The Yankees are one game over .500 midway through the season. They missed the playoffs last season. There were 42-39 at this point a year ago. The current Yankees are 2.5 games out of first in the American League East and three games back in the Wild Card race. They are certainly in contention for a playoff spot, despite the fact they have a run differential of -32. Parity across the sport is the only reason the Yankees are still in contention. In reality, they are a mediocre team who is not worthy of a playoff spot. Even if they make the playoffs, does anyone believe they can do much in the playoffs?
There has been a lot of talk about the Yankees looking to add a starting pitcher and a power bat to the team before the trading deadline to help the team make the playoffs. And any additions would certainly help, but at what cost? This is an average team that can really only be marginally improved by the players available at the trade deadline and the cost of players and prospects is going to be sky high. Even if the Yankees make two big trades for a big time pitcher like Jeff Samardzija and a power hitter like Chase Headley, the Yankees would still not be favorites to win the World Series. They would probably still be ticketed for a first round playoff exit.
“I’m ready to rock-and-roll, I think certain pieces — and it’s been communicated (that they’re available) if they get what they want, which would be an extreme call — then they’re ready to move sooner than later. For those who want to step up and really pay the price, obviously it’s going to be a higher price.”
~GM Brian Cashman told reporters on Monday (h/t Chad Jennings, The LoHud Yankees Blog)
For such a minimal return, why use the capital to make those trades? Maybe the Yankees need to be sellers at the deadline and trade away some of their older pieces and restock the farm system. It would effectively be punting on Derek Jeter‘s last season in pinstripes and it would certainly be unfair to him, but he will be gone next season no matter what happens, and GM Brian Cashman needs to plan for not just 2014, but 2015, 2016, 2020 and so on.
With the trade market overrun with buyers and few sellers, the Yankees might even be able to see a higher return on their investment than they could reasonably expect. It would be interesting what kind of return they could get for veterans Brian Roberts, Alfonso Soriano, Hiroki Kuroda, Kelly Johnson, Francisco Cervelli or Ichiro. They could part with some of their replacement starters, Vidal Nuno, David Phelps or Chase Whitley. It might even be possible to find takers for some of the enormous contracts still on the books like CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, or Carlos Beltran. No one should be untouchable.
Adding payroll and sacrificing prospects for a trade that will only make the team marginally better seems shortsighted to me. If there was a big time trade that would make the Yankees favorites to win the World Series this season, I would be all for it. However, I don’t see such a trade occurring. When you look around the majors for those types of impact trades, few realistic scenarios exist. The Rays will not make a deal to send David Price and Ben Zobrist to the Yankees. It is unlikely that the Tigers trade Max Scherzer ahead of free agency, especially not to the Yankees. The more realistic possibilities of trades for Jason Hammel or Ian Kennedy or someone of that nature simply do not make the Yankees better. If the best you can do is turn a borderline playoff team in to a first round loss playoff team, it’s not worth it. Better to scrap everything and put the team in position to win in the future.