The Yankees are in the market for starting pitching. Not a news flash, I know. We’ve been hearing this since early in the offseason. With the non-waiver trade deadline looming a little more than a month from now, the rumor mill has been working overtime. The hottest trade subject of late has been Jacob deGrom of the crosstown Mets.
It seems everyone has been weighing in. Jon Heyman, Buster Olney, and Mike Lupica are among those who have opined on the subject. YES even aired a video of a panel on The Michael Kay Show discussing the possibility of trading away Gleyber Torres to acquire deGrom. (For the record: no, they shouldn’t.) Before we delve into whether the Yankees could get deGrom, let’s take a look at whether they should.
Along with possessing the best record in baseball, the Yankees are off to one of their best starts in franchise history. They’ve gotten where they are with the pitching they already have. So do they need to improve the rotation to make the playoffs? Absolutely not. I’m confident that they can even clinch the top postseason berth sans upgrade.
What happens once the playoffs begin is another matter entirely. We well remember what happened when the organization passed on an opportunity to acquire Justin Verlander last year. The veteran standout was almost singularly responsible for ending New York’s season and propelling the Astros to their first ever World Series title. I’m confident in a Yankees playoff rotation headed by Severino, Sabathia, and Tanaka, but would be much more so with the team heading into October with the fourth spot filled by a pitcher with postseason success on his resume.
Jacob deGrom fits the bill. During their unexpected 2015 World Series run, the Amazin’s were 3-1 in the four games started by deGrom. The right-hander allowed eight runs across 25 innings while striking out 29 batters.
In two Division Series outings at Dodger Stadium, deGrom hurled 13 innings of two-run ball, winning both starts. He threw seven shutout innings in Game One, out-dueling two-time defending Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. In the decisive Game Five, deGrom out-pitched that season’s Cy Young Award runner-up Zack Greinke to catapult the Mets to the League Championship Series.
He started and won NLCS Game Three at Wrigley Field, permitting only two runs over seven innings to put the Mets a win away from a sweep. His only postseason loss came against the Royals in the Fall Classic, when he coughed up four runs on a walk and five singles in the fifth inning of Game Two in Kansas City.
Winning three postseason starts on the road against formidable competition is an impressive ability that the Yankees shouldn’t overlook. They can certainly use the help in that area, having gone a woeful 1-6 away from Yankee Stadium in the playoffs last year.
The 30-year-old deGrom is not eligible for free agency until 2021, so he wouldn’t represent a short term rental. The 2014 Rookie of the Year has been outstanding in the regular season as well, having received Cy Young Award votes twice in four seasons. He boasts a 2.93 career FIP and .626 OPS against, while striking out 9.9 per nine innings pitched. The right-hander leads the league with a 1.98 FIP this season, and has already compiled 4.7 WAR.
Giving up Torres or Miguel Andujar — as some suggest — is laughable. Both players are already integral parts of the Yankees, and I have never heard of a championship-caliber team trading away key players to shore up a weakness. Surely the Mets know that none of their potential trade partners would do such a thing.
The Mets are a rudderless ship with many areas around the diamond in need of improvement, while the Yankees are certainly in a position to help accelerate the Flushing squad’s rebuilding process without damaging their own team. The Mets currently rank 29th in the league in runs created (RC) at both first and third base, 22nd at catcher, 27th at shortstop, and 19th in right field. The Yankees have major-league ready talent stashed away at most of these positions in Tyler Austin, Clint Frazier, Brandon Drury, Ronald Torreyes, and Billy McKinney. I like all of these players, but none are essential to the Yankees’ success this year or in the near future.
The Yankees need either Austin or Neil Walker for first-base depth, but not both. They need either Frazier or McKinney for outfield depth, but not both. Drury has been raking at Triple-A, while Torreyes was demoted despite his .350 on-base percentage. Neither will likely see their trade value go higher than it is right now. The Yankees also having catching prospects to give, having signed their top two draft picks. The organization is also flush with pitching prospects at all levels of the minors, which might be attractive to the Mets to defray the cost of losing deGrom.
The Yankees are in a unique position to help the Mets in all areas of need, without diminishing their own team. General Manager Brian Cashman could easily put together a package consisting of both prospects and major-league ready talent which tops other would-be deGrom suitors. Would the Mets execute a deal with their crosstown rivals? They’d be foolish not to, especially if the Yankees make the best offer. Shunning the best package to avoid helping the Yankees would be like cutting off your nose to spite your face.
Adding deGrom to the Severino, Sabathia, and Tanaka trio is infinitely more appealing than any of the Yankees’ current internal playoff rotation options for the push to championship number 28. Will it happen? Stay tuned.