Should the Yankees have been sellers?
My phone buzzes. I look at the MLB alert: Yankees take a 1-0 lead. About 10 minutes later: Opposing team ties the Yankees 1-1. Another 10 minutes later: Opposing team takes a 3-1 lead. That is how it’s gone down most of the season for the New York Yankees. Yet they’re still holding onto the hope that they will be playoff contenders because technically they are right in the hunt for a wild-card spot.
So, at the trade deadline, GM Brian Cashman made some moves. The team acquired from Arizona a versatile player in Martin Prado, who should replace Ichiro Suzuki in right field. They also traded like for like in acquiring infielder Stephen Drew for infielder Kelly Johnson from, of all trading partners, Boston. This ended the Brian Roberts experiment as the second baseman was designated for assignment soon afterward. Prior to the deadline, they traded for pitcher Brandon McCarthy and third baseman Chase Headley. But should the Yankees have really been sellers at the trade deadline?
The Red Sox had quite the fire sale, off-loading pitchers Jon Lester and John Lackey, and getting back some quality players, most notably outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who promises to be a beast at Fenway. Boston has retooled and gotten younger in the process, and they could still get Lester back next year as a free-agent signing.
While the Yankees did improve a bit, what would have happened if they decided to be sellers? What impact players could they have shipped out? There really is not a whole lot of star power the Bombers have that was worth moving. Brett Gardner is probably the most tradable and valuable of their everyday players — a speedy outfielder with a reasonable contract who is both a plus defender and solid offensively (hitting .283 with 14 home runs). Hard-throwing reliever Dellin Betances may be at his peak value for a team looking to sure up its bullpen or in need of a potential closer. Francisco Cervelli has worth both in front of and behind the plate, and catching is allegedly a position of strength for the Yankees farm system. And hey, if some team was in the market for an aging first baseman who still has some pop and good defense, but is also owed a lot of money and slowly breaking down, I’d pack Mark Teixeira’s bags myself. This is pretty much what the Yankees had to offer.
They simply did not have the trade chips the Red Sox did to simultaneously clean house and improve, especially with four out of five of their marquee pitchers on the DL. Trading bigger names may have, however, gotten them closer to getting back on track for a serious championship run in 2015 as opposed to this sad limp to the wild card in 2014.
These incremental improvements are all fans could hope for this year. There’s at least a foundation in place as the Yankees try to compete for a playoff spot during Derek Jeter’s final season. There is also less urgency to call up hot-hitting prospect Rob Refsnyder and more time to let him develop his second base skills in triple-A. (We all know that second base and shortstop are going to be big, gaping holes come next season.)
The Yankees were not in a position to pull off a full-on fire sale or a blockbuster trade. At the very least, they are slowly inching in the right direction. Now, if I could just bring myself to turn off those alerts.