With the Tampa Bay Rays holding a 5-1 lead against the New York Yankees on Monday, Pete Fairbanks was summoned from the bullpen to close out the game. When a closer enters the game with a four-run lead, they typically want to pound the strike zone and not give away free passes. That wasn’t the case for Fairbanks.
In the box stood Aaron Judge, coming off back-to-back plate appearances with a walk. Those walks, of course, didn’t amount to anything, as Anthony Rizzo struck out to end the fourth inning and Giancarlo Stanton grounded into an inning-ending double play in the sixth inning.
Fairbanks threw five inside fastballs to Judge, with only one clipping the inside corner for a strike. Despite handing Judge first base, Fairbanks was unfazed facing Rizzo, Stanton and DJ LeMahieu, setting them down in order to close out the Rays’ 65th win of the season.
Going into the trade deadline, the Yankees were in last place in the American League East and 3.5 games back of the third AL Wild Card spot. Whether it was buying, selling or re-tooling, it felt like the Yankees had to do something. Instead, they acquired journeyman reliever Keynan Middleton and former top prospect bust Spencer Howard. On all ends, the Yankees trade deadline process was a failure.
Outside of Judge, who’s only played in 52 games, the Yankees’ offense has been extremely disappointing, ranking 22nd in MLB with a 94 wRC+. Despite having similar personnel to last year’s team that had the fourth-best wRC+ in MLB, the Yankees have faltered this season because of poor campaigns from Rizzo, Stanton, LeMahieu, Anthony Volpe and Harrison Bader, among others.
While Jake Bauers (120 wRC+) and Billy McKinney (117 wRC+) have been good in limited action, Gleyber Torres is the only statistically qualified Yankee having an above-average offensive season (104 wRC+).
Yankees didn't improve lineup, rotation, team at 2023 MLB Trade Deadline
As a result of how poor the Yankees lineup has been, Brian Cashman should’ve shaken things up, whether that meant selling off a couple of players or bringing in new additions to help the struggling core. Instead, he did neither, continuing to rely on the players who have struggled to right the ship.
Because of how many teams are within reach of a Wild Card spot, this year's trade deadline was a seller’s market. If the Yankees believed their core wasn’t good enough to make an October push, they could’ve taken advantage of the market by selling or re-tooling to put themselves in a better position going forward (or, at least, saved themselves some cash).
In the AL, virtually every team in postseason contention did something to put themselves in a better position, but the Yankees decided that wasn’t necessary. By letting other contenders get better, the Yankees got worse, jeopardizing their already bleak chances of making the postseason.
If Cashman believed in his impending free agents and veterans to turn the season around – which is what he ultimately claimed on Tuesday night – then he should’ve done something to improve the lineup.
The Yankees could’ve traded a prospect to acquire veteran outfield help in the form of Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk or Mark Canha. Additionally, the Yankees could’ve pounced on trading for Cody Bellinger – their presumed No. 1 target heading into the trade deadline – a couple of weeks before the deadline or forked together a package for Dylan Carlson. Instead, the Yankees will stand pat with their outfield that has the 18th-best fWAR (4.6), mostly on the back of Judge (3.1).
Despite limited options for infielders on the market, the Yankees were heavily linked to Jeimer Candelario. However, the Cubs, spurred by a hot stretch leading up to the deadline, decided to buy instead of sell, and they quickly pounced on acquiring the best infielder available. Beyond Candelario, the Yankees could give Oswald Peraza extended playing time, but it seems that they’ll let him continue to rot in Triple-A.
There were many routes the Yankees could’ve and should’ve taken at the trade deadline to make the team better in the present and/or future. Instead, they were content with standing pat, neither setting themselves up to compete now or in the future.