What should the Yankees do before the trade deadline?
The Yankees enter Sunday with the best record in baseball and have a commanding 10-game lead over the Rays in the American League East. They lead the AL with a +142 run differential and the majors with 554 runs scored. And they’ve done all this with a team medical bill that could rival their roster payroll when the season’s over.
Still, that hasn’t stopped them from being heavily involved in some of the top players expected to be dealt before the July 31 trade deadline. Brian Cashman is rumored to be targeting almost every top of the rotation arm available, with starting pitching considered the last area of need for the Yankees.
Let’s look at the three questions the Yankees face with a week and a half to go before the deadline.
1. How much help do the Yankees really need?
Right now, the Yankees are playing like a World Series team. They’ve already showed the can win with more than a few of their superstars out of the lineup, and they definitely have the positional and bullpen depth needed in October. That doesn’t mean they won’t add another bullpen arm or bat—they traded for slugger Edwin Encarnación despite having a surplus of righty power hitters—but they don’t exactly need to upgrade or add there.
New York’s one area of weakness, relatively speaking, is its rotation. But it’s also not something that’s in need of drastic improvement. The Yankees rank 10th in the majors, and fifth in the AL, in starters ERA. J.A. Happ is the only below average member of their rotation this season, with a 93 ERA+. Domingo Germán has been a revelation this season filling in for ace righthander Luis Severino (who resumed last week), posting a 12-2 record with a 3.38 ERA. Masahiro Tanaka was an All-Star this season and usually improves as the year progresses. Despite a rough four-start stretch from late May to mid-June, CC Sabathia has been reliable in his final big-league season. And for all his inconsistency this year, James Paxton still has a respectable 3.94 ERA and a solid 115 ERA+ across 16 starts.
So yes, they could use another starter. But their rotation isn’t as much of a glaring weakness as it was the last two years.
2. Do they need a blue-chip starter like Madison Bumgarner or Marcus Stroman?
Short answer: No. The Yankees are showing they don’t need anything to be one of the best teams in the league. Acquiring a proven postseason workhorse like Bumgarner could only help them once October comes around, but at what cost? The Giants have climbed their way back into the wild-card race and MadBum has been a major reason why. They still might move him, but their asking price will probably be greater than it was when they were 12 games under .500 on June 29. Plus, it’s been reported that the Yankees aren’t sold on Bumgarner. Why give up a top prospect or two for a three-month rental?
Stroman would be better suited for the Yankees. He's signed through 2020 and his 57.1% groundball rate would play well in Yankee Stadium. However, the Blue Jays could be asking for a deal similar to what the Rays got for Chris Archer last season—two MLB ready top prospects and a third top-100 prospect as the player to be named later. The Yankees shouldn’t give up that much for Stroman.
#Braves were among many teams that scouted Marcus Stroman’s start at Detroit on Friday, which some believe could be his last for Toronto before he’s traded. The asking price will be high; Blue Jays were said to be looking for an Archer-like package of prospects in return.— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) July 20, 2019
3. What can the last two postseasons tell us about what the Yankees need to do to win in October?
One of the concerns for the Yankees when they traded for Encarnación was whether their lineup would be too righthanded and dependent on home runs, which were their two biggest problems over the last two seasons. If they’re going to win in October against some of the best pitchers in baseball, they’re going to need to score without relying on homers. In addition to starting pitching, a balanced offense is what made the 2017 Astros and 2018 Red Sox so dominant in their World Series runs.
Saturday’s 11–5 win over the Rockies was so encouraging for the Yankees because their 11 runs came on 14 hits, but only three of them went for extra bases and none were homers. Yes, the Bronx Bombers still hit a ton of dingers, but their offense is much more than that. The way their roster is currently constructed—in no small part thanks to DJ LeMahieu—they should be able to be just as destructive on offense with singles and doubles as they are with home runs.