With the Yankees’ loss to the Brewers on Sunday, New York finished the first half of the season having failed to win a series after sweeping the Orioles June 9-11. The disaster started with the team’s first west coast trip of the season and coincided with a number of troubling injuries.
The good news for the Yankees is that a few big players should return shortly after the season resumes after the All-Star break. The virus that plagued Matt Holliday has finally cleared up to allow the Yankees’ DH to get into rehab games at Triple-A. Starlin Castro is also due back for the Boston series next weekend. Aaron Hicks may still be lagging behind in his return, but he should be back before long.
Unfortunately, the bad news is that Greg Bird’s return is still up in the air with him due to see another doctor in the coming days and the bullpen’s issues are not due to health-related problems. Brian Cashman is going to have to be busy in the coming weeks to secure some reinforcements before the July 31st deadline.
One thing Cashman did affirm in his interview on Sunday was that he views Bird as the team’s first baseman. That would seem to indicate that he is more likely to look for a short-term fill-in than a long-term answer at first base before the deadline. This makes a move like Lucas Duda from the Mets or Yonder Alonso from the Athletics more likely than Justin Bour from the Marlins. Both Duda and Alonso are set to hit free agency at the end of the season.
Duda has 14 home runs in 61 games this season with a .240/.351/.529 batting line in Queens. It seems unlikely that the Mets front office would be in a hurry to unload an asset to their cross-town rival, though. Alonso has reached the 20-home run plateau in 78 games so far in 2017 for Oakland with a .943 OPS. However, he fell off a cliff a bit in June after a fantastic start. That could be the beginning of a very troubling trend for a player who is out-performing his career numbers.
On the pitching front, the Yankees are most likely to add at least one reliever. This is one area where the team could honestly try and upgrade multiple pieces if they found the right deals. The hope is that Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman return to form in the second half after various struggles to close the first half. Still, the bullpen aside from them has struggled to be reliable.
Tyler Clippard has certainly hurt the team more than helped down the stretch with an ERA that continues to balloon. If Joe Girardi insists on having a designated seventh inning pitcher, then Cashman will need to find an upgrade via trade.
A couple options that have been mentioned include Brad Hand of the Padres and Pat Neshek of the Phillies. Hand is having a strong season with a 2.30 ERA good enough to earn him a spot on the All-Star team. With years of team control left, the idea of adding that kind of production to the team for the next several years is enticing. Unfortunately, those factors will increase the asking price for the Padres.
Neshek is also in the midst of an All-Star season with a 1.31 ERA in 34.1 innings so far this year. As a rental, the asking price shouldn’t be too high, but the fear of the results moving more toward Neshek’s prior performance makes it difficult to feel very certain about the kind of return any prospective team may be getting.
The Yankees have also been connected, pretty much constantly, to White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana. It certainly isn’t a new rumor, and the Yankees’ rotation has struggled at times so far this season. Adding a starting pitcher seems like less of a priority for the team than adding a first baseman and relief help, but it’s still quite possible.
Quintana is a cost-controlled commodity that could help the Yankees far beyond this season. Next year’s rotation looks very uncertain if Masahiro Tanaka opts out and CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda leave in free agency. Adding Quintana to that group would stabilize things a bit, even though his numbers have been less than stellar this year.
Would the Yankees be willing to meet Chicago’s asking price for their ace on a buy-low sort of deal in hopes that Quintana is the pitcher he was before this season instead of the one who has struggled thus far? Would the price still be higher than they are comfortable paying?
Cashman has worked diligently to boost the team’s farm system to one of the very best in baseball. It seems very unlikely that he would undo that good work with foolish trades, especially for rentals. Quintana is a guy that it seems like the organization is a big fan of, and one that they might consider breaking the prospect bank for.
It was clear from the Cashman interview on Sunday that he plans to be a buyer in this year’s market. Some believed that the team may just stay the course with the players they have under the idea that the team really wasn’t supposed to be competitive this year. It appears as though Cashman is going to try and obtain reinforcements with an eye toward making the playoffs, but it would be surprising to see him go all-in in terms of trading away the farm system’s best assets.
How do you prioritize what the Yankees need at the deadline? Which players do you hope they pursue?