The Yankees have been swirled in trade rumors for almost every available (and non-available) starting pitcher out there. Options on the table vary in terms of handedness, age, and control, from Marcus Stroman and Trevor Bauer, to Madison Bumgarner and Robbie Ray, just to name a few. Despite all the gossip, what if the Yankees aren’t “in love” with any of their choices?
In early July, Brian Cashman said, “I’d love to add pitching if I can. Whether it’s the bullpen, rotation, just reinforce our pitching, and get our pitching that’s hurt healthy and have the pitching we currently have stay healthy.” Could he be hinting that he’ll consider the returns of Luis Severino and Dellin Betances as his second half “acquisitions”? It may not be the most popular of moves among Yankee fans, but Jon Heyman has reported that the Yankees may load up on the bullpen if they don’t see any of the possible trade candidates significantly helping their cause:
Yankees not very involved for Mike Minor who has no-trade to them. They exchanged names in Stroman talks but see him and Robbie Ray as mid-rotation guys. Other options: could wait it out for MadBum (if SF starts to lose) or go heavy with pen, bulking up a strength.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 25, 2019
While deciding to not add to the team’s biggest weakness might not be ideal, we have seen Cashman bulk up on a team strength this season when it wasn’t necessarily needed. In mid-June the Yankees traded for Edwin Encarnacion, who leads the league in homers. At the time, the Yanks had the eighth-best wRC+ (106), 11th-best slugging percentage (.447), and the 11th-best on-base percentage (.332) in all of baseball, despite missing huge chunks of their starting lineup for long periods of time.
New York wasn’t in dire need for more offense, not with a cavalcade of talented sluggers poised to return from the injured list, but Cashman saw a deal he couldn’t resist. We could also look back at the addition of Giancarlo Stanton to an already potent lineup coming off a pennant run in 2017. Stanton had just won the NL MVP award while playing the same position, and with the same general style of play, as the Yankees’ best player that year, Aaron Judge.
As of now, the Blue Jays and Yankees are not involved in serious talks for Stroman, but they could start talking about Toronto’s relief pitcher, Ken Giles. In 34 innings, he sports a 1.54 FIP and 58 strikeouts, and in the age of the home run, he’s surrendered just two this year. He’s also leaving an astounding 90.6% runners on base. Cashman could also pivot outside of the division and take a peek at Kirby Yates, Will Smith, Shane Greene, or the many other relievers on the block.
Of course, we don’t have to look far to see examples of the Yankees doubling, or tripling, down on their bullpen despite areas of need elsewhere. The Yankees signed Adam Ottavino and Zack Britton this offseason, not Patrick Corbin or Nathan Eovaldi, to augment their pitching staff. They traded for Britton last year despite already having a super bullpen. The year before, they traded for David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle midseason, even when in possession of a dominant relief corps at that time as well.
If Cashman is not satisfied with the choices presented to him in the starting pitching market, he could very well stack up on bullpen arms and maybe even some more offense. He’s focused on strengthening a strength before. This would be a bit of a shocker and is still unlikely to actually happen, but if it does, don’t say you weren’t warned.