On Wednesday, Hal Steinbrenner confirmed the obvious. The Yankees are in the market for starting pitching. The whole offseason everyone assumed the Yankees would add at least one rotation arm in addition to bringing CC Sabathia back, but they did not. The main goal for the offseason turned into keep the Yankees under the luxury tax threshold, which they did.
The good news is, they didn’t just squeak under the threshold. They got well under and left themselves some room to play with at the trade deadline. If a starter with a high salary became available, it shouldn’t stop the Yankees from pursuing him if he’s the pitcher they want. The Yankees have approximately $16.4 million to play with that will keep them under the $197 million threshold.
“I think there’s definitely a need. It’s definitely one of the areas we’re going to be looking at,” Steinbrenner told reporters on Wednesday at Major League Baseball headquarters in Manhattan. “We’ve got some flexibility payroll-wise, as you know. The question is, what’s going to be available and what are the asks?”
Therein lies the problem, but also the solution. The Yankees can’t rely on
Johnny Lasagna Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo German if they want to make a deep playoff run. Even if German has held his own for the most part, he’s hardly someone who should be starting an important playoff game for the Yankees. The team needs at least one starting pitcher, but probably two.
Masahiro Tanaka and Jordan Montgomery were the first starters to get hurt, but the rest of their rotation is hardly a beacon of good health. The Yankees cannot handle another injury to their staff, minor or major, with who they have internally. Chance Adams was supposed to get the first chance to step into the rotation, but he’s been awful. Luis Cessa is coming back from injury and is also still Luis Cessa. Justus Sheffield still needs to work on his command, and his development shouldn’t be compromised by tossing him into the fire.
It’s pretty clear then that the Yankees need to go out and reinforce the rotation. Now, I’m not advocating for them to just get anybody who can pitch just for the sake of having a body there. Cole Hamels is a name that’s been thrown around a lot, but it’s not 2008. He’s hardly worth the excitement. The Yankees should pursue whatever elite starting pitching is available.
This means that if the Mets are indeed willing to unload Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard, the Brian Cashman needs to make those calls. Obviously, it’s going to require a king’s ransom to pry either of those two from the Mets, and then there’s the Yankees tax. The Giants are weird team with aspirations of keeping their even year nonsense alive, but calls should be placed on Madison Bumgarner.
I don’t believe we can accurately predict packages, so I won’t sit here and try to create possible trade scenarios. I will say, however, that the Yankees shouldn‘t be afraid of going all in for pitchers of their caliber. Obviously the prospect cost is the question, as Steinbrenner even noted:
“That’s why I say it depends what the asks are,” Steinbrenner said. “I love the young guys, our fans love the young guys, and I think it’s obvious that they’ve made a heck of an impact...Our fans are really enjoying watching them play and so am I.”
The conversation will probably start with Gleyber Torres. Other teams will always try and convince the Yankees that they need the pitcher more than they need to trade the pitcher. That’s where a good general manager like Cashman comes in.
They can ask for Torres all they want, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to give him up. Outside of Torres though, almost no one should be untouchable, even if that means giving up exciting players like Miguel Andujar, Clint Frazier, or Estevan Florial.
Per Jon Heyman, the Yankees are not willing to part with Torres or Andujar for deGrom. Torres I understand, but if the Mets want Andujar for deGrom, the Yankees absolutely have to jump on that. Andujar is definitely exciting, but he’s also the one with the least certain future. He also has Brandon Drury waiting in the wings as a replacement, and if that doesn’t work out, the Yankees can certainly pursue Manny Machado or someone in the offseason.
It’ll sting, but the juice will be worth the squeeze. The Yankees can’t trade Kyle Higashioka for deGrom. That’s just not how it works. If the Yankees want to really improve their World Series chances this year and make a run, they need a top-tier arm to pair with Luis Severino. They can handle the loss of prospects because their current team’s core is made up of young talent around the field.