According to George King of the New York Post, the Chicago Cubs have been heavily scouting the Yankees’ dominant bullpen trio of Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances this month. Three Chicago scouts were at Yankee Stadium over the weekend, including the team’s pro scouting director.
It isn’t a surprise at all that a team like the Cubs would be keeping a close eye on the best players the Yankees might be offering at the trade deadline. Chicago needs bullpen help and they are in a position to buy it at the trade deadline. The Yankees have an impossibly talented trio at the back of their bullpen that can only be so useful when the team isn’t finding a way to win many games.
Whether or not the Yankees will decide to sell those pieces or not is a different story. Despite the fact that the team is eight games behind the Orioles in the division and one game under .500, they are still within shouting distance of a Wild Card spot. That may seem like false hope for those who have spent meaningful time watching the Yankees this season, but it will surely factor into the team’s decision making over the next month.
Trading Chapman makes a ton of sense for New York. He will be a free agent at the end of the season and all the team could hope to gain from his departure at that time is a compensation pick for him turning down the qualifying offer. Even though there have been rumors that the team might be interested in signing him to a contract extension, Chapman shouldn’t be in their future plans. Selling him to the highest bidder at the trade deadline for valuable return pieces is truly the best course of action.
If the Yankees commit to selling and make Miller or Betances available, they would be looking at a much higher return than the one they’d get for Chapman. Both are under control for multiple seasons at a team-friendly rate. Either of them would be a great help to a contender wanting to lock down the final inning(s) of a game, which should improve the return the Yankees could get.
Without the trio of Chapman, Miller, and Betances, the Yankees’ bullpen is a bit of a mess. There are glimpses of competence here and there, but nothing truly reliable. That might not matter for what may end up amounting to a lost season, but it would definitely hurt to go into 2017 with such uncertainty in the bullpen if the team has aspirations of competing.
If every game Chapman, Miller, and Betances pitch in is a bit of an audition for teams who may be looking to obtain their services down the stretch this year, they have mostly nailed it. With the exception of the rain-soaked disaster of Monday night, all three have been performing at their best as of late. That’s good news if you’re the Yankees and are looking to maximize the return on your trade chips. Having performance force other teams’ hands in overpaying for relief help can only help the Yankees land a better player or two in negotiations.
Still, all of this requires the Yankees’ front office to admit that the team isn’t going to compete this year. What seems obvious to outsiders may not be as obvious to those who stand to financially benefit from the team hanging on to contention as long as possible. The introduction of the second Wild Card has given teams who may not have had hope before the incentive to hang on for as long as possible. If the Yankees stay within striking distance of that second Wild Card spot, it may be all the motivation the front office needs to not sell at all.