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Yankees commit to being contenders at the trade deadline

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The first place Yankees might be ahead of schedule, but they are going to make a run at the division crown.

New York Yankees Introduce Masahiro Tanaka

Brian Cashman is an outstanding general manager. If you weren’t on board with that being a fact before this most recent trade deadline, there is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t be on the bandwagon now. Shortly after taking the Yankees’ farm system from middling to top of the line, Cashman managed to rebuild his squad in record time.

This was not supposed to be the Yankees’ year to go for it. It seemed as though everything was a good year or two away from falling into place perfectly, but that’s not how it actually happened. An MVP-caliber season from Aaron Judge, an ace-caliber season from Luis Severino, and all-around strong production from Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro, and Brett Gardner put the Yankees in a position to win sooner than most believed.

With the Yankees sitting in first place more often than not this season, Cashman made a decision to go for it. There were small moves at first, like getting rid of a floundering Chris Carter, a minor trade for Garrett Cooper, and letting Aaron Hicks shine in his breakout season instead of defaulting to playing Jacoby Ellsbury every day.

The big moves began when Cashman swung a seven-player trade with the Chicago White Sox. The Yankees’ bullpen had been struggling since the team’s west coast road trip, and bringing David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle home instantly made the Yankees’ relief corps a huge strength. Adding Todd Frazier allowed Joe Girardi to slide Chase Headley to first base with another more experienced bat in the lineup.

Fans were upset that Cashman traded the team’s top outfield prospect not named Clint Frazier, Blake Rutherford, in the deal. Rutherford has tremendous upside, but remains very far away from the majors. Scouts were said to have preferred fellow Low-A outfielder Estevan Florial to Rutherford as of late, as well. The farm system was overrun with outfield prospects in more abundance than could ever play at one time. Cashman dealt from a position of strength while holding on to his crown jewels: Frazier and Gleyber Torres.

Cashman could have likely landed Jose Quintana from the White Sox if he was willing to part with one of his top prospects in order to get the deal done. Instead, he turned his eyes toward Sonny Gray of the Athletics. The price for Gray was thought to be one of Frazier or Torres as well, but Cashman was adamant that neither would be traded to anyone for anything. That left the A’s with Florial and Jorge Mateo as a starting point for the trade.

Rumors of the trade bounced between “stalemate” and “more likely than not” for days. Cashman wanted Gray and Billy Beane wanted to trade him. The two sides had every incentive to get a deal done before the 4:00 pm deadline on Monday, and they did with about an hour to go.

Gray was sent the Yankees’ way for a package centered around Mateo. The Athletics seem determined to use him at shortstop, his original position where he was blocked with the Yankees. The A’s also got Dustin Fowler, who could be their center fielder next year if he is able to return to form after a scary injury on a rainy night in Chicago, and James Kaprielian, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery.

For all the prospect hugging in the world, it’s hard to not love the deal for the Yankees. All three prospects have a lot of potential, but have a number of factors putting that potential in doubt. Gray is not without risk himself, but he makes this team instantly better for the next two and a half years.

Florial, the prospect that justified the Rutherford trade, is still a Yankee. Frazier and Torres are still Yankees. Cashman was able to greatly boost his bullpen and starting rotation without giving up key pieces of the team’s future. The farm system is still intact, and the big league club is in a great position to make the playoffs this year and beyond.

When the winners and losers of the trade deadline articles are printed, the Yankees will almost certainly be solidly on the winners side. Cashman was excellent in his valuation of his players and of the players he was trying to obtain. When locked in a stare down over Gray, Cashman wasn’t the first one to blink. He deserves so much credit for the way he has been able to rebuild this team’s future without having to tear it all the way down like most other clubs.

Cashman is a magician, and he just showed off some of his finest tricks.