After 131 days without sports, our prescriptions were finally filled one month ago on that glorious Thursday night when the Yankees defeated the Nationals to kick off Major League Baseball’s 60-game season. Four weeks later, the daily stress that comes with being a fan of a professional sports team has once again become routine. However, with the Mets COVID-19 outbreak canceling the Yankees’ weekend series, I’ve been searching for something to hold me over until they resume play on Tuesday against Atlanta. Should I take up this whole “reading” thing? Nah. Should I get started on my college applications? Of course not. Should I stay up till two in the morning dreaming up trade scenarios that Brian Cashman will never see? I could, and I did.
This year’s MLB season will (hopefully) never be replicated. Everything about it is wild: seven-inning doubleheaders, new extra-inning rules, 16 playoff teams, 60 regular-season games, and random COVID postponements, all while the possibility of the whole season being scrapped at any time lingers in the back of our heads. Unsurprisingly, these changes are making this trade deadline unlike any other. As usual, the deadline’s date is a bit more than halfway into the season. Except this time, instead of having about 80, teams have a little over 30 games to decide if they’d like to be buyers or sellers. The new playoff format also complicates things a ton. Adding six playoff teams (three in each division) and making the first round best-of-three with little advantage for the higher seed turns the entire postseason into a crap-shoot. A team with the caliber of the Blue Jays never dreamed of playing October baseball before COVID-19, but now have a good chance of squeaking in and making a run. Six new playoff teams mean six (or more) fewer sellers at the deadline, as everyone’s possibility of contending spiked. The increased potential for a first-round exit (and the ever-looming possibility of the season-ending) also means that teams who may have been willing to part with big-time prospects to make a deadline blockbuster for a rental may not be as anxious to strike a deal. One of these teams, of course, is the New York Yankees.
The Bronx Bombers are coming off their worst series of the year, getting swept by a red-hot Tampa Bay Rays squad. After losing six of the seven games against their divisional rival this year, the Yankees currently sit at 16-9, 0.5 games behind Tampa, who have played more games than New York. However, the Yankees’ current roster’s team needs are not nearly as severe as they look.
Injuries for a second straight year have plagued New York, who are currently putting out a lineup without superstar Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, or Gleyber Torres. Nonetheless, none of the holes formed by losing four of the team’s top six hitters should be filled by trades. Judge should be back in the lineup on Tuesday, Stanton and Torres both have Grade-1 hamstring strains that should be fully healed by October, and DJ LeMahieu is sporting a sprained thumb that shouldn’t keep him out much longer. The offense is fine and, when fully healthy, one of the best in baseball. Despite the short-term need, there’s no need for the Yankees to go out and find two-week replacements in a meaningless regular season for the team.
On the pitching side of things, the injuries are a bit more concerning. A rotation that was touted as one of the best in baseball entering the season took a substantial hit in spring training when the team announced that borderline ace Luis Severino would have to undergo Tommy John surgery and would miss the entire season. Sevy’s absence became even more apparent when James Paxton saw a dramatic drop in his velocity to begin the 2020 season. Just as Paxton seemed to be figuring things out, he was placed on the IL with a forearm strain. Now, after Gerrit Cole – who has been his ace self to start the season in New York – the Yankees rotation is full of question marks. While Jordan Montgomery has been solid, Masahiro Tanaka’s inconsistencies have continued. Moreover, J.A. Happ has been abysmal, and the plethora of young arms at the Yankees alternate site are untested and can’t be counted on just yet. For the seemingly 20th straight year, there is an alarm blaring in Brian Cashman’s office to make a move for a starter.
The rotation hasn’t been the only issue in the Yankees pitching staff. The team’s bullpen, long touted as one of the best in baseball, has also been injured and struggled. After a dominant first outing of 2020, the team lost Tommy Kahnle to Tommy John. Later, Zack Britton, who had been fantastic filling in for Aroldis Chapman (who was out with COVID-19), strained his hamstring and was put on the IL. While there’s a ton of bullpen talent, and the latest addition of Addison Russ could prove valuable, it would be smart for the Yankees to add a reliever or two before next Monday’s trade deadline. So, without further or do, here are some mock trades:
DISCLAIMER: Before you yell at me about how unrealistic they are, each one was “negotiated” with a Diamond Digest writer representative of the other team.
(All prospect rankings via MLB.com)
Yankees get: RHP Mike Clevinger
Mike Clevinger and rotation-mate Zach Plesac have found themselves in the middle of controversy after they broke quarantine earlier this season to go out in Chicago. Cleveland made sure to deliver a swift punishment, sending both right-handers down to their alternate site. The two have deservingly been ousted by their ball club, raising rumors around their availability via trade. While the personality concerns are apparent, it may be worth it for the Yankees to put them aside and take a chance on the talent of Clevinger. While he has two years of control left after 2020, everyone knows Paul Dolan doesn’t like to pay players if he doesn’t have to, and Clevinger will demand big money in arbitration, making him a prime trade target. When he’s on the field, Clevinger is a borderline ace. Between 2018 and 2019, Clevinger ranked sixth among qualified starters with a 2.90 ERA, eighth in FIP (3.12), 15th in SIERA (3.63), and his K-BB% of 20.8% ranked 13th. He would be a very welcome addition to a Yankee team in dire need of rotation consistency. His team control also lessens the pressure on the Yankees with the budding free agencies of James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka. The price would be high, but Clint Frazier is blocked at every spot in the Yankees lineup, and Clevinger could very well be the piece to put the Yankees over the top for the first time in a decade. The biggest question surrounding Clevinger is whether or not he’d cut his luscious locks to be in pinstripes (Which he shouldn’t have to because the rule is dumb, but that’s an article for another time).
Yankees get: RHP Lance Lynn
Ever since the Yankees chose to bring back J.A. Happ over Lance Lynn after the 2018 season, the 33-year-old has been making them pay. After last year’s season that saw Lynn post a 3.67 ERA, 3.13 FIP, and 3.83 SIERA, he’s followed it up with a great start to 2020. In six starts this year, Lynn has posted a 1.37 ERA, 3.27 FIP, and 3.93 SIERA. Lynn has solidified himself as a great middle of the rotation piece, and, with another year under control, Lynn would be a great addition for a Yankee team in desperate need of consistency. Lynn wouldn’t come cheap. 2018 Rookie of the Year finalist Miguel Andujar could certainly use a change of scenery. With Gio Urshela bursting onto the scene last year with a great bat and a solid glove, the position-less (in a bad way) Andujar is stuck without a spot on the Yankees roster. Offensively, the power is there in Andujar’s bat. There’s a reason he posted a 130 wRC+ in his rookie year. However, his atrocious plate discipline and abysmal glove don’t bode well for him ever becoming an everyday Yankee. With the Rangers needing corner infield help, and not going anywhere in the next two years, they could take a flyer on Andujar regaining his 2018 form. Packaged with flamethrower Albert Abreu, this would be hard for Jon Daniels to say no to.
Yankees get: LHP Matthew Boyd
The similarities between the Matthew Boyd and Michael Fulmer situations from the Tigers perspective are uncanny. Both were highly regarded, young, talented, controllable arms that the Tigers dangled on the trade market. Yet, both times, Detroit’s price was high, and, both times, Detroit overplayed their hand. Boyd’s value has plummeted since last year, as he’s struggled mightily in the past calendar year. In Boyd’s five starts this year, he’s posted a 8.48 ERA, 5.83 FIP, and 4.29 SIERA. As the great Joe Girardi would say, “it’s not what you want.” While Boyd would add another question mark to the Yankees rotation, not bringing over the consistency Lynn does, the upside on him is huge. Even with his late-season struggles, Boyd still recorded a 4.56 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 3.61 SIERA, and ranked 9th in baseball with a 30.2% K% and 8th with a 23.9% K-BB%. Boyd absolutely slots in as the Yankees four starter this year, and with two more years under contract, he could be a low-risk, high-reward gets for the Bombers if the Tigers would be willing to lower the price on him.
Both Gausman and Watson are pending free agents, which is the reason their price isn’t too high, but both would be great additions to the Yankees. Gausman, the fastball centric right-hander, has found new life in San Francisco. His K% is at a career-high 31.6%, and his BB% has plummeted to 4.5%. In six outings this year, he’s put up a 4.65 ERA, 3.12 FIP, 2.93 xFIP, and 3.08 SIERA. Gausman had shown signs of brilliance in Baltimore but hadn’t been able to put it together consistently. He’d fill in as an excellent piece in the middle of the Yankees rotation, but his lack of team control would mean a third playoff rotation spot going to a player who will have to be paid after this season. Watson is in the same boat. The left-hander signed with the Giants before 2018 as the team tried to fix their bullpen woes. While the ‘pen has still struggled, Watson has been a big part of any success they’ve had. He couldn’t put it together well last season, but in 2018 put up a 2.59 ERA, 2.45 FIP, 3.09 xFIP, 2.90 SIERA, and 27.6% K%. This season he’s been back to his old self, putting up a 0.93 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 3.94 xFIP, 3.49 SIERA, 21.1 K%, and career-low 2.6% BB% in 11 games for the Giants. With a Yankee bullpen in dire need of a lefty, Watson would be a great fit, and the price for the two budding free agents shouldn’t be too high.
Keona Kela would be the prize of the trade. The 27-year-old reliever has put together a 3.24 ERA, 3.30 FIP, and 3.52 FIP in his career, and has the potential to be a lockdown closer. However, between Kela missing the beginning of the season due to COVID-19, leaving his last outing with a forearm strain, and his impending free agency, his value has never been lower. Because of that, the Yankees would also go out and get Richard Rodriguez. Rodriguez has three more years of control and has shown flashes of brilliance in Pittsburgh. In 2018 the right-hander had a 2.47 ERA, 2.60 FIP, and 2.73 SIERA. After a terrible 2019, Rodriguez has bounced back this year with a 3.09 ERA, 3.40 FIP, and 2.03 SIERA. He’d be a great, cheap addition to the Yankees bullpen for the next few years, and the package of the two would cost the Yankees multiple, good prospects.
Yankees get: RHP Trevor Rosenthal
Before injuries struck him, Trevor Rosenthal was making a case for best closer in baseball in St. Louis. At the end of 2017, he had a career 2.99 ERA, 2.60 FIP, 3.06 xFIP, and a 31.2% K% out of the bullpen. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay healthy the past two years, and even when on the mound, he struggled immensely, sporting a 13.50 ERA, 6.87 FIP, 8.55 xFIP, 8.51 SIERA, and -10.6% K-BB% in 22 outings during 2019. This year, however, Rosenthal seems to have found what made him special in St. Louis. He has come out of the bullpen 12 times for Kansas City, performing to a 1.59 ERA, 4.11 FIP, 3.55 xFIP, 3.28 SIERA, and 34.1% K%.
Should the Yankees make some of these moves? For sure. Will they? Probably not. Why? Because for some reason, Brian Cashman is yet to read Diamond Digest. Big mistakes Brian. Huge.
Featured Photo: AP Photo/Matt Slocum