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Yankees Trade Deadline Recap: Aimless wanderings

A general lack of activity in any direction symbolizes this Yankees team quite well.

Cleveland Guardians v New York Yankees Photo by New York Yankees/Getty Images

The 2023 MLB Trade Deadline was not the noisiest we’ve ever seen, but there were still some surprise approaches from teams, and a few big names being shipped out. Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer were dealt from the Mets, the Angels doubled down on Shohei Ohtani’s potential walk year, the Dodgers and Blue Jays added some complimentary pieces, and there was more movement with contenders around the league.

The Yankees, however, stood mostly pat, and couldn’t quite land on a direction for the deadline. They did make a few small moves before the 6pm ET deadline, but none that truly help this squad one way or another. This lack of direction only emphasizes the uncomfortable position they find themselves in for the 2023 season, and perhaps beyond.

As mentioned, there wasn’t a total lack of activity at this year’s deadline. Even some of the names rumored to be linked with the Yankees were traded, they just didn’t land in the Bronx. And to make things all the more regrettable, the potential Yankees who could have been traded away stayed put to play out the string on what’s looking more and more like a long-shot playoff team (at best). It all just signifies this palpable lack of direction.

Randal Grichuk, an above-average hitter who would’ve helped the Yankees current situation, was shipped to the Angels along with C.J. Cron. As noted earlier, the Halos became somewhat-surprise buyers, as they also acquired Lucas Giolito from the White Sox. Jeimer Candelario, who could have helped patch another hole on the Yankees’ roster, was sent to the North Side of Chicago to help the Cubs make a push in the winnable NL Central. The White Sox surprisingly sent slugger Jake Burger to the Marlins.

Many of the bigger starting pitchers on the market also moved to places other than New York. The two Texas squads added big, as the Astros re-acquired Verlander, while the Rangers added the services of Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery. Similar things happened in southern California with the Angels’ addition of Giolito and the Dodgers’ of Lance Lynn. In the AL East, the Rays made a slightly smaller splash in their trade for Aaron Civale, but it was a move nonetheless.

A common thread between all of these dealt potential Yankee-helpers? None of them became Yankees. At the buzzer, they did add a couple of smaller-name players, however. They acquired relief pitcher Keynan Middleton from the White Sox, a 29-year-old who owns a 3.96 ERA and 4.59 FIP in 36.1 innings this year. They also added Spencer Howard, a once highly-touted pitching prospect who has yet to find anything close to success in the big leagues.

It is certainly possible that there could be some diamond-in-the-rough potential with either of these guys, but even if it were to work out, neither would be a real difference maker. These would only make much sense if they were at the tail end of a flurry of other deals. On their own, these moves seem likely to be negligible and only affect the bullpen — which while not as strong as it was earlier in 2023 is hardly the Yankees’ biggest issue.

Now, this all would not be quite so concerning, as they sit in last place in their division and 3.5 games out of the Wild Card, if they sold on some level, even on just a couple of their pending free agents. But they didn’t do that either.

Gleyber Torres was confirmed to be staying put a few hours before the deadline, and New York couldn’t find the right offer for Clay Holmes, Michael King, or Harrison Bader. All in all, the deadline amounted to pretty much nothing for the Yankees, a team that likely should’ve made a decision one way or another.

So, what does this (mostly) stagnant approach mean? For the 2023 Yankees, a deadline of this nature feels only fitting. Are they bad? No, they’re 55-52, and even now, they remain an attainable distance from getting into the postseason. But even more importantly, are they good? The answer is also likely something close to no.

It obviously isn’t impossible that some guys regain their form, Aaron Judge sticks around, the non-Gerrit Cole pitchers find some life and the Yankees make a nice run, but I wouldn’t quite hold my breath. It may have been more likely had they added at the deadline, maybe Candelario and a pitcher or something, but that simply didn’t happen. Or perhaps they didn’t like their odds, and the Yanks decided to flip a few of their tradeable players. It’s never fun to essentially throw in the towel, but it would at least provide some direction. It’s probably better to go 84-78 with a destination in mind than to go 86-76 with some mostly false hope.

From the sounds of it, the Yankees couldn’t seem to find any significant help they liked out on the market:

Nor were they willing to part with any of their potential trade chips for the prices they were getting:

It’s hard to imagine being so picky about the possible returns for the likes of Bader, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Wandy Peralta, and Luis Severino. There’s a decent chance that none of them are members of the 2024 team since they’re pending free agents, and none were performing so valuably that they’d be essential to the pennant chase. Still, the Yankees refused to pick a direction and all the players remained.

The best thing to do now, is hope that things can turn around as they are. There is a lot of season left, and the Yankees are at least getting back some important players back from injury. Nothing is out of the question, but as things stand, a mostly quiet ‘23 trade deadline perfectly symbolizes how this team has felt on the field.