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Being more than one player away shouldn’t stop the Yankees from getting better now

The “more than a player away” argument only makes sense in the case of rentals and short-term acquisitions.

Seattle Mariners v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

The Yankees aren’t one player away from anything. I know this, you know this, Brian Cashman knows this. They might be good this year, they should be better than they were last year, and they could end up contending this year. But on paper this is a team with more questions than answers and a team that is in transition. What they’re not, though, is an awful team.

As last year’s August and September squad showed us, this team has talent. Greg Bird and Matt Holliday at first base and designated hitter should drastically improve the offense which will be anchored by Gary Sanchez. The back end of the bullpen has one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball with Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman, and the middle is in more than capable hands with Tyler Clippard and likely Adam Warren. The rotation, however, is what could make or break this year.

The situation may not be as bad as it seems, outside of Masahiro Tanaka there’s not much to be excited about. Even then, Tanaka can, and likely will, opt-out next year. While the Yankees would still be wise to re-sign him, having another top pitcher on the staff could ease some pressure from the Yankees.

That’s where someone like Jose Quintana or Sonny Gray, even with his bad 2016, could potentially come into play. While one may agree or disagree with the notion that Quintana would make this team instant contenders, it’d be difficult to say that he wouldn’t make this team instantly better. And if all the pieces of the puzzle fall in the right spot, this team could definitely make a run. Still though, if they acquired Quintana there’s still a lot to count on.

“Can Sanchez continue to be the offensive powerhouse he was last year?”

“Can Bird return to form after over a year away from the big leagues?”

“Can Aaron Judge adjust?”

“Will Headley have another historically awful start and how will the Yankees deal with Castro’s cold streaks?”

All fine and valid questions and concerns. And again, the team has more questions than it has answers. It’s not like the 2017 Yankees (at least right now) are last year’s Cubs who were a closer away from winning the World Series. That’s why Theo Epstein gave up so much to “rent” Chapman for a couple months. Again this team is not just one player away from anything. They need those questions to turn into answers and they still need a couple players. So then it makes sense to stay away from someone like Quintana or Gray, right? Wrong.

The “not a player away” argument doesn’t really hold any water if the player that’s being acquired is going to be around longer than a couple months to a year. Jose Quintana is one of the league’s best pitchers and is under control until 2020. Obviously a lot of the talk is surrounding Quintana because of Jon Morosi’s recent report that the Yankees were pursuing a trade for him. But even pursuing someone like Sonny Gray, even with his bad year, who is under team control until the same time makes sense.

If the Yankees truly don’t see themselves contending in the next four years, what even is the point of doing anything? But if they do see themselves competing in the next few years, getting players that could help then and now doesn’t hurt. I’m obviously not saying they need to gut the farm for one player and make it barren, but not every prospect pans out.

And even if collection the Yankees have do all happen to pan out, they won’t have room for everyone. Then what? We’re talking about a pitcher who is one of the best in the league, is in his prime, and would be on this team for four years at least. He’d be around for whenever the Yankees are poised to make their run.

Being more than one player away means there are multiple holes to fill. Makes sense. The only way those holes get plugged though, is by getting talent to put in there. The number doesn’t just magically dwindle down to one player away. Talent needs to be acquired to get there. Adding someone like Quintana or Gray, who are exactly the type of top-tier pitchers that the Yankees will need when they’re eventually ready to compete, would start the process of getting that number down to one or zero.

But why trade away prospects now when they could spend in free agency when they are ready to compete? Putting all the eggs in a potentially historic free agent market a couple years from now is a bad idea. Sure Clayton Kershaw, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Matt Harvey are slated to be free agents at the same time. But extensions happen, and even if they don’t, that doesn’t guarantee they’ll come to the Yankees. New York is still a top destination for free agents, but it’s not the only one.

Contenders aren’t built in one offseason. It takes a years of work to get there. This isn’t some quiz that you can study for the night before and hope to just wing it. This is that big final exam that you need to actually sit down and study for over a period of time. So why not start now? It’s the Yankees’ job to evaluate what their prospects’ talent is, and which of that talent they can afford to lose and for what cost. Sure it means risking losing out on some great young talent, but the return is nothing to scoff at either. No risk, no reward.