Nothing is a more divisive debate for Yankees fans this season than their trade deadline approach. Some fans think that the team should go all-in and not hesitate to trade future assets or add payroll, while others think that value is always an important consideration and that it wouldn’t be wise to ship out top prospects for a rental player.
Both sides have some merit. However, if the Yankees are serious about winning a championship this year, there’s only one thing to do: add whatever it takes to win, at whatever cost necessary.
The Yankees are very close to being the “fully operational Death Star” that Brian Cashman declared them to be last winter. They have the deepest lineup in baseball, the best bullpen and a batch of reinforcements that is better than some teams’ starters. The rotation hasn’t been a disaster, but it’s also not one that inspires much confidence heading into the playoffs. In order to truly cash in as World Series favorites, the Yankees need another starting pitcher.
The trade market has complicated things in some respects. By all accounts, it is very much a seller’s market, with rumored costs for rental players like Madison Bumgarner and Zack Wheeler through the roof. That only emboldens teams who are offering up players with years of control, like the Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman), Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray), Rangers (Mike Minor) and Tigers (Matt Boyd). Meanwhile, the Yankees, who could have interest in all of these players, have held steadfast that they will not give up top prospects for a rental.
However, I don’t think the Yankees are in a position where they can take that stance. Like it or not, baseball is a sport where money wins rings. The Astros swung for the fences and acquired Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. They won a World Series. The Red Sox went out and got Chris Sale, David Price and J.D. Martinez. They won a World Series. The Dodgers got Manny Machado and Yu Darvish, who helped them to two World Series appearances. The Indians paid big for Andrew Miller, who was key to a World Series appearance. And finally the Cubs gave up Gleyber Torres, a budding star, to acquire Aroldis Chapman, who they would not have won the World Series without.
What have the Yankees done over the last two trade deadlines? Sonny Gray was admittedly a splash, but didn’t work out. J.A. Happ and Zack Britton were helpful, but not difference-makers. Lance Lynn and Jaime Garcia didn’t win any playoff games. The last time the Yankees made a big trade deadline move, acquiring Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, they all played huge roles on a team one win away from a World Series.
Nothing is more painful than watching rivals win championships (and eliminating your team on the way). The Yankees need to look at how the last three World Series have been won – sacrificing value and going all-in for the sake of a championship – and must follow that. Getting the Mike Minors and Zack Wheelers of the world may not move the needle enough for this year’s team.
Those guys have been mentioned as popular targets in part because they’d be cheap to acquire. Neither player’s salary exceeds $10 million and Minor has a year left on his deal. Admittedly, those are perks. It’s always nice to get some bang for your buck. However, when put this way, the answer becomes clear:
Who are you more scared of seeing as a potential Astro in a 7-game series against Houston? Madison Bumgarner or Mike Minor/Zack Wheeler? Yankees fans would likely feel very confident about facing one of the latter in a playoff match, but Bumgarner would present an intimidating, game-changing adversary. That’s a guy that the Yankees can’t afford to lose to Houston, the same way they let Verlander and Cole slip through their fingers.
The Astros gave up lots of money and lots of prospects to get those guys, but their fans sure aren’t complaining now. The Red Sox might miss the playoffs this year, but that’s OK because of last year’s ring. The Cubs gave up the chance at developing Gleyber Torres to address their one glaring weakness, and they snapped an 108-year curse in the process. A ring really makes it all worthwhile – sometimes, you’ve got to say goodbye to future assets to capitalize on the present.
Who might the Yankees be giving up in a trade? Clint Frazier is an MLB starter, but not on these Yankees. If he has no future here, then he’s trade bait. Estevan Florial has a world of potential, but can’t seem to stay healthy. He might not be MLB-ready until 2021. The Yankees can’t wait that long on potential if there’s a chance to win now in front of them.
Even Deivi Garcia, who looks like the best pitching prospect the Yankees have had since Luis Severino, should be on the table in the right move. If the Yankees had a chance to acquire Noah Syndergaard, a proven frontline starter with several years of control, they’d be foolish not to. While I’m not making it a priority to trade Garcia, the point I’m making is that nobody should be off-limits. You have to give to get.
The Yankees’ potential postseason rotation is kind of a mess: other than Masahiro Tanaka, there’s not a single starter you can trust right now. While adding anyone will help, this team needs a difference-maker to truly get over the hump. If Marcus Stroman, Mike Minor and Zack Wheeler can be difference-makers, then all the power to the Yankees for hanging onto their top prospects and getting excellent return on investment.
However, if the Yankees end up getting one of those guys because they weren’t willing to pay the price for Bumgarner, Syndergaard or Trevor Bauer, then the Yankees handled the trade deadline wrong. We know that the Dodgers and Astros aren’t afraid to flex their muscles, and they will certainly nab one of those guys if the Yankees don’t. After years of getting burned by guys like Verlander and Cole, players the Yankees could have had but didn’t get for budget and prospect reasons, I would not be able to stomach Bumgarner, Bauer or Syndergaard in Houston orange.
The Yankees’ championship window has already been open for two fruitless years, years that have ended with rivals winning the championship. If the Yankees are serious about changing that narrative, they’ll need to be fearless at the trade deadline and not be too cautious about pinching pennies or hugging prospects.
After all, that’s not how the Cubs, Astros and Red Sox got gaudy rings on their fingers.