Many casual baseball fans and Yankees diehards have linked Chicago Cubs slugger Cody Bellinger to the Bombers ahead of the trade deadline for a few simple reasons: New York needs a capable outfielder and a left-handed bat.
But is this team good enough to buy at the deadline? A lot of the conversation has focused on the Yankees potentially selling, which some would argue should be the approach, but at the very least, Brian Cashman and the front office cannot be purchasing high-priced rental pieces for a team that's going nowhere fast.
It's difficult because of how this is all coming down to the buzzer, but if the Yankees truly believe they are a few players away from turning this ship around, then Bellinger might have to be a target of theirs when you factor in the latest buzz.
In ESPN's latest trade deadline column (subscription required), it was mentioned that the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays are potential landing spots for the former MVP.
New York might have to get involved in the bidding just to stop those two rivals from getting better. A trade out of spite, if you will, because Bellinger will probably hit free agency after the 2023 season.
Yankees Rumors: Astros and Blue Jays interested in Cody Bellinger
It's unclear what Bellinger might cost in terms of a return package, but his $12.5 million salary for 2023 and $5 million buyout (or $12.5 million mutual option) for 2024 suggest the Yankees won't be getting under the luxury tax threshold if he's acquired.
If the Yankees want to block one or more of their rivals from trading for Belli, then they'll either need to go all in with multiple deals to fight for a playoff spot or conduct more financial gymnastics to free up an additional ~$7 million to get under the tax mark and absorb 1/3 of his remaining salary, which reports have suggested is their motivation.
If they can pull off a re-tool where they swap salaries and change the look of their roster without mortgaging their future, there's a chance they can at least improve their outlook while preventing their direct competitors from gaining a significant edge.
But then there's the whole problematic "intangible" aspect of all this: fans know the second Bellinger steps foot in the Bronx, he'll morph back into the 2021 and 2022 versions of himself. The batting average will plummet. The power will disappear. The strikeouts will skyrocket. It's just what happens when the Yankees make these types of moves.
It just depends what the more worthwhile risk is for the front office. Do they want to watch another star flame out on the biggest stage in New York, or do they want to see a potential World Series run from the Astros, Blue Jays or whatever other contenders are eyeing Bellinger?