Yankees Trade Possibilities: On the Bubble
Yankees on the bubble have a 50-50 chance of being traded before the July 30 deadline. These players include Jameson Taillon, Domingo German, Michael King, Zack Britton, Luis Cessa, Justin Wilson, Wandy Peralta, Gary Sánchez, Kyle Higashioka, Rougned Odor, Tyler Wade, and Aaron Hicks. If the Bronx Bombers have the opportunity to trade for a first-class starter at a critical position, these individuals will most likely be involved in such a trade. One or more prospects might be included as well.
Britton is well paid and has spent a considerable amount of time on the IL this year. The Yanks can save about $6 million if they trade him before July 30 (the team has an option for 2022). He is now expendable due to the addition of lefties Cortes, Luetge, and Peralta, and O’Day’s added presence. Further, Loaisiga is now well positioned to take Britton’s place in the eighth inning as the setup man for Chapman. The Yankees wouldn’t pay a hefty price for Adam Ottavino, so why would they do so for Britton?
The Yankees could trade either Sánchez or Higashioka but very unlikely both. While Sánchez is hitting well at this point in time, he continues to frequently strike out and, overall, has been inconsistent in the batter’s box this year (and in 2020). If the recent past is any indication, the next prolonged slump is just around the corner. In his case, it is better to sell high.
Sánchez’s defense has improved, but not that much. He often produces runs in the batter’s box but then has them canceled out because of a passed ball, an error, or a mistake on the base path. If the Yanks keep Sánchez, then Higgy could be part of a trade, assuming that the team can replace him with another backup behind the plate, yet I believe it will be difficult to replace him with equal talent and at a similar low cost (about $600,000 in salary).
In my opinion, the fact that the two best and experienced starting pitchers would rather throw to Higashioka instead of the Kraken is a big, bright red flag for the club and all of us.
Although extremely hard to operationalize and measure, Sánchez’s pitch calling strategy may be significantly inferior to Higgy’s pitch selection approach. Frankly, one has to wonder whether Montgomery, Taillon, and German would be pitching more effectively if Higgy was almost always behind the plate when they are on the mound. This may be costing the Yanks games (especially close ones), though of course Sánchez’s offense has been monstrously important during this recent run.
Retaining Sánchez will not be cheap for the Bombers as time goes on, and they better be sure he will be worth the money if they decide to keep him long-term on the club. Otherwise, trading him now while his value is high for someone who can contribute immediately in return is the way to go.
Hicks has been frequently on the IL, often for extended periods (like now). The Yanks need to acquire a young, elite center fielder as soon as possible, someone like the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Ketel Marte or the Orioles’ Cedric Mullins.
Though extremely difficult, trading Hicks would be a step in the right direction, even if the Yanks don’t get a center fielder in return. They have other players they can trade for a new center fielder (or a new catcher).