The New York Yankees are stuck in moderate cost-consciousness mode right now with two hefty back-end bullpen contracts weighing them down.
If you’re going to be monetarily stingy, you probably shouldn’t pay chunky millions to mid-30s relievers. Simply something you shouldn’t do.
It would seem, though, that the Yankees are stuck with both the currently-injured Aroldis Chapman (elbow inflammation) and the struggling Zack Britton (control, command, devastation) for 2022.
Britton will cost $14 million, thanks to an option both sides agreed to pick up. Chapman, as part of a post-2019 contract restructuring, will make $16 million in the final season of his new deal.
It’s been an odd year for Chapman, with some of the best work of his long career coming in April and May, followed by likely the worst stretch he’s even encountered in the pros. Whether the disappearance of Spider Tack is to blame, or whether it was simple regression (or a fingernail injury?), something hit the closer hard in June and July, dropping our jaws initially before we all became resigned to spectacular failure.
Prior to his IL stint, Chapman had returned to semi-normalcy, still making several save situations interesting, but mostly completing them as dialed.
The Yankees need a big stretch run from Chapman, whether they ultimately make the playoffs or not. It’s essential that he comes off to the rest of MLB as a piece worth the cost so that Brian Cashman can dangle both he and Britton to needy teams over the winter, promising to kick in some dollars to facilitate the deal.
You know who doesn’t care much about dollars and just might be interested in either replacing the departing Kenley Jansen or supplementing him with a high-profile piece of insurance? The Los Angeles Dodgers, who splash the most cash of any MLB team.
This Yankees-Dodgers Aroldis Chapman trade could work.
With the Dodgers always in need of bullpen help, who says no to a salary-match trade that would help bolster both teams: Chapman and his $16 million for AJ Pollock and his $13.75 million? The Yankees might have to include a mid-top-30 prospect in such a deal, but there really could be a fit here.
From New York’s perspective, this will likely be the final year of Brett Gardner…right? It will be right?
Therefore, the fight for outfield depth in the Bronx will resume in earnest in 2022, and rest assured, there will be injuries that need taking care of. Tim Locastro’s not walking through that door, either. Pollock can start or play part-time in left field, and he’s picked things up tremendously for LA in 2021, posting a 143 OPS+ and batting .314 with 14 homers. It’s possible the window to acquire Pollock has closed after a bit of a tough start and down 2020, but perhaps the Dodgers will sell high with so many other outfielders in flux, including Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor (who deserves an extension), and Zach McKinstry. Rolling with those four, plus Matt Beaty, will allow Gavin Lux, Justin Turner, Trea Turner and Max Muncy to all get playing time on the infield — if we accept a Corey Seager departure.
This team, man.
IF Pollock’s off-limits and the Dodgers decide to be absolutely zero fun, the Yankees could go the more conventional route here, eat a few million dollars of Chapman’s money, and deal him for a small-ish prospect package (McKinstry and Jacob Amaya?).
There’s no Gleyber Torres trade on the table here this time around, but there are plenty of ways for the Yanks to get creative. Seeing as the Dodgers bullpen never really feels stable with Jansen, they might be fraught with worry this offseason once his money officially comes off the books. It could be time for Brian Cashman to pounce.