While seeing the New York Yankees rise to the top is certainly enjoyable, it promotes a surplus of question marks in regard to July’s trade deadline.
Where the New York Yankees currently sit in the major league baseball standings, especially considering they had a roster breakdown no more than a year ago, is truly remarkable.
The Bronx Bombers are back and they are leading the American League in runs scored (180), offensive WAR (9.4), home runs (52) and slugging percentage. Their 56+ run differential also tops the majors while their .677 win percentage makes them the sports best team entering play on Thursday.
Aaron Judge, who became the youngest player in major league history to hit 13 home run in his team’s first 26 games, is leading the way with his monstrous power but it’s not just him doing the heavy lifting. In the top-10 leaders in wRC+, three Yankees’ hitters — Judge (216), Matt Holliday (165) and Starlin Castro (161) — make the cut.
On the flip side of the offensive output, the question remains: well, what about pitching? That seems to be the Achilles heel for the 2017 New York Yankees.
The starting rotation’s ERA sits at 4.14, good enough for 15th in the majors and while that is in the middle of the pack, New York’s staff has also given up the ninth-most home runs (28).
Masahiro Tanaka, despite tossing his second-career shutout against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 27, has given up seven earned runs over his last two starts and watched his ERA climb to 4.46 on the year.
As the ace of the staff finds his rhythm to start the season, the veteran presence of this staff, CC Sabathia, has been a polar opposite of the version of himself that gave up just three earned runs in his first three starts (1.47 ERA). Since April 21, the 36-year-old has surrendered five home runs in four starts while yielding a 9.58 ERA.
Michael Pineda, Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery have been pleasant surprises, but the offense has been able to, with help from the bullpen, carry the Yankees to 21 wins within their first 30 games for just the 17th time in franchise history.
In 15 of those seasons, the Yankees made an appearance the World Series so history tells us they will be in contention by the time baseball’s July 31 trade deadline comes around. Common sense, however, says the only thing hindering a shot at the commissioner’s trophy will be the rotation, which puts general manager Brian Cashman in a delicate position.
Cashman, thanks to the moves he made to bring in Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier and much much more last season, has a farm system deep enough that the organization could bear a blow in the form of a package of top-notch prospects sufficient enough to warrant a starter to reinforce the shaky rotation.
But the question that awakens throughout this process is: how much is the Yankee GM really willing to give up in year two of this “rebuild”?
It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Certainly, we didn’t expect the Yankees to be competitive enough to warrant buying at the deadline, but we also don’t know what the standings will look like come mid-July. There’s a lot of baseball left to be played.
For argument sake, however, let’s say Cashman feels as though he needs one more starter to get him over the hill. Would it make sense for him to take a bite out of one of the sport’s best farm systems? It depends.
The Yankees, given how bright and talented the stars of their lineup — which will only get better — are and given that they aren’t primed to go on a legitimate run for quite some time, shouldn’t splurge any top prospects on a one-year rental.
If Cashman can put together a reasonable package for an arm with team control similar to that of Gerrit Cole (under contract until 2020), Jose Quintana (2019) or Zack Greinke (2022), then it makes sense to make a move.
Remember, the Chicago Cubs went after Jake Arrieta in 2013 due to those six years of team control. The Yankees need to have that same mindset if they continue to win and surprise the rest of the league.
Youngsters like Blake Rutherford, New York’s third-best prospect, will order a starter in return and he shouldn’t be restricted. He was just drafted out of high school in 2016 and he’s still a relatively unknown commodity. Jorge Mateo, Miguel Andujar, Chance Adams, Dustin Fowler and many others have a windy road to the majors and many prospects that have been exposed to you over the years will likely never see “The Show” to begin with.
At the very least, it’s almost certain that the Yankees won’t even have room to keep all of these prospects. Just look at the Rule-5 Draft problem they’re about to face come 2017-18.
This is the beginning of something special. Brian Cashman has a huge test ahead of him now that he has a farm system in better shape than 90 percent of the league and is competitive sooner than anticipated.
We kind of knew the right move in 2016 was to break down. This year, Cashman has to consider the short-term plan and future outlook. Since selling at last year’s deadline, they have been one of the best teams in baseball (53-36) so if the team does declare themselves as buyers come July 31, he will certainly provide the team the reinforcements it needs to contend for the divisional crown and more.
With that said, everything could change in two months. More injuries could arise. The hot streak many veterans like Brett Gardner, Chase Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury are experiencing could cripple the team’s chances of being contenders down the road.
It’s early, but questions won’t go away. What if Cashman declares his organization as buyers? What if he ends up trading their top prospects? What if the Yankees are for real…?