As the New York Yankees continue to tread water, it’s time to get serious about selling at the trade deadline. The team could play a major role in shaping the market.
According to Elias Sports, the New York Yankees hadn’t spent a day under .500 after the All-Star break for 20 straight seasons — until last Friday. They’ve also failed to score in the first inning for 21 straight games — their longest streak since 1967, where they went 22 games without plating a run in the first frame.
Things are bad in the Bronx. How bad? Well, they’re kicking around the idea of letting Alex Rodriguez try his hand at first base. Again. This plan was aborted rather quickly in 2015 during Spring Training. Rodriguez, it seems, was not able to get comfortable enough to give this plan a legitimate shot at working. Fast forward to mid-July 2016 and all of a sudden this is a thing again. Only now, both the Yankees and Rodriguez seem to need this plan to work. Baffling stuff for a storied franchise. This is necessary only because the Yankees need a suitable back-up for oft-injured Mark Teixeira.
The unintentionally funny thing about this is that Rodriguez might actually be an upgrade offensively over Teixeira. Rodriguez is batting just .214 with eight home runs, 28 RBI and a .627 OPS. Teixeira however, has produced just a .568 OPS this season. Yes, things are bad in the Bronx.
Look, we can sit here all day, every day and spin this into how the Yankees are within striking distance of a Wild Card spot and how they can turn this around with some good fortune. Pinstripe apologists are quick to cite the 17-1 record the Yankees own when the big three — Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman — take the bump in the same game. That’s a fantastic stat. Really, it is. But here’s the thing, they don’t have the bats, let alone the pitching to get to the best bullpen of all time nearly as often as they’d like. So, in that respect, it’s time to sell.
Clearly, the time is now. The Yankees have more than a few attractive chips that other teams are willing to overpay for. Namely, Miller and Chapman. Carlos Beltran will command a nice return as well. If you’re having a hard time processing that last sentence, consider the lack of quality bats available, let alone a switch-hitter that can still play a respectable right field. The soon to be 40-year-old is currently slashing .297/.334/.542 with 19 home runs and 58 RBI. That kind of production is worth a ton for teams like Kansas City and San Francisco, two clubs who desperately could use some offensive punching power.
At 45-46, the Yankees are who we thought were and when mediocrity is your ceiling, it’s time to sell. The though of this shouldn’t make Yankees fans shudder. In fact, just the opposite should be the case. This is cause for optimism and controlled excitement because the Yankees could very easily control the trade market if they play this right.
Let’s start with Aroldis Chapman. Brian Cashman did an amazing job here. He acquired the left-handed fire-baller for prospects Eric Jagielo, Tony Renda, Rookie Davis and Caleb Cotham. Basically Cashman was able to procure perhaps one of the top three closers in baseball without dealing away any of the organization’s top talent.
Now, if they were to deal the 28-year-old Chapman and his elite 13.17 K/9 rate the return would presumably be major. I’ll play amateur GM for a moment. The Cubs covet a left-handed reliever of Chapman’s talent. They’re obviously not dealing Kyle Schwarber straight up for him, but they do currently have Dan Vogelbach, a highly regarded first baseman in their system and guess what? New York just happens to be in the market for, you guessed it, an eventual answer at first base. He’s major league ready now and his left-handed power stroke is tailor-made for Yankee Stadium.
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If Schwarber is indeed who the Yankees want, they’ll have to consider moving Andrew Miller and his contract with two more controllable years to Chicago to even dream of that happening. Even if that were to happen they might have to include Chapman as well in a mega-deal. But it could very easily get done. If and when both sides decide to get serious about their desired expectations over the next few seasons. As Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports points out, Schwarber is worth at least 4.0 Wins Above Replacement over the next five seasons according to Baseball Prospectus. Miller, on the other hand, owns a WAR of 1.0, which is fantastic for a reliever, but might be a tough sell when offering an even swap to the Cubs.
Even starters Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia are drawing interest from multiple teams. The Pirates are very high on Eovaldi, but the Yankees likely won’t part with him easily. Since moving him to the bullpen, Eovaldi has tossed 7.2 consecutive scoreless innings and is the type of project Pirates coach Ray Searage turns into scrap-heap gold.
Pineda, on the other hand, profiles as a live arm who just can’t put it together for more than a couple starts in a row, but might provide rotation depth and bullpen help if needed. Sabathia, even with the $25 million player option for next season, has been linked to the Marlins recently. Even with his recent struggles, Sabathia owned a sub-3.00 ERA until late June, and that will play with just about any team chasing October. However, Sabathia does have the right to block any trade, due to his service time. The point here is that with the scarcity of starting pitching, the opportunity to sell and create a profitable return is certainly attainable.
The carnage could go well past the aforementioned players above. Brian McCann is above average both offensively and behind the dish, something that interests most front offices seven days a week. He possesses a full no-trade clause, which could impede any deal. The Yankees are well equipped to deal with a McCann exit, as Gary Sanchez is ready to play every day. While we’re on the topic of team leaders, Brett Gardner still has some value and a friendly $12 million salary for 2017 and $11 million due in 2018. Sure, he’s 32 and in decline, but he still plays defense at or near an elite level most nights.
All of this of course is purely speculation at this point. The reality of the situation tells us that any and every deal should be pursued. The Yankees are likely going to get blown away at least once over the next two weeks and if that does occur, the Empire will begin a much-needed transition. Until then, fans can only hope their message is heard loud and clear and that Hal Steinbrenner, Randy Levine and Brian Cashman are receptive.
Quite simply, it’s time to sell.