At last season’s non-waiver trade deadline, Yankees GM Brian Cashman was a busy man. He acquired a pair of starters, a corner infielder, and two relievers. Of all the moves, the acquisition of Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson to bolster the bullpen made the biggest impact on the team’s magical postseason run that took them to within one win of the World Series.
Upgrading the rotation is just as critical now as it was a year ago, but augmenting the bullpen again may not be such an obvious strategy. A dire need existed last season, with Tyler Clippard, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman all struggling. While the bullpen has been much more dependable — even dominant — this season, it still makes a lot of sense to add to this considerable team strength if possible.
The idea is no longer mere speculation or wishful thinking. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the Yankees submitted an offer on Brad Hand before San Diego ultimately dealt him to Cleveland. Rosenthal reports that the deal with the Yankees broke down because the Padres insisted on getting Miguel Andujar in return.
The Yankees are one of a number of clubs that have been linked to Orioles closer Zach Britton over the last week. This morning, Jim Bowden of The Athletic tweeted that the Yankees and Astros are “in the lead for Zach Britton but several other teams still in play as trade negotiations are rounding third and heading for home.” A deal could be imminent, as Andy Martino of SNY reported last night that Baltimore wants to move Britton “ASAP.”
Britton isn’t the only elite reliever on a losing club that might be traded. Likewise, well-known closers aren’t the only bullpen arms that the Yankees might target. MLB.com just ran an interesting piece on five under-the-radar relievers who may get dealt before July 31st. Former Yankees Kirby Yates (Padres) and Blake Parker (Angels) are listed, along with Minnesota’s Ryan Pressly and Miami’s Adam Conley and Kyle Barraclough.
Yankees potential bullpen trade-deadline targets
It’s noteworthy that Cashman made the offer on Hand and got in on Britton before Chapman’s wildness on Saturday night against the Mets. The closer’s left-knee tendinitis has been an issue, with Chapman missing the All-Star Game to rest. It’s unknown if his control troubles were simply due to rust from not having pitched for a week, or if there might be more serious issues present. Either way, the Yankees have legitimate concerns about the ability of their starters to go deep into games, and would do well to land a top relief arm before next Tuesday’s deadline.
The front office already missed a golden opportunity this weekend, as we watched the Mets practically give away closer Jeurys Familia. The Athletics gave up their number 17 prospect, an unranked prospect, and $1 million in international bonus pool money to acquire the bullpen behemoth. Familia has already amassed 1.4 WAR this season, has averaged 9.2 strikeouts per nine over his career, and has allowed a paltry three home runs over his last 133 innings dating back to the start of 2016. He led the league with 51 saves that season, and also led the league in games finished in both 2015 and 2016. Cashman came up empty by allowing Familia to be traded to the Yankees’ Wild Card rival so cheaply.
It’s unlikely that whichever reliever the Yankees ultimately acquire will come as inexpensively. Still, the team has the need, and whomever the Yankees settle on could prove to be a vital piece in the quest for 28.