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The Yankees should hope the Red Sox buy at the trade deadline

The Yankees likely will not be buyers at the trade deadline, but their biggest rivals just might be. If the Red Sox do invest heavily at the deadline, the Yankees should be pleased.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

With the MLB non-waiver trade deadline a few weeks away, trade season is nearly upon us. For once, there is little buzz surrounding the Yankees about trading for impact players. Instead, the focus is on if, or how much, New York should sell. Conversely, the teams ahead of the Yankees in the AL East have been the subject of rumors about buying.

The team most rumored to be interested in making a deadline move is the Boston Red Sox. After consecutive seasons in the cellar of the division, the Red Sox have had a solid bounce back, with a quality 46-38 record. Yet despite the best offense in baseball, Boston still has glaring holes on its roster, most notably its porous rotation depth.

Beyond David Price, the surprise knuckle-balling star Steven Wright, and Rick Porcello, Boston has nary a major-league caliber starter in sight. Plus, the Red Sox had been trotting out the defensive-savvy but offensively challenged (50 wRC+ in 176 plate appearances) Christian Vazquez as their primary backstop, before demoting him in favor of unheralded journeyman Sandy Leon. With Rusney Castillo demoted and Brock Holt struggling, Boston also has no surefire starter in left field.

Excellent young players like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr ensure that the Red Sox have a strong roster, but it’s a roster with clear weaknesses. Because of these holes, as well as team president Dave Dombrowski’s propensity for swinging deals, there is an expectation Boston will be aggressive at the trade deadline this year. The Yankees should cross their fingers that this expectation becomes reality.

Given how the five organizations in the AL East are currently constructed, the Red Sox are New York’s primary future obstacle. The Blue Jays have several key free agents who threaten to walk after the 2016 season, plus a farm system decimated by trades for David Price and Troy Tulowitzki. The Rays are hamstrung by a minuscule budget and a stadium placed in a nightmarish location. The Orioles are playing well in 2016, but possess a largely veteran roster designed to win now, with little in the way of youthful reinforcement coming in the future.

Rather, the Red Sox are the team the Yankees will most likely have to contend with, should the Yankees commit to retooling in the short-term with an eye on contending a couple years down the road. The Red Sox have an ideal, young core in place in the form of the aforementioned Betts, Bogaerts, and Bradley. They have one of the best farm systems in baseball, as MLB Pipeline ranked the Boston system 6th in the league prior to the season, while Baseball Prospectus ranked them fifth. And they have the financial might to match the Yankees, having doled out massive (and questionable) deals to Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, and Price in recent offseasons.

The Red Sox are contending now, and they are set up to contend well into the future. The Yankees are hardly contending now, and probably require some sort of step backwards in order to better their odds of contention down the road. The best thing the Red Sox could do to enhance the Yankees’ future prospects is to invest heavily in the now.

Dombrowski and company already set a precedent for this before the season even began. They invested heavily in Price as a front of the rotation ace, and more importantly, they mortgaged a chunk of their future to acquire a marginal bullpen upgrade in Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel (whose 136 ERA+ since 2015 merely ranks 32nd among relievers with as many appearances) was acquired primarily at the cost of Manuel Margot and Javier Guerra. Guerra was a consensus top-60 prospect prior to 2016, while Margot was ranked as highly as 14th by Baseball Prospectus.

The Yankees should be rooting for the Red Sox to make anything resembling this kind of move at the deadline. In bringing in Kimbrel, Dombrowski filled a hole and made his team better in 2016, but at a significant future cost. There are other players available on this trade market who could fill similar roles for Boston. Some have suggested they make an offer for Jonathan Lucroy to fill their hole at catcher. The Red Sox will surely continue to be linked in to veteran pitchers such as Rich Hill, Julio Tehran, and Matt Shoemaker as the deadline draws closer.

Moves for players like these that speed up Boston’s timeline would be music to the Yankees’ ears. Compromising the future in favor of strengthening the current roster helps Boston’s 2016 chances but hampers their hopes of contention in future years like 2018 and beyond. The Yankees’ window of contention, in all likelihood, lies in 2018 and after.

The Red Sox have a stronger current roster than the Yankees, a stronger farm system, and financial wherewithal to match New York. Given the state of Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Baltimore’s rosters, the Red Sox are the team that will likely give the Yankees the most trouble when New York’s next wave of talent reaches the bigs. Perhaps the best thing that could happen for the Yankees at this deadline would be to see its biggest rival weaken themselves during the Yankees’ next window of contention.