The Runner Sports

Prized Prospect For Pitching Depth? Yes, If The Yankees Are Competing In The AL East At The Trade Deadline

Currently, the New York Yankees sit on top of the AL East. Surprising most out of the gates, the Yankees could be potentially heading to familiar territory on July 31. While it is still only May and a lot can happen, there is a very real possibility the Yankees will be buyers at the trade deadline. Heading into the season, the thought was that the Yankees would have another selling season. Even if the Yankees were in the hunt for the Wild Card, the expectation would be that Brett Gardner or Chase Headley would be traded away to allow a prospect to have a spot on the MLB roster. However, that changes if the Yankees are sitting atop or near the top of the AL East heading into August. At that point, the Yankees will need to address any issues the team has.

First, Determine the Problem

At the moment, the Yankees do not have many flaws on the team. On paper, the rotation looks weak, but they have been over-performing. Luis Severino and Michael Pineda have been fantastic this season, with both having ERAs in the 3s. Masahiro Tanaka had a rough Opening Day start, but has been pitching well since then. His ERA is 4.46, but that will go down the more starts he racks up. C.C. Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery have been solid lefties out of the rotation as well.

First base looked to be a position where the Yankees thought they would have great production. Between Greg Bird’s Spring Training and Chris Carter’s power, the Yankees looked to have strong production from that corner. However, Bird and Carter have been disappointing. Bird, who is now on the DL with a right ankle bruise, was looking to establish himself as the Yankees’ permanent first baseman. However, a .100 batting average with only 1 HR is not going to cut it.

By the time late July rolls around, my guess is that the Yankees will need to add depth to the rotation. While they are performing greatly now, an injury or a downward turn for at least one of those guys is bound to happen.

A Caveat

Before I unveil my unconventional idea for the trade deadline, there is a major caveat to this. That is in the form of the two Aarons on the team. Both Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks have been fantastic out of the gates. Judge, who was the AL Rookie of the Month for April, is currently batting .337 with a lead league game 13 home runs and 28 runs scored. Hicks is batting .316 with 5 home runs in his limited amount of playing time. These statistics were taken before the Saturday’s game against the Chicago Cubs.

If these two can keep these numbers up at a reasonable level, then that is where my idea comes from. Judge does not need to hit 50 home runs or anything crazy like that. If both Judge and Hicks can bat around .275 with sufficient power (per their potential), then the Yankees have the biggest advantage at the trade deadline this year.

The Market of Starting Pitchers

The Yankees should address their starting pitching during the trade deadline if they are in the hunt for the AL East crown. Preferably, this would come in the form of a Jose Quintana or Gerrit Cole; a starting pitcher who has more than one year left on his current deal. While Quintana is a possibility, I severely doubt Cole will be available. The Pittsburgh Pirates seem to be having a down year, but I cannot foresee them trading away their best pitcher.

Looking at the market for bad teams with good pitchers coming up for free agency, there are a few contenders out for a trade at the deadline. The Texas Rangers, who have been surprisingly bad out of the gates, might be willing to part with Yu Darvish if they remain in the basement of the AL West. Currently, Darvish has a 2.76 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 7 starts. As a rental, Darvish is an ideal candidate.

Jason Vargas of the Kansas City Royals has had a strong start to the 2017 season. Though the Royals are dreadful so far, Vargas has been a bright spot. His 1.42 ERA is one of the best in the AL and he averages 6 innings per start. Vargas is an impending free agent and he would be another rental. One that would probably not involve giving up a great prospect.

Another contender for depth would be another Chicago White Sox pitcher: Derek Holland. As with Vargas, Holland has been strong out of the gates. He has a 2.02 ERA and a 1.037 WHIP so far this season. The concern here is that this is more of an anomaly than Vargas. Vargas has had a sub-4 ERA each of the past four seasons. Meanwhile, Holland has not had a sub-4 ERA season (not including an injured 2014) since 2013.

Going After Quintana or Cole is Preferred

Everybody would rather trade for a starter who is under team control for more than one season and is considered an ace. It’s obvious that the Yankees and their fans would rather see Quintana or Cole shipped over to the Bronx than Holland or Vargas. However, the idea is more so about the team control rather than the ace. The ace is important too, but the Yankees need starting pitchers who are under contract past this season. Sabathia and Pineda are free agents and Tanaka can opt out of his current deal. Even if Tanaka does not opt out, that is still two spots in the rotation potentially left empty.

Looking at the oncoming free agent class for starters, it is not promising. Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish would headline it, but Darvish is injury prone and Arrieta has struggled thus far (4.63 ERA). After that, it is pitchers such as Holland and Vargas. In a weak market (once Arrieta and Darvish sing especially), the contracts could be bad for mediocre pitchers.

Trade Clint Frazier or Blake Rutherford at the Deadline for Quintana or Cole

This is where the caveat comes into play. If the Yankees have two young outfielders playing at a high level, what is the point of having two great prospects in the system waiting in AAA? One is understandable. Judge or Hicks could turn dud out of nowhere and a top prospect can come up and replace them. But two is excessive honestly. Now, this is only if both Aarons are performing and the Yankees are in the hunt for the AL East crown.

Frazier or Rutherford will not have a spot on the MLB roster if Judge and Hicks keep performing. Both of those guys are young and Ellsbury is signed long term. Unless the Yankees want to eat the majority of that contract, the Yankees will not trade Ellsbury away. Add in the fact that Gleyber Torres or Jorge Mateo could be moved into the outfield as well, then there is an overflow of outfielders. Why not use one of the prized ones for a top starter?

To pick one, I would say Frazier. Yes, he was the big piece in the Andrew Miller trade (which I still do not agree with). However, he is the closer of the two to the MLB with Rutherford in A-ball. He has not hit over .300 at any level in the minors in his professional career. Could he be the next great thing? Maybe, but I would rather go with Aaron Judge over him. Frazier could be flipped for Quintana or Cole (along with other prospects) as the main piece of the deal.

I do not think Frazier should be traded for Darvish or any other “rental” player, though. The Yankees cannot be the Cubs from last season and give away a high caliber prospect for two months of a player. However, if the Yankees get to keep the player for 3-4 more seasons, then it is an ideal situation. Quintana could be on the team through 2020 and Cole would be a free agent after the 2019 season. Quintana is on a very friendly team contract and Cole still has two arbitration processes to go through. Both players would be cheaper than signing a free agent. Giving up Frazier might be a downer, but it makes more sense than to keep him stunted in AAA.

Griffin Fuller
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Griffin Fuller

Former Division 1 pitcher at Stetson University with an immense passion for the game of baseball. Grew up playing baseball from the age of 3. Student of the game of baseball in every aspect.Located out of Debary, Florida.
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Griffin Fuller
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