As the trade deadline draws near, the Yankees will intensify their hunt for pitching. “I’d love to add pitching if I can,” Brian Cashman told Erik Boland of Newsday in London last month. Hal Steinbrenner made similar comments, telling reporters that pitching depth was an area of concern. While the two executives spoke generally, new details provide some insight into the organization’s line of thinking.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required), the Yankees had Tim Naehring, Vice President of Baseball Operations, in Cincinnati over the weekend to scout Indians right-handed pitcher Trevor Bauer. He believes that Cleveland would be open to moving the starter under the correct circumstances, too:
The Yankees are considering a number of pitching upgrades, both starting and relief. The Indians entered the break on a six-game winning streak to improve to 50-38 and pull within 5 1/2 games of the Twins, their smallest deficit since May 20. But it is not out of the question they would move Bauer, particularly if they acquired major-league help in return.
Rosenthal notes that Clint Frazier checks off those boxes, but the Yankees insist they will not trade the outfielder for a pitcher without multiple years of control. Bauer will hit free agency after the 2020 season. This news, however, jives with Mark Feinsand’s recent reporting that Cleveland would like to get Frazier back. The smoke between the clubs figures to only grow in the coming weeks.
Bauer, 28, has pitched to a 3.61 ERA with a 4.10 FIP in 132 innings this season. He strikes out a good number of batters (10.16 K/9), but he also gives up a fair amount of home runs (1.16 HR/9). Additionally, Bauer is posting a below-average groundball rate (39.9%). Those numbers are more in line with his career norms than his phenomenal 2018 campaign. Last season he ranked among the game’s best starters, registering a 2.21 ERA (2.44 FIP) with excellent peripherals across the board. He finished sixth in the Cy Young voting.
Any discussion of a Bauer trade, however, must mention his makeup concerns. He has a lengthy history of combative behavior on Twitter and a confrontational relationship with the media. Sometimes he does both in a single tweet. The Yankees recently saw how the New York media treated Frazier when he didn’t take questions following a bad game. Amplifying that about 10 times and you may get a sense of what their relationship with Bauer would look like.
We’ll have a more in-depth trade target post on Bauer in the coming weeks. In the meantime, it stands to reason the Yankees have a level of serious interest in him. They sent one of their top executives to watch him pitch. The club has a need for pitching, and the front office has demonstrated that they will overlook makeup concerns for the right talent at the right price (see Aroldis Chapman.) This rumor passes all the sniff tests, and it is something worth monitoring as the month progresses.