline? Vote in the poll below and comment with who you think they should trade for if you're on the buyers side and who you think they should trade away if you are on the sellers side.