Padres trades aren’t example of ‘Yankees Tax’ in trade talks


It feels like the Yankees get “taxed” in trade talks, but it’s just not true.

The New York Yankees, in need of experienced depth in their rotation, have a number of imperfect candidates currently staring them in the face.

One of the team’s options — Joe Musgrove, formerly of the Pirates — came off the board out of nowhere on Monday night, as the pitching-rich Padres became even richer in the blink of an eye.

It was not lost on Yankee fans that this transaction coincided with the cooling of the explosive Sunday night rumors that indicated the Bombers were on the verge of a Luis Castillo trade, something that was never close to happening.

But just because Bronx Bombers fans remain jealous of San Diego’s impetus to “go for it” in an offseason otherwise arrested by stagnation does not mean it’s time, once again, to blame the rest of baseball for the Yankees’ incomplete roster.

No, there is no “Yankees Tax” in trade talks. And if there is, the Padres unloading a pile of players to the Pirates for Musgrove, a San Diego native and not a Gerrit Cole-level star, is not good evidence of the phenomenon.

Oh, so now we agree Joe Musgrove is good? That changes the narrative from the 2018 Gerrit Cole talks!

Back in the day, the foremost evidence that the Yankees were being held hostage was that Cole swap with the Pirates. Rumors swirled that the Yanks offered one of either Clint Frazier or Miguel Andújar as the deal’s headliner, which looked like far more of an overpay when Andújar was spraying doubles with reckless abandon in 2018. Now? The (former?) third baseman is a position-less wonder, and Frazier’s dramatic defensive turnaround belied the issues he had in establishing himself prior to 2020. Perhaps the Pirates…simply preferred a package centered around Musgrove, one of this winter’s most coveted pitchers, and Colin Moran, a lower-ceiling option than Frazier, but someone whom the Yankees might be considering as a lefty bench bat this time around, too.

So, what else is there? When else have the Yankees been railroaded? The Reds asking for Gleyber Torres for Castillo doesn’t feel like an example of that “phenomenon”; that high cost is more of an indication that Castillo wasn’t really available in the first place. After all, has any other team emerged in that chase? Will they? We have nothing to compare the Reds’ outlandish initial request with.

Yu Darvish or Blake Snell? Snell was never getting dealt within the AL East, and both men are examples of the Padres being completely at peace with absorbing multi-year financial commitments, something the Yankees have never indicated they’d do this offseason. Unless you’re referring to the Yankees taxing themselves by refusing to entertain anything that might vault them past the luxury tax, these aren’t wonderful examples, either.

Monday night’s move specifically feels like more evidence not that the Yankees are being scolded and coerced, but that they just didn’t value Musgrove as the sole benefit of a five-for-one trade.

None of this, by the way, should take away from what the Padres have accomplished in recent weeks. We’ve seen them take advantage of several desperate sellers, leveraging teams that are unwilling to either compete or spend without surrendering…well, an overload of anything, really. That’s impressive.

But it does not reflect upon what the Yankees are doing, other than prove they’ve chosen to paint themselves into a budget corner that doesn’t have to exist.

If you want to come after Brian Cashman for being largely reactive in filling holes than proactive in making sure they don’t exist, then you’ll find commonality with me. If you want to scold him lightly for seeming to value prospects No. 11-20 the way he values the top 10, then I’d also agree with that, as a pure outsider.

But using a leaked Luis Castillo rumor to blame a “Yankees tax” for Cashman not accomplishing as much as the Padres when you know very well what the Padres were willing to absorb that the Steinbrenners weren’t is disingenuous.