The New York Yankees have the best record in baseball, and will attack the trade deadline with the requisite ferocity. This is not a “year just like every other year.” October baseball will always be unpredictable, but with the best run differential in the sport, an elite staff-wide ERA, and the No. 1 offense in runs per game, it’s clear the Yankees have a foundation that can match up well with any playoff opponent.
Now, it’s time to plug the holes that still remain in the rotation, bullpen, and outfield. To do so, Brian Cashman will have to surrender a significant number of prospects. Some top-tier chips like Oswald Peraza might finally be played (or promoted), and recent first-rounders like Trey Sweeney and Austin Wells will both be under examination.
To fill out several potential prospect packages, though, there’s one place Cashman will look first: Rule 5 Draft-eligible players. At the tail end of 2021, the Yankees cut bait with Tyler Wade, Clint Frazier, and Rougned Odor in part because they had to protect several gems from Rule 5 exposure, including international prospects and 2017 draftees.
That Rule 5 Draft was ultimately canceled due to the lockout, however, leaving 2017’s class up for grabs alongside 2018’s group this fall (in addition to numerous international signees). With a difficult 40-man roster decision looming at year’s end regardless of deadline activity, Cashman will look to preemptively declutter the conversation by selling high at this year’s Aug. 2 fencepost.
Remember the “failure” of a Joey Gallo trade from last summer? In reality, three of the four prospects (Glenn Otto, Josh Smith, Ezequiel Duran) would’ve been exposed to Rule 5 plucking whenever that draft arrived, and could’ve bumped JP Sears or Stephen Ridings off the 40-man roster. Gallo didn’t work out as a target, but the methodology was secure. Why wouldn’t you trade them en masse if it could stop you from losing them for nothing?
This summer, these four names are worth watching, as they’re currently playing well in the Yankees’ system under the same Rule 5-eligible circumstances.
4 Rule 5 Draft Yankees trade candidates for 2022 trade deadline
4. T.J. Sikkema
The Yankees’ supplemental first-round pick in 2019 (thanks, Sonny Gray trade!), T.J. Sikkema has finally made his full-season debut in 2022 following a myriad of issues since 2019 (mostly shoulder-related).
Why is Sikkema eligible for the Rule 5 one year ahead of the rest of his class, including Anthony Volpe? Uh … next question. The parameters here are extremely confusing. But he certainly is, and while he’s dominated in ’22 after missing the 2020 (pandemic) and 2021 (pandemic, but more relevantly rehab) seasons, he’s still only thrown 31 innings in several abbreviated starts this season.
No matter where he maxes out, he’s been extremely impressive, whiffing 44 men in 31 innings from a series of different funky left-handed deliveries. He’s also allowed just 20 hits and 8 walks, totaling an exceptional 0.90 WHIP.
Sikkema might be the most likely Yankees prospect to be traded at the upcoming deadline. He has advanced stuff, but barely any experience; the Bombers wouldn’t use him to eat valuable innings during the 2023 season, but a lesser team might.
He’s barely appeared in three-plus years since being selected out of Missouri, but the Yankees already must use a valuable roster spot on him this offseason if they intend to keep him safely secured. Instead of taking a significant gamble, Brian Cashman will probably rely on the remainder of his minor-league pitching depth, including Sikkema as a third piece/sweetener in an upcoming swap.