Nelson Cruz
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Nelson Cruz being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays means the New York Yankees need to be just as aggressive at the trade deadline.

Josh Benjamin

Forget the New York Yankees and their hot streak, folks. We’ve got a big problem and Brian Cashman needs to start working the phones fast.

Forget about riding this hot streak until Aaron Judge and the rest come back from the COVID list. Next Man Up will only take us so far in this case. It’s time to add a big piece and the sooner we can, the better.

Why the panic? Well, as ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported, the Tampa Bay Rays just landed slugger Nelson Cruz from the Minnesota Twins.

Yes, the same Nelson Cruz who is currently batting .294 with 19 home runs and 50 RBI in his age-40 season. The very same Nelson Cruz who has 436 career home runs and over 1,200 RBI. The same Nelson Cruz who has made five All-Star teams since serving a 50-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal in 2013.

In case I wasn’t clear earlier, forget the hot streak and guys coming back from the COVID list. The New York Yankees are still in third place in the AL East and need a serious boost just to be in the Wild Card race.

That means Brian Cashman making a trade to match this one, and quickly.

 

Front office pressure

It doesn’t take a genius to see why the Yankees need to be buyers ahead of the July 30 trade deadline. The Boston Red Sox are leading the division despite a trimmed down roster, cementing Alex Cora’s status as a solid manager. The Toronto Blue Jays aren’t going anywhere.

Not only that, but even Cashman knows the pressure is on to make a deal. The man is literally on the record saying “We suck right now” as pertains to the team’s performance in 2021.

Now, the Rays have put the rest of the division on notice in acquiring Cruz for the rest of the season. They don’t care that Tyler Glasnow is rehabbing an elbow injury or that their signature bullpen is banged up. Randy Arozarena’s regression is an afterthought.

Their message is clear: if they can’t pitch their way back to the World Series, they’ll ride Cruz’s bat far into October.

As for the New York Yankees, Brian Cashman would be smart to make a countermove in the three-dimensional chess game that is the AL East.

 

Help on the way?

Thankfully, New York appears to be making moves of its own. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported on Thursday evening that the Yankees had checked in on one of the hottest names on the market.

It’s certainly an intriguing concept, even though it’d potentially overcrowd the Yankees’ infield. Story has ridiculous home run power when healthy and though he’s only batting .243 this season, it’s more due to bad luck than declining at just 28 years old.

Granted, Trevor Story doesn’t boost an overtaxed pitching staff, nor does he aid an outfield with more holes than the back nine at Bushwood Country Club. But he’s just a good enough hitter that if Brian Cashman did bring him to the New York Yankees, it’d at least show the Bronx Bombers aren’t going down without a fight.

 

Final thoughts

None of this is to say Nelson Cruz being traded to Tampa Bay is the Yankees’ death knell. He hasn’t even played a game for them yet and, for all we know, could hit a wall at Tropicana Field and not make much of an impact at all.

But we all know that’s not going to happen. Cruz is an ageless wonder for a reason and the Rays will reap the benefits of his pure power.

And this is all the more reason for Brian Cashman to get a deal done as soon as possible. As I write this, the Yankees are in extra innings with the Red Sox following Chad Green’s blown save.

Even if Judge, Gio Urshela, and others weren’t on the COVID IL, the New York Yankees would still need to be seeking a trade.

Now, Brian Cashman just has to buckle down and make a deal, be it for Story or someone else.