For the first time in days, even weeks, there are good sensations about the Yankees. Yes, it was the Royals, but they just completed a series sweep and are no longer alone in last place of the AL East. Anthony Rizzo had a breakout day, Aaron Judge is inching closer to a return, and other contributors who had been hurt are already back in the lineup. There are reasons to be optimistic, even if the Yanks are flawed.
With the trade deadline a little over a week away, the Bombers can either make a statement or keep fighting off mediocrity and conceding that they are probably not going to be serious World Series contenders as currently constructed. When fully healthy, they are good, but not better than multiple teams in the American League. They need reinforcements even if Judge makes a successful return.
The most likely scenario has the Yanks adding a couple of low-to-mid profile bats and perhaps a reliever at the deadline. There is also an outside chance they bring in a third baseman now that Josh Donaldson is virtually out for the season.
If they really want other teams to fear them, and if they are willing to part with quality prospects they could try to swing a deal for Cardinals star third baseman Nolan Arenado. The man who makes the calls in St. Louis, John Mozeliak, has implied they are willing to listen to offers for all players: they are 44-56 and unlikely to make the playoffs at this point.
The biggest roadblock towards a potential deal, however, could be Arenado’s salary and not so much the potential compensation going to St. Louis. He is good, but very expensive and not exactly super young. That makes Arenado a highly unlikely target: he is 32 and still owed a lot of money from the nine-year, $275 million contract he signed in 2019.
Arenado has a $35 million salary in 2023 (the Yanks would pay a prorated amount of that number if they acquire him) and 2024, and a $32 million price tag in 2025. The number goes down to $27 million in 2026 and $15 million in 2027, and then he hits the market. In reality, the painful part of the deal salary-wise should be 2024-25. As stated, the production is still there, though.
After the games on May 2nd, Arenado was slashing .233/.280/.310 and it looked like he was cooked. But after Sunday, he is slashing .291/.340/.523 with 21 home runs and 76 RBI. That’s excellent production as it is, but compared to what the Yankees have gotten from the third base spot this year he would look like prime Chipper Jones.
From May 2nd to this point, Arenado has proven he is still an elite batter. He has hit .318/.366/.620 with 19 round-trippers and a .986 OPS since then, a span that covers 284 plate appearances. That’s really impressive. His performance has been improving every month and his xwOBA progression proves it:
At this point, saying that Arenado was a product of Coors Field would be silly when he doesn’t call that park home since 2020 and he is still having highly productive years. Yes, he is not a 40-homer hitter anymore, but is still capable of hitting near .300 and boasts 30-homer power.
The multiple Gold and Platinum Glove award winner has a -5 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and a -1 OAA (Outs Above Average) this year, a shocking decline considering his past performance and reputation. Still, every team would love to have an Arenado at third base even though he is not the defensive monster he used to be.
If the Yankees are not going to make an addition that clearly improves the outlook of the offense at third base, they should leave Oswald Peraza there and let him develop. Arenado, however, would definitely improve the outlook of the lineup considerably and is worth at least trying.
The Cardinals are obviously not going to give him away, and if they feel a trade doesn’t improve the long-term outlook of the franchise, they can just keep him and try to compete again next year. But if they are willing to talk business and the Yanks are willing to absorb the punch of dealing young talent and/or MLB-ready pieces (not to mention accept another large contract), they would be smart to engage into negotiations.