The Runner Sports

The Struggling Yankees Have A Big Question At The Trade Deadline: To Buy Or Not To Buy?

The scuffling New York Yankees seem to be in a freefall. Since the beginning of June, the Yankees are 14-19. They lost first place in the AL East and barely hold a slight edge of the Kansas City Royals for the first Wild Card spot. Despite having a rookie putting up MVP numbers and a surprising starting rotation, the Yankees are beginning to be bogged down by their minor flaws. Lack of first base production, injuries, and lack of quality bullpen depth have been the dragging the Yankees down recently. The injuries and the bullpen have been the biggest calling cards for this recent decline. While the offense is one of the most productive in MLB (third most in runs scored), the bullpen and lack of depth is starting to wear. That leaves general manager, Brian Cashman, a very difficult decision: whether or not to add at the trade deadline?

In most cases, the idea would be to push some chips into the middle of the table and go for it. Aaron Judge is having a historic season in his rookie year. Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery have been leading the rotation as Masahiro Tanaka is beginning to figure things out. The club has five All-Stars this season, with Didi Gregorius missing out in the Final Vote. Producing at an impressive offensive clip, the Yankees might be a move or two away from solidifying the 2017 roster for a postseason run.

However, Brian Cashman has to look past the 2017 season. Looking at the current roster, does it seem like a team who can truly contend for a World Series? The playoffs are great, but the Yankees are chasing a championship. Are the Yankees truly a move or two away from hoisting up the Commissioner’s Trophy? While the argument can be made that acquiring a strong bullpen arm or starting pitcher would help the Yankees contend, the competition is stiff. Within the AL, the Yankees would presumably have to go through both the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox. Against the Astros, the Yankees are only 2-5 while faring much better against the Sox at 4-1. That is not even mentioning the NL, who has strong teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Washington Nationals.

The Ultimate Debate: Unknown Prospects vs. Short-Term Help

For any team approaching the trade deadline, the ultimate question for the GM is whether sacrificing a potential key player to the team is worth a veteran who can help now. Currently, the Yankees sit in the pinnacle of that debate. With an organization that is brimming with potential talent (second ranked MLB team in prospects), the Yankees could realistically trade for whoever they wanted. Theoretically, Mike Trout could be an option if the Yankees literally sold their farm system. In more realistic terms, a combination of a couple of prospects could land the team any player on the trading block. Whether that is a rental player such as Yonder Alonso or Jeremy Hellickson or a long-term option such as Jose Quintana, the Yankees could acquire anybody of their choosing.

However, should they? With the moves that Cashman made last season, the Yankees have the potential to have a young group of stars play in pinstripes for the next 3-5 years. With prospects like Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield, Jorge Mateo, and others, a future roster filled with those guys could be something special. Do the Yankees sacrifice that for a chance to contend this season?

Problems with Adding at the Trade Deadline

No Guarantees

Though prospects can be deemed a question mark on whether they will be good or not, a veteran player has an MLB track record to hang his resume on. This would suggest that making a deal to acquire a veteran would simply imply putting that player’s statistics into the current fold. However, that is not always the case. Sometimes, a player can be traded from one team to another and their good season or career numbers forget to travel with them.

For example, Jay Bruce was an All-Star for the Cincinnati Reds last season. His batting average was .265 with 25 home runs and 80 RBIs with the Reds. At the trade deadline, the New York Mets acquired him to add some offensive firepower to their weaker lineup. In 50 games with the Mets, Bruce only had 19 RBIs with a .219 batting average. This season has been a rebound for the slugger (21 home runs with a .256 batting average), but he did not bring over the same production that he did in 2016. That is the most recent example of a team not getting what they hoped. While Bruce had another season left on his deal, what if he was only a rental? That would have been a huge blunder on the part of the Mets. That is the risk that teams take when trading for veterans.

Losing Out on Future Stars

MLB history is full of trades that look heavily lopsided in hindsight. While the “buying” team might have received immediate help or success from the deal, the talent that they shipped out turned into key players for the “selling” team. For example, in 1997 the Seattle Mariners traded for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb from the Boston Red Sox. Slocumb, who had a 5.79 ERA at the time of the deal, did not pan out well for the Mariners. Who did the Red Sox receive in return? Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek. Varitek, who would go on to be a key player in two World Series championships for the Red Sox, and Lowe, who won 20 games twice for the Red Sox, were steals in this deal.

