At 39-38, the Cincinnati Reds are in a similar position as the New York Yankees are. In the National League Central, the Reds are 7 games out, while only 3 out of the final Wild Card spot. The Reds have been hit by the injury bug this season, just as the Yankees have. The difference is, when the Yankees make mistakes, they have the money to make up for it. With the Reds, not so much. When things don’t work out, they are stuck with what they have until the next off-season.
By now, everyone who follows the Yankees, and for that matter baseball, is well aware of three things: 1. Masahiro Tanaka is the real deal. 2. The Yankees made a mistake letting Robinson Cano walk away. 3. The starting rotation is poor to say the least, sans Tanaka. The Reds are most likely looking to sell off a few parts with the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline approaching. The Reds have two pieces the Yankees SHOULD have a high amount of interest in, and just enough minor league pieces to for the Reds to bite.
The first and probably most important piece the Yankees should focus on acquiring, is right-handed starting pitcher, Mat Latos. Prior to the San Diego Padres dealing Latos to the Reds, the Yankees were one of the teams heavily involved in trade talks, trying to pry away the young pitcher away from the Friars. Unfortunately for the Yankees, they balked at the demands of the Padres (Jesus Montero, Dellin Betances, or Manny Banuelos). History has taught us that the Yankees missed the boat several times with using Montero as trade bait at least once (Cliff Lee), and instead ended up with a problem of their own (Michael Pineda).
Latos has dealt with elbow issues for most of the season, and the one-time ace of the Padres, might be available for less of an asking price than previously sought due to those elbow issues. Instead of emptying the farm for the 26-year-old, a handful of second-tier prospects and one top prospect might do the trick. Latos has thrown 18 2/3 innings in 2014, with a 1-0 record and a 2.89 ERA. He still has electric stuff, and would make an excellent addition to the Yankees’ rotation. Perhaps a deal centering on the now troubled Gary Sanchez, or one of the other catching prospects, along with a Peter O’Brien and a Rafael DePaula snags Latos. But…we’re not done with this deal just yet.
While Yankees’ fans may still not wish to admit it, but the team made a serious mistake allowing Robinson Cano to walk away. For the money he was given, it was a smart financial decision, but from a performance standpoint, the team misses his middle-of-the-order bat. Especially with the underachieving debut seasons of Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran in the Bronx, along with the limited mobility and lack of defensive prowess from Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson.
This is where the second piece from the Reds comes into play. The Yankees turned down the offer of Brandon Phillips for Brett Gardner deal this past winter. Again, the team was right to do so. Phillips is still owed a pretty good chunk of change ($39 million AFTER this season). There was also speculation that the Yankees scoffed at Phillips because of his outspokenness, and his so-called “bad attitude.”
As of this writing, Phillips is on pace for one of his worst statistical seasons with the bat (.274/12/70). That’s fine. It just makes him easier to acquire. Defense is what the Yankees should be looking at, and in 322 total chances, he’s made…wait for it…1 error, along with 130 put outs, 191 assists, and possessing a range factor of 4.46. Completely worth the low double-digit millions he’s being paid. Anything Phillips would provide with the bat, is just icing on the cake to an already anemic middle infield at the plate.
Phillips would immediately be a defensive upgrade, and allow the Yankees to waive Roberts, and to put Johnson back into the role he was signed to perform: super-utility. And the cost in terms of prospects? Not as high as one might think. With the amount of money still owed, that would lower the asking price in terms of prospects for the Reds. The more money Cincy was willing to eat to part with the Gold Glove winner, the better the prospects.
The Yankees and their fans have to be realistic. The Bombers rarely use their own talent at the major league level anymore. As long as Brian Cashman continues to run the show, nothing will change. The minor league talent that does develop, has to be used to augment the big league roster with proven big league players. That is where an Aaron Judge, an Ian Clarkin, etc., comes into play. The one untouchable in this minor league system has to be Luis Severino. With the Yankees’ deep pockets, Hal Steinbrenner’s so-called willingness to spend to keep this team competitive this season, and just enough minor league talent to pry away second-tier big league talent, this deal should be an automatic.