The Yankees seemingly don’t know where they stand as we head closer to the trade deadline. Could they be planning to improve their pitching by just adding onto their offense?
There’s a major feeling of Deja Vu as we rapidly approach July 31. Last year, the Yankees had a good team but required more pieces to make them a true contender. This year the team, while better, still feels as if something is missing from its core. There has been speculation throughout the week about Manny Machado adorning the Pinstripes this October.
There has also been plenty of speculation about the Yankees acquiring an arm to help their struggling starting rotation come to full fruition. In a perfect world, Yankee fans would have both. But in this scenario, we are going to pit the two trade ideas against each other. Acquiring offense at the deadline or acquiring pitching instead. Let’s break it down:
Before breaking down the positives and negatives of acquiring more offense before 4 PM EST July 31, lets breakdown where the Yankees stand in each major offensive statistical category.
Batting Average: 9th in MLB, .253
Slugging Percentage: 1st in MLB, .465
On Base Plus Slugging: 2nd in MLB, .799
Home runs: 1st in MLB, 157
When you look at these numbers it makes you think, why would the Yankees spend their prized prospects for a batter? Well, the Yankees could definitely improve on their batting average. Not being in the top five will hurt when you face aces like Verlander and Sale in the playoffs. Let’s break down the positive and negatives of acquiring a batter.
How can you have too much hitting? In the end, you really can’t. For this case, let’s talk about the Yankees getting Manny Machado or Mike Moustakas. Those two names are really the only batters tied to Yankee trade talks at the moment.
Manny Machado would slide into third base and replace the baby bomber Miguel Andujar, while Mike Moustakas would replace the recently hot Greg Bird at first base. Either one would be an improvement over their predecessor. Manny Machado is out-batting Miguel Andujar in nearly every statistical category. Whether it be BA, OPS, homers, you name it. The case is the same with Mike Moustakas versus Bird.
The only thing is Miguel Andujar is still batting well, while Bird has been subpar for the majority of the season, despite getting hot in July. Unless the Yankees have a deal to get Miguel Andujar out of the Big Apple (or maybe to our rivals in the Subway Series), then trading for Manny Machado just doesn’t make sense. Replacing Bird at first base with Mike Moustakas and letting Bird ride the bench is what makes the most sense.
Bird can still get experience in “the show” by playing DH every once in a while, filling in for Mike Moustakas when he needs rest, letting Miguel Andujar get the day off and move Mike Moustakas over to third base and letting Bird play first base, or even a few pinch hit opportunities for Bird makes more sense than limiting Miguel Andujar’s playing time.
I touched on it in the section above. Getting Mike Moustakas or Manny Machado is going to limit the development of two of our up and comers. Taking Miguel Andujar or Greg Bird out of their everyday role will just mean it’s less time for them to learn the ins and outs of being a major leaguer.
Miguel Andujar has been an excellent rookie all year long and even though Greg Bird has struggled and hobbled up to this point of the season, it looks as if he is finally turning it around. Adding offense is usually not a bad thing, but when it interferes with developing the future of the club, it might be better to look towards pitching.
Before breaking down the positives and the negatives of acquiring a starting arm, let’s break down how the Yankees look in the pitching department compared to the rest of the league.
Starting Pitchers ERA: 13th in MLB, 3.91
Starting Pitchers Innings Pitched: 17th in MLB, 504
Starting WHIP: 9th in MLB, 1.23
K/9: 10th in MLB, 8.91
Obviously, there are a lot of improvements to be had when it comes to the Yankees pitching. This hurts especially when you consider how loaded playoff teams’ lineups are. Mookie Betts, Jose Ramirez, Jose Altuve, and the list goes on and on. The bats that we will face in the postseason will be elite so there’s an apparent need for pitching. Let’s break down the positives and negatives of acquiring a pitcher.
There are so many starters that the Yankees are linked to so we are going to break them up into 3 categories. The upper category will include the elite pitchers that are being looked at by the Yankees which include Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Blake Snell, and Madison Bumgarner. The middle category will include Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ, Michael Fulmer, Chris Archer. Then we have the lower category who includes cheap guys like Matt Harvey and James Shields.
The upper category has a ton of positives, but all of them will come at a king’s ransom. This is probably the least likely scenario but if the Yankees do get one of these guys in the upper category then it pushes their World Series hopes that much closer.
All of these pitchers would line up to be the number two starter next to Luis Severino and would replace a current rotation pitcher such as Domingo German or Sonny Gray and allow either of them to pitch out of the bullpen.
The middle category would cost a bit less but do come with risk. Yankee Fans saw J.A. Happ completely implode against the Red Sox earlier this week. Cole Hamels has had his fair share of trouble with right-handed batters all season. Michael Fulmer hasn’t been able to copy over the excellence he had last year. Chris Archer is coming back from injury and has been inconsistent all season.
Any of these guys would still be a huge improvement over the back end of the Yankees rotation.
The lower category is unlikely but still plausible. Both of these targets in the lower category will come at low to no cost at all. Neither one of these guys are truly great pitchers but they have been pretty decent compared to the field and a definitive improvement over the Yankees back-end starters.
Both the upper and middle categories are going to cost the Yankees farm system dearly, most likely including Frazier or another high-end prospect. There is also the risk of these guys being a rental. Some of them are on one-year deals and after a hopeful World Series championship, they will be able to test the free agent market. The lower category carries the high risk of not living up to the expectations they set up in the first half of the season.
Pitching is very clearly the bigger need but it comes down to cost. Manny Machado is an elite player and if we can get him for Frazier and a few pitching prospects not named Sheffield then it’s better to go that way and hope to add a pitcher in the Winter.
If the Orioles asking price for Manny Machado is too steep and the Jays or Rangers don’t make the Yankees pay an arm and a leg for a J.A. Happ or Cole Hamels then it makes more sense to go the pitcher route.
It will come down to the last week, last day, last hour, and maybe even the few last minutes before the trade deadline. The only thing Yankee fans can be sure of is that Brain Cashman will make it extremely exciting.