At 39-18, the New York Yankees have enjoyed as much success as any organization in 2018.
The reality, however, is this: unless they bolster their pitching depth – and it could be argued that one or more starters and relievers are needed – the franchise’s World Series aspirations will be tough to make a reality.
The Yankees have one thing working in their favor: they have enough trade chips to acquire virtually anyone on the market.
Luis Severino has proven to be a true, clear-cut ace, a rarity in today’s game. Outside