With an organization filled with young talent, the Yankees are in serious danger of becoming a bad footnote in the history of a player’s career. Even if adding a player at the trade deadline helped the Yankees get to the ALCS or further, the potential disaster of a player like Blake Rutherford going on to a great career with another team is the nightmare. Unless a move earns the Yankees a World Series, the odds might be that Cashman gives up a future star or two for a player who helped the team win the Wild Card Game.

Problems with Holding Off at the Trade Deadline

Only 2017 is Mildly Certain

Currently, the New York Yankees sit in the postseason picture. If this rough stretch is only a bad run of games, then the Yankees will most likely make the postseason in some capacity. What about next season? How about 2020? Will the Yankees be contending then with all of their prospects at the MLB level? The answer is a blatant “I don’t know.” While holding off for the next crop of talent to come into their own is a nice idea, the practicality of it is not concrete.

Now, it would be easier for the Yankees to make a big splash if they were still 3-4 games up in the AL East. However, the playoffs certainly look strongly possibly. There is no way to know whether the Yankees will be good next season or beyond. People can guess, but that is all it is, a guess. Teams like the Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, and Chicago Cubs are examples of how waiting for young talent to grow and mature pays off. However, those teams took years to become strong teams with seasons of bringing up the rear. A better example to play off of is the Boston Red Sox, who seem to have a season of being terrible to “rebuild” before being contenders again.

Prospects are Even Less of a Guarantee

Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez, and Jordan Montgomery. Those are four players who are homegrown talent that are currently playing very well at the MLB level. Judge has set the Yankees’ rookie record with 29 home runs in early July, Sanchez is batting .289 with 40 RBIs despite missing a month, Severino has a 3.52 ERA, and Montgomery looks to be Andy Pettite. Three of these four players are All-Stars this season. Why am I stating this?

For every good to great MLB talent who was a top prospect, there are 5-10 prospects who turn out to be duds. For every Gary Sanchez, there is a Jesus Montero. Every Lance McCullers has a Mark Appel. Simply placing the title of top prospect on a player does not guarantee MLB success. The Yankees have lucked out with four young players who have been successful at the MLB level. However, what are the odds that this will continue? Torres, Frazier, Mateo, Sheffield, and Miguel Andujar all look like great players. However, things happen that prevent success. Torres, Sheffield, and fifth-ranked (within the organization) pitching prospect James Kaprielan all are injured. Both Torres and Kaprielan have had Tommy John surgery this year. Whether it is injuries or simply poor play, not every prospect is the next Hall of Famer.

What Should Brian Cashman Do?

In an article in the New York Post from Friday, Ken Davidoff states that the Yankees need to play out this season as is and not jeopardize the future. Davidoff says that the Yankees can add a minor addition, such as Lucas Duda, but to stay away from a major splash.

Personally, I tend to agree with Davidoff in a sense. The Yankees should not make a major splash at the trade deadline this season. Now, if there is a deal for someone like Jose Quintana that does not involve trading away half of the top ten prospects, then that would be a move that should make fans happy. By someone like Quintana, I mean a great player (Quintana is still a great pitcher despite his 4.45 ERA this season) that has at least one more season left on his deal.

However, the odds of that are low since the demand for those players will be high with teams like Red Sox, Dodgers, Astros, and Nationals in a definitive buy now mode. With that said, the Yankees should (and need to) make one move. While acquiring a first baseman would be nice, it is not needed. Even with the struggles of Chris Carter and Greg Bird (along with the injury to Tyler Austin), there is not a need to salvage that position. The Yankees have yet to be shutout in a game this season and are a top 5 team in almost every offensive category. Watching Carter strike out 76 times is aggravating, but not a huge detriment.

Add Bullpen Depth

While Davidoff believes that the bullpen will sort itself out, I am not so sure of that. Adam Warren came off the DL on Tuesday, Tyler Clippard has had his struggles, and Dellin Betances walked four straight batters on Wednesday. Other than Aroldis Chapman, the bullpen (as of late) has looked weak. The Yankees need to add a bullpen piece at the trade deadline. Rumored relievers available have been Brad Hand, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, and Pat Neshek. Any one of these relievers could massively help the Yankees.

At the right price, the Yankees could help solidify the bullpen that is missing a tall, lanky left-handed reliever who is in Cleveland right now. While there is a rumor that the San Diego Padres are trying to tempt the Yankees trade Torres for Hand, that is not the move that the team will make. A cheaper option that only gives up a lesser notable prospect will be ideal.

The rotation might not be great, but the starters keep the Yankees in games where the offense struggles early or holds leads that the offense has built. In this bad stretch, the bullpen has let the team down more so than anything. That is what needs to be fixed for the 2017 Yankees.

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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