3 tough trades Yankees should make if they don't plan to contend in 2024

The Yankees have some elite pieces to move if they don't believe they'll be in the mix next season.

Washington Nationals v New York Yankees
Washington Nationals v New York Yankees / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages
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The 2023 Yankees' story is mostly told. Expensive veterans all became pumpkins at the age of 33 rather than 36. Josh Donaldson was not, in fact, an upgrade over Gio Urshela. The kids are playing now, but they weren't playing early enough. The entire rotation fell apart. While his teammates ran into metaphorical walls, Aaron Judge ran into a literal one.

With Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman both increasingly likely to return in 2024, it would seem natural to forecast a whole lot of, "Well, how could we expect all that to happen?"-type discussion prior to next season. That would mean that team's story could likely be pre-written as well.

If the Yankees pivot and rededicate themselves to winning with depth, a relentless offensive approach, and fresh arms in 2024, then they could easily bounce back. The history of MLB is littered with worst-to-first teams. It's difficult to rise to the top of the AL East; it's much easier to fall off the pedestal, Baltimore Orioles. You never know!

If the same names come back to give it another go 'round, though, that'll be a fairly clear indicator the Yankees don't intend to seriously compete until 2025 or later, despite Gerrit Cole and Aaron Judge being in their clock-ticking primes. In that case, the Yankees should consider trading away these pieces who can help a winning team next season, but wouldn't do much for a losing team.

3 tough Yankees trades team must make if they don't plan to reload for 2024

3. Clay Holmes

Pending a return to contention, Clay Holmes is highly unlikely to end 2024 on the Yankees' roster. If New York already feels they've squeezed maximum value out of Holmes -- and don't get it twisted, the trade for the right-hander midway through 2021 was a great one -- they'll trade him this offseason. If they believe he'll have a hot first half, they can also keep him for a midseason trade deadline frenzy.

Holmes has sandwiched several months of excellent play this season between two rough stretches. He struggled to harness his power sinker in the early going, posting a 3.72 ERA in 9.2 innings in March/April, walking five. In June and July, though, he allowed only a single earned run in each month, reestablishing himself as an elite closer.

August? His astounding meltdown in Miami helped officially end the Yankees' troubled season, amd bloated his second-half ERA to 5.68.

Fans will always associate closers with their poor performances before recalling the myriad times they actually got the job done. Holmes' implosions have been glaring, but he remains an unhittable force with closer mettle when he's on. If the Yankees don't intend to be contenders next season, the league's elite teams will certainly value him.