It was always likely that teams would test the determination of the Yankees to hang on to their most prized prospects. It is increasingly apparent that they actually might prove to be resolute in their desire to hang on to the big-four names of Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Greg Bird and Jorge Mateo. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is reporting that the Yankees have turned down a request from A.J. Preller and the San Diego Padres to include Jorge Mateo in discussions for Craig Kimbrel. Heyman reports that the Yankees are interested enough in Kimbrel to pick up his entire salary, but have drawn the line at the inclusion of their 20-year old speedy shortstop prospect.
Mateo is, of the four top Yankee prospects, by far the furthest away from the major leagues, still in Low-A Charleston. Kimbrel is, of course, one of the absolute best relievers in baseball. If the first-place Yankees were going to give up one of their most elite prospects, Mateo would have seemed the most likely, especially in a package for an elite talent like Kimbrel. Jason has already laid out some of the reasons why the Yankees might want to hold on to Mateo at this point. His speed and projected ability to stick at shortstop are naturally valuable, but it is worth noting that he is still several levels away from the major leagues, with significant development yet needed–particularly as a hitter. The Yankees appear to be confident in his ability to progress as he moves up the ranks, otherwise they would have moved him.
Kimbrel had a shaky start to the season after being traded to San Diego from Atlanta just before Opening Day, but he still remains a dominant closer. His 2.75 ERA and 2.49 FIP would be the highest marks of his career, and his 12.58 K/9 would be his lowest, but that likely speaks more to his overall dominant body-of-work than anything else. Relief pitching is obviously not an area of need for the Yankees, with Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller already locking down the late innings, but adding an arm like Kimbrel to the mix would naturally have shortened games further. Kimbrel is signed through the 2017 season for $25 million with a $13 million team option for 2018, so he'd essentially be at fair market value. If the Yankees were going to add a late-inning relief arm, there was no better option than Kimbrel, save only Aroldis Chapman.
As we continue to close in on the deadline, expect teams to continue trying to test the Yankees' willingness to part with one or more from their top four prospects. Perhaps the Yankees didn't value the marginal improvement of Kimbrel, who would surely take innings away from Justin Wilson, Chasen Shreve, and Adam Warren, highly enough to part with a top prospect like Mateo. An opportunity to add a player at a different position could force a move. It does appear, though, that the Yankees are very comfortable standing firm with what they already have.