New York Yankees Should Pursue A Crosstown Swap To Bolster Rotation
Brad Barr, USATSI

With the New York Yankees seeking pitching help to improve an inadequate starting rotation, they should look no further than Queens for sufficient answers.

Starting pitching most definitely held the New York Yankees back from the playoffs in 2016, and it will again in 2017 if immediate solutions are not brought to the table.

Joe Girardi’s starting staff ranked 19th in the league in ERA (4.44), 21st in wins (48), and were one of only four units that failed to record a complete game all season. 

Kicking off the campaign with an optimistic outlook, the Yankees fielded a rotation consisting of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino, and CC Sabathia — in that particular order. By season’s end, the questionable and deficient bunch retained Tanaka, had Sabathia backing him up, and rounded itself out with Pineda, Luis Cessa, and Bryan Mitchell.

Severino — expected to fill an ace-like role in his sophomore season — majorly flopped, Pineda was so bad out of the gates that he was nearly demoted, and Eovaldi tore a tendon in his elbow clean off, resulting in two surgeries — including Tommy John — and a reserved seat in the Yankee Stadium dugout for all of 2017.

Aside from Tanaka being the ace they so desperately needed and Sabathia having an unforeseen stellar bounce-back campaign, the rotation was as makeshift as makeshift gets.

Every time through, Larry Rothschild hoped and prayed that his starters would somehow eke out six innings of quality ball. Rarely did it happen.

I would be captain obvious to say that the Yankees will pursue improvements to their pitching staff this offseason, especially considering the lineup will continue its youthful, revitalized, run-scoring ways.

At a first glance, the available starters in free agency are atrocious. Without getting too personal, when a 43-year-old Bartolo Colon is your most reliable option in the 2017 class, you are simply out of luck.

It is a no-brainer that Brian Cashman will be looking for pitching help by way of the trade market. The problem, however, lies in protection.

Thanks to the trade deadline fire sale, a logical argument can be made that the Yankees are in possession of baseball’s best farm system. Any trade for a true front-end starter — which is what the Yankees need to contend for the AL East crown — would require cutting ties with the cream of the crop in a revered system.

Evident is the fact that the great minds in the Bronx are not ready to dismantle any aspects of a promising future.

What Cashman and company have to realize, though, is that their answer goes to work a mere 11 miles and 20 minutes away, without traffic, via the Grand Central Parkway.

The answer resides in Flushing, and on a team that will not pick at the Yankees’ youth, but rather the established commodities that can help them avenge a season of underperformance. The answer is an excess piece to a New York Mets team destined to return to the spotlight in 2017.

That answer is Zack Wheeler, a man who has had his comeback from Tommy John surgery derailed multiple times. In other words, a low-risk, high-reward endeavor which can ultimately grasp one of the brightest young arms in the game — if it pans out.

Sure, luring a 26-year-old, hard-throwing, absurdly talented right-hander from a crosstown foe will not be easy. Fortunately, both sides contractually own something the other truly wants.

In Brian McCann, the Yankees have a proven veteran backstop, and capable leader, who has been forced out of starting catching duties and into a permanent DH role due to the sudden emergence of Gary Sanchez. What is lack of assurance in starting pitching for the Yanks is a constant struggle at the catching position for the Mets.

They continue to plug, plug, and plug some more, yet find no capable answer. The Travis d’Arnaud experiment could not have gone worse, and the rest is a last-ditch effort to solidify a position which has become a hole not only in the lineup but on the field.

With the 32-year-old veteran, the Mets would receive a perfect clubhouse fit who is more than capable of handling a pitching staff, stellar in nullifying a running game, and consistently a staple in the middle of big league lineups. Most importantly, a man who is experienced with the grind of a 162-game marathon.

The Yankees would be more than willing to take on some of the remaining two years and $34 million on McCann’s deal, but anyone would be naive to think that the Mets will not pay for a presence that checks off three of the areas they absolutely need.

In Wheeler, barring health, the Yanks receive the guy to slide behind Tanaka, bringing effectiveness, electricity, and variance to a staff demanding just that.

With that said, an extremely beneficial arrangement for both sides would need one more piece. A throw-in, but more.

Without completely dipping into the “future,” the add-on could be Tyler Austin, a 25-year-old with an explosive bat. Even more convenience is provided with the fact that he can play four positions, most notably right field and first base — two areas of question for the 2017 Mets.

The 2016 pinstriped call-up can easily be unleashed as a super-utility man in Flushing, serving as a vital, yet under-the-radar, addition to a swap containing two big names.

Of course, dependent on outcome and results, one side always gets the “better” of an arrangement. Before Opening Day even comes around, though, the move will look like a deadlock on paper.

The Mets will retain their rotation depth, which is plentiful and wholesome, particularly with imperative returning pieces — Harvey, deGrom, Matz. In the process, the Yankees maintain their catching depth, with Austin Romine set to backup baseball’s newest superstar in Sanchez.

While maintaining solidity in their respective areas of sacrifice, both boroughs get help in serious areas of need, fortifying their chances to be among the 10 qualifying postseason teams next year.

Cash? Sandy? Get it done.


4 COMMENTS

  1. Wow, you claim to be a die-hard Yankees fan yet you want to exchange one of the top players at his position in all of Baseball (top 5 maybe?) for what amounts to a scratch off ticket? Then to add icing on top you want to throw in a very good prospect? You are aware that the Yankees are the team that plays in the Bronx correct? You don’t trade a solid proven for a maybe and then add a prospect to it. As I was reading the article and you mention a throw in I thought you were referring to the Mets sweetening the pot. That maybe doable. McCann is not a throw away piece he has value. Wheeler may never throw a pitch in the Majors again. If he does and if he is close to the pitcher he once was this would be a good deal for the Yankees. Those are really big ifs right now. Is Wheeler even throwing right now? No he isn’t he has been shut down til Spring with a Flexor strain that is not something you want to hear coming off TJS. DO YOUR HOMEWORK KID!!!

  2. This isn’t crazy. It’d be interesting to see how the money in mcann’s contract would be picked up by each team, however a bullpen piece is probably more likely a secondary ask than Tyler Austin. The mets have an abundance of outfielders and several players that can man multiple positions on the infield (flores, reyes). Although wheeler is a risk, he’s 2 years removed from surgery and only just entering arbitration. Given how expendable mcann has become, it might be a risk worth taking for both sides. Sadly, the two crosstown rivals aren’t likely to engage in a blockbuster given the potential backlash from a lopsided trade .

  3. Sorry Emmanuel, but I mostly agree with Mr V.
    McCann AND Austin for Wheeler is a dumb trade. You are overvaluing Wheeler. After 2 years off, I doubt he’ll get to 150 innings in 2017, and to assume he’ll be the same Wheeler is a long stretch. Meanwhile do you know that McCann has a full no-trade in his contract? Do you know that he’s publicly stated that he’d like to remain with the Yankees even though Sanchez will be the #1 catcher. And don’t assume: “the Yankees would be more than willing to take on some of the remaining two years and $34 million on McCann’s deal.” I’m not nearly as sure about that as you seem to be.
    Question for you– in what universe would Sandy Alderson & Brian Cashman sit down at a table together to even start talking about a trade? Historically, the Yankees and Mets have made very few trades with each other and the ones they’ve done are for lesser ballplayers. That’s because both teams are in the same market & competing against each other. Ditto in Chicago & L.A. I happen to agree that talent-wise, you can see a potential for a trade, but it will never happen.

  4. I must agree with the rest, McCann AND Austin for a pitcher who hasn’t pitched since TJ surgery? The Yankees get all the risk and the Mets get one of the best veteran catchers in baseball and a good rookie on the edge of a major league career. Yankees should hang on to Austin and get more for McCann.

    Trading McCann should get us at least one reliable, middle-rotation innings eater, or a couple of significant pitching prospects. Yankees need reliable. We already have high-risk options.

    There will be better free agent pitchers in a year’s time. We’ll know better how far the youth movement can take us and be ready to deal for the last pieces of a championship-caliber team. This is not the year to break the bank for a free agent or sell the farm for a #1 starter.