The Yankees didn't do much of anything at the trade deadline this year and with the Blue Jays breathing down their necks, many fans are annoyed about their inactions. Maybe they should have acquired Ben Zobrist or David Price or someone, and while I'm sure Brian Cashman tried to do it, a move like that just wasn't going to be possible if they didn't give up one of their top prospects. In the end, though, it would have been silly to give up Luis Severino because he's in the majors right now and could have a huge impact on the team on his own, but also Aaron Judge and Greg Bird as well because the team will need them in the near future.
For the first time in a long time, the Yankees didn't mortgage their future to improve today. They could have made deals like Toronto did, but coming into the month of August, the Yankees were in first place by a large margin, they were one of the best offenses in baseball, and their farm system was left intact. The Blue Jays might look awesome right now, but they had to give up a lot to get Tulo and Price, making their future not as bright as it potentially could have been for a chance to win right now. The Yankees didn't do that because they need Aaron Judge and Greg Bird to replace Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira.
Carlos Beltran is signed through the 2016 season and with Judge currently in Triple-A, it might only be another half-season before the outfield prospect is ready for the majors. Beltran has rebounded in 2015, but at 39 next year, it might not be so surprising to see Judge push the veteran onto the bench. You might think they just need another outfielder after the 2016 season and not necessarily Judge, but the free agent market is pretty empty after next season with Josh Reddick, Angel Pagan, and Gregor Blanco being the only slightly interesting names of the bunch. Unfortunately, Reddick has shown an inability to hit left-handed pitching as well as disinterest in being used as a platoon player, Pagan is always injured, and Blanco just doesn't seem like the type of guy the Yankees need in right field.
As for other prospects, New York has Jake Cave, who seems like a lesser Brett Gardner, and Mark Payton, whose offensive output is decreasing with each level he reaches. They also have Ben Gamel, but he's not likely to amount to much despite a career year in 2015. If the Yankees are going to use an internal option in right field at some point in the next year or two, it has to be Aaron Judge, whether he ends up working out or not.
The same goes for Greg Bird and first base. Mark Teixeira is under contract through the end of 2016, and while his comeback has made him into an MVP candidate, the Yankees don't have a history of re-signing their high-priced free agents, even when they leave on high notes, like Johnny Damon did in 2009 (h/t to Andrew for that comp). Trading away Bird would leave them with no internal alternative and a free agent pool headlined by Pedro Alvarez and James Loney, which would likely lead the Yankees to re-sign Teixeira to a short-term deal. Maybe those options aren't as bad as their outfield options, but there is still a better way.
The Yankees also need a stronger rotation than they have had in 2015. Severino is helping now, but Ivan Nova will be gone after 2016, and the rest of the rotation will be gone after 2017 (Masahiro Tanaka has an opt out clause). Like the Yankees did when they signed Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann, they should go all-in on Stephen Strasburg for the 2017 season. It's likely they will retain some of Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, and Tanaka, but shedding Beltran's $15 million after 2016 and Tex's $23 million after 2017 (along with CC Sabathia's contract) will free up plenty of money to go after Strasburg and pay for an extension or two before everyone leaves in free agency.
There is value in young players beyond the excitement and talent that comes along with them, there is also reduced overhead as Judge and Bird will only make the league minimum at first. Players like these help teams around baseball go after some of the best free agents in the game, and the cost-conscious Yankees could use a little payroll space to keep the team fresh with talent. Yes, I know it sounds silly for the New York Yankees to be worried about payroll space, but this is the world we live in now. Maybe Judge and/or Bird don't end up working out, or maybe one gets traded next year, but right now that is the plan and until something else comes along to make them reevaluate, that is what they're going to do. This is what we've been asking for for year, so let's enjoy it.