The Yankees were big buyers at the trade deadline, having committed to winning now by trading prospects and winning later by making long-term acquisitions. Now, sitting in a favorable position to make the playoffs, every ounce of contribution the Yankees can get will be needed to finish down the stretch.
There is help coming to the roster soon with Starlin Castro, Greg Bird, and Matt Holliday on the rehab trail, but every avenue that can provide assistance should be considered. To that end, it is worth wondering who could be brought in before the waiver deadline at the end of the month in order to further improve the team.
Following the non-waiver trade deadline, the appeal for many of the players available falls off considerably. While there is still talent that can improve or even drastically deepen a lineup or rotation (see Joey Votto and Giancarlo Stanton), they’re usually tied to contracts that range from burdens to fireable offenses for general managers.
If a player wasn’t traded before the deadline, and it’s not due to an ugly contract, it’s likely because he hasn’t been very good in 2017. With an additional month to make an impression or turn a corner, many teams have placed their underperformers on waivers with the hope that another team sees a rebound coming and will part with a decent prospect or two.
With that said, what players on the waiver wire could the Yankees feasibly consider putting on the field for the remainder of the season? Joey Votto is certainly a quality player at a position of need, and one that could reasonably be expected to be worth his contract, even with some expected decline. However, the Yankees feel that Greg Bird can return in 2017 and hold down the job going forward. Votto is also due to make $25 million a year through 2023, which the Yankees are absolutely not doing. The Reds would also want a huge haul if they were moving their MVP, so an August trade is unlikely.
Justin Verlander is a complex option. On one hand, he was second only to Rick Porcello in the Cy Young voting last year, and is a few years removed from being the best pitcher in baseball. On the other, he’s 34 years old with 13 seasons under his belt, and at that age it’s hard to ignore the regression he’s had (8-8, 4.11 ERA, 4.18 FIP). Add in the fact that he’s signed through 2019 at $28 million a year, and Verlander becomes the biggest gamble on the table.
While the Yankees have a surplus of starting pitching this season, we’ve seen that health can be a volatile equation. With CC Sabathia and Jaime Garcia pending free agents, and Masahiro Tanaka set to join them if he opts out of his contract, Verlander will be one to debate all the way to the deadline.
The bullpen has already been improved this season, and there are few spots left to add to it, but one option that the Yankees could consider is AJ Ramos. The Mets reliever was acquired midseason from the Marlins for their 9th and 22nd ranked prospects, and he figures to be a part of the Mets 2018 plans.
If the Yankees can actually convince the Mets to turn around on Ramos and take a prospect upgrade, they may be tempted. It would be the least necessary of all the moves the Yankees could make, but if Aroldis Chapman continues to struggle, they may feel compelled to attempt it to preserve the super-bullpen. Still, it’s hard to see a deal with the Mets going down when they already shot themselves in the foot in order to avoid dealing a player to the Bronx.
The Yankees have until the end of the month to consider their options if they want to add someone who will be eligible for the playoff roster. The team already claimed Marco Estrada from the Blue Jays before he was pulled back, but they will certainly be weighing their options in the days to come.
There might not be much room to make another major trade, but the team could pick up any number of incremental upgrades in the days ahead. Whatever happens by September 1st will solidify the roster for the playoff chase.