The July 31st trade deadline is upon us, and rumors of potential Yankees’ moves are flying like mosquitoes on a beach. You wouldn’t know it by looking at their record or by watching them play, but the Yankees are right in the thick of the playoff race. As we begin to inch through the last 24 hours before the deadline, the Yankees are just 4 1/2 games out behind the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles, and just 2 games out of the second AL Wild Card. If the Yankees can reach the playoffs, all records, all statistics, and all hopes start out fresh. Anything is possible in the playoffs. But the trade deadline is key for the Yankees down the stretch. With the division wide open, the team is just a few pieces away from a huge second half playoff run, and if GM Brian Cashman can make the right moves, both the Yankees season and their future may still be alive and thriving.
Cashman has made three significant moves, acquiring starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy from the Diamondbacks for the All-American Home Run Machine Vidal Nuno, adding third baseman Chase Headley for Yangervis Solarte and Rafael De Paula in a deal with the Padres and starter (More of a stopgap than anything else) Chris Capuano from the Rockies in exchange for cash considerations. All of them are low cost deals, with high upside and low risk. All three have already come up big so far for the Yankees as well. McCarthy is 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA in 4 starts with the Bombers, Headley is batting .333 with 4 RBI and one home run, as well as a walk-off single in his first 8 games with the club, and Capuano put up a quality start (At least 6 innings allowing 3 runs or less) in his first and perhaps only start with the Yankees (The thought being he’d be out of the rotation if and when the Yankees add a starter). But the Yankees’ work isn’t done, and no one in the baseball world expects them to stand pat at this point. If Cashman can continue to bring in cheap, impact, quality players without sacrificing his best prospects, you can label this deadline a success.
If you didn’t already know the answer is yes. The Yankees have a farm system and I’ve lost too much valuable breathe saying how it’s on the rise and the system as a whole has risen from the point of having basically nothing, to having multiple eye-popping prospects including Gary Sanchez (catcher), Aaron Judge (outfielder), Eric Jagielo (third baseman), Rob Refsynder (second baseman/outfielder) and the best pitching prospect the Yankees have had in a long time Luis Severino.
There, that’s the shortened version. The Yankees in past seasons would hesitate to throw a handful of these guys at a team like the Phillies and get a pitcher like Cole Hamels in return. Now, as the system’s stock rises, the front office is thought cautious and saving their very best for the future. If the Yankees could acquire a power-hitting right fielder, one that fits this same scenario (Josh Willingham, Marlon Byrd, Dayan Viciedo and free agent Rusney Castillo come to mind) they’d be in a very good position to compete this season while allowing the system time to develop. The pitching staff has somehow been great even with losing 80% of their Opening Day rotation. The Yankees have been linked to John Danks (White Sox), and Ian Kennedy (Padres) among others. On a plus note injury-wise (About damn time!) Michael Pineda is set to begin a rehab assignment as he aims for a mid-August return to the big league rotation. Once he returns, he’ll most likely man the number one spot in the rotation after a stellar start that was derailed by injury and a… sticky situation. He’d be a huge boost for the Yankees rotation down the stretch if he can pitch like he was in the beginning of the season.
I’m of the school that thinks the Yankees aren’t in real need of a backup first baseman as many people think. I think, for someone playing a position totally foreign to his own, that Brian McCann did a fine job holding down first during Mark Teixeira‘s eight-game absence. Chase Headley (For the record it’s not Heady… Look it up!) can also play first base and if the Yankees acquire a right fielder, it’d wouldn’t be very heard to have them play first in a pinch. Zealous Wheeler, who will likely stay on the team for a while, as his performance off the bench has been very good, could probably swing over from third base to the first sack. So, at least in my eyes, that bench role is covered. As for second base there aren’t a lot of options that fit the MO of the Yankees recent deals. About a week ago, Brian Cashaman said that he’d consider calling up second baseman and outfielder Rob Refsynder, who’s been tearing up the minor leagues all year, once the deadline is done and they access their options. With Brian Roberts faltering at defense all season, the excuse that they are worried about Refsynder’s defense is no longer valid. Keep an eye out for him to hit the big leagues in the coming weeks.
But here is the other side of the coin, the Yankees front office could over access their needs and go after someone whose current team will gut their farm system like a fish before cooking. If they chased Cole Hamels, they’ll certainly be forced to watch pitching sensation Luis Severino move to the City of Brotherly Love and probably see their best all around offensive player (Home Runs, Batting Average, On Base Percentage and RBI’s are all high in his fist professional season) in outfielder Aaron Judge take off the pinstripes and continue his towering rise within the Phillies’ organization. Third baseman and Yankees first 2013 draft pick Eric Jagielo as well as offensive powerhouse and catcher of the future, Gary Sanchez could also go if the Yankees pursue one of the trade market’s big fish instead of making minor improvements that would boost the team together. This would ruin what the Yankees have done over the past few years to build the farm system up from virtually nothing. They have to continue bolstering the system (Buying up the best international prospects like they did this year is a pretty good method) and trading off their star farm hands isn’t the way to do it. By buying low and buying right, the Yankees can piece together a contender this year while continuing to prepare for the future. But if the Yankees and Brian Cashman don’t make any moves at all (Doesn’t seem likely but you just can’t predict baseball, Suzyn!) they’ll lose this season for sure.
As a side note Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported recently that the Yankees are also looking for bullpen help. While the Yankees ‘pen has been compared to some of the best in baseball history there are two obvious weak points in Matt Thornton and David Huff, and they could look to remedy that and finish the construction of an ironclad bullpen. So, to sum it up, the Yankees need to make moves and most likely will. But they need to deal smart. They can’t go all-in one hand because making trades in baseball is like Blackjack in Vegas, the dealer (Meaning the seller) always has the upper hand. Keep a watchful eye on those trade rumors, the deadline is charging at us with full force.