The Yankees have unveiled a strategy that is a beauty to behold. Why spend lavishly for free agents when talent equal to, or even better, exists via trades, costing only prospects?
In the Yankees recent way of doing things, James Paxton is not an anomaly. He’s the norm, and just for kicks and to see where I’m going with this, name the last free agent the free-spending Yankees signed to a long-term deal. Jacoby Ellsbury – Masahiro Tanaka – maybe. Oops, I forgot Aroldis Chapman. It barely matters though because Brian Cashman has built the Yankees on trades, and he is continuing to do so this year.
Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn, and now James Paxton, are all now the property of the Yankees via trades. Others like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar, Dellin Betances, Luis Severino, et al. were all born and bred in the Yankees farm system. Bah, humbug on free agents this year too.
Building a winning team that lasts is not rocket science. You can line your farm system with highly regarded prospects, and when they’re almost but not quite ripe for the picking, trade them off for already ripened quality players. That’s the Yankees way.
Another way is to spend tons of money picking off the high fruit in the free agent market, dealing out long-term deals with the hope of netting a championship or two before Albert Pujols or Joey Votto is a grandfather. The Philadephia Phillies seem bent on going this route, even to the point their owner says he will spend “stupidly” if he must.
Any team and the Yankees are one of them, which has a farm system loaded with talent, must continuously pare the tree to stay within MLB rules that protect only 40 players on a teams roster, with the rest being subject to the Rule 5 draft.
Brian Cashman has been superb in doing so by trading prospects in return for proven major league talent, to the point where the Yankees have only one player unprotected among their top prospects (27th rated Dermis Garcia,1B/3B). By comparison, the Red Sox have eight players exposed, including their #1 and #7 prospects, *1. Michael Chavis, SS and *7. Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP,
By no means is Cashman finished with the trade market. Still available as bait for the likes of (perhaps) a Corey Kluber, Paul Goldschmidt, Madison Bumgarner, etc. are top-flight Yankees prospects Estevan Florial OF, Albert Abreu RHP, Jonathan Loaisiga RHP, Domingo Acevedo RHP, and the list goes on.
Yes, it hurts to see some of this talent go, but remember, by definition “prospects” are promises, possibilities, and potential. Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate, James Kaprielian, and Erik Swanson, are all pitchers who have figured prominently in deals the Yankees have made recently, but not one of them has a major league win next to their name (yet).
None of this means the Yankees will not make a splash in the free agent market this offseason, even to the point of signing, for instance, a Bryce Harper. But if something like Harper happens, it’s not going to be by design and effort. Instead, it’ll be when the stars align just right, and Brian Cashman has no choice but to make the no-brainer type move, as what occurred when Giancarlo Stanton became a Yankee.
To repeat what I’ve said before, Brian Cashman’s got this. Selling the farm may be an unorthodox way to do business, and it certainly violates a cardinal baseball rule. But it’s certainly working for the Yankees.