The Yankees are not so secretly into a headlong dive to add one if not two starting pitchers for the stretch drive. Here’s a look at the candidates…
For the Yankees, this is nothing new. It follows that at this juncture in any season they will be looking for starting pitching. In 2017, it was Sonny Gray (now with the Cincinnati Reds) who grabbed the spotlight that somehow quickly dimmed when the Yankees traded for him.
In 2018, Brian Cashman netted J.A. Happ in a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays for Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney, who is now a regular in the Jays outfield. Lance Lynn, who is now having a decent season with the Rangers, was added in a trade that sent Tyler Austin to the Minnesota Twins, who in turn flipped Austin to the Giants.
This is how it goes when starting pitchers are involved in trades. You never know what you are getting until they become your property. Happ, of course, is the lone Yankees survivor of the three. He’s having a serviceable year for the Yankees (5-3, 4.83 ERA in 12 starts), but he slots in as a three or four.
Turning to this year, the Poster Boy is Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel was released from purgatory yesterday when the College Draft began, allowing him to be signed with no loss of a future draft pick. Keuchel will cost beaucoup dollars and is probably still smarting from overestimating his value in the market, and even more so because he turned down the $17.9 million offer from the Astros.
I’m putting aside Keuchel, mainly because the Yankees will either get him or they won’t. Other teams are sure to be involved and if the price tag gets too high, Brian Cashman will not so gracefully bow out. If Keuchel takes his beard elsewhere, it shouldn’t be viewed as a great loss since he’s a contact pitcher and not necessarily suited for Yankee Stadium. It’s a small sample (5 innings, one game, seven hits, four runs), but it’s typical of what we would expect to see.
So who else might the Yankees be after? Not surprisingly, the pickings are slim as all teams continue to covet starting pitching. Here’s a rundown on the top five:
Yankees Trade Target – Madison Bumgarner
Madison Bumgarner is appealing for two reasons: He’s young (29) and he’s a southpaw, which fits well into play at Yankee Stadium. His pedigree is solid and is built on having won ten consecutive playoff games between 2010-2016, including his inhuman feats in 2014 when he single-handedly brought a World Championship to San Francisco.
The Giants are going nowhere for at least a year or two making it likely that Bumgarner can smell the roses pitching for the Yankees and New York (don’t discount that).
The trouble is the Giants are in a rebuilding stage and they will be looking for a boatload of talent they can sell to their fan base which has an ongoing love affair with “Bum”.
My thinking is Brian Cashman goes all in, but not necessarily with minor league talent. The Giants need power and Clint Frazier is an ideal chip to provide that. But Cashman, as rumored before, will throw a curveball in the mix by “demanding” that Jacoby Ellsbury be added to the deal with some kind of a split on the monies owed to Ellsbury.
Bottom line? The deal doesn’t get done and the Yankees move on.
Yankees Trade Targets – Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez
These are grouped together because they are with the Toronto Blue Jays. Much like the Giants, the Jays waited too long to unload their aging talent and are paying for it now with an unimpressive season in the AL East. The odds are not great the Yankees could trade for both pitchers, making it a choice between the two.
Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez are remarkably similar. They both have six years of major league service and they are both relatively young (respectively 26 and 28). Their career records (Stroman 44-41) and Sanchez (32-25) are separated by the career year Sanchez had in 2016 when he went 15-2, finishing seventh in the Cy Young voting. They both have the same 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings mark for their career.
From the Yankees perspective, the difference maker might be the $7.5 million owed to Stroman versus $3.9 million due to Sanchez. Both are eligible for free agency in 2021.
This one looks like a wash. Stroman leads the league in losses this year with seven, but Sanchez is only one loss behind. Factor in the Blue Jays not being a good team this year and who knows which end is up or down?
Bottom line. The Yankees trade for one of the two with the deciding factor as the exchange rate for either pitcher. Both will provide innings and that’s what the Yankees need to save their bullpen for October.
Yankees Trade Target – Mike Minor
Mike Minor pitched for the Braves and Royals before coming to the Texas Rangers. With seven years of major league service, he would be owed a pro-rated salary of $9.8 million, plus a full $9.8 million next year. Minor is eligible for free agency in 2021.
Cast among those awesome pitchers the Atlanta Braves keep churning out, Minor never realized his potential with the Braves, who granted him free agency after the 2015 season.
Still in his prime at 31, Mike Minor is having a pretty good season with the Rangers in 2019 (5-4 with a glossy 2.74 ERA). He also has one complete game shutout.
This makes Minor prime real estate for the Yankees. However, two hurdles arise for the Yankees to overcome. First is the fact he is having a good year, which increases the asking price by the Rangers. And second, the Rangers are in a quandary due to their hot and cold streaks putting them in the race, only to die another death a week later.
The saving grace for the Yankees is the Rangers are in the same division as the Astros, leaving Texas as a competitor in the Wild Card race. As of today, the Rangers would qualify as the number two team, but it remains to be seen where they’ll be as the July deadline approaches.
Bottom Line? The Yankees will push hard for this lefty. He’s got the right stuff (head and arm) and he doesn’t surrender the home run (only one per nine innings over his career).
Yankees Trade Target – Matthew Boyd
Matthew Boyd is another lefty, now pitching for the Detroit Tigers. At 28, he’s only in his fifth big league season. Like Minor, Boyd is having a standout season (5-4, 3.01 ERA over 13 starts). That may not sound like much, but remember we’re talking about the 22-34 Detroit Tigers here.
Compared to the talent discussed above, the Yankees most likely rank Boyd at the bottom of the pack. His biggest asset appears to be his reliability, having made 57 starts over the last two seasons. But his overall record of 27-39 casts him as a pedestrian pitcher at best.
Moneywise though, he’s what the Yankees characteristically like. Boyd is unsigned after this season with three years of arbitration beginning in 2020. He doesn’t reach free agency until 2023.
Bottom Line? The Yankees follow him closely over his next five or six starts. If his success continues, they’re in. Otherwise, there are better “arms” in the bucket.
Remember, these are the pitchers being talked about. Brian Cashman and his team of scouts are no doubt looking elsewhere as well. And sometimes, surprises come in big packages when least expected – as in the blitz on the Mariners in securing James Paxton in a deal out of nowhere.
The only sure thing is the Yankees will do something. They have to. CC Sabathia, bless his heart, may or may not make it through the season. Watching him gingerly walk back to the mound after running to first base to record the putout gives the Yankees pause in knowing they need all the insurance they can get (for a reasonable price).
We’ll stay in touch on this as we move closer to the July 31 trade deadline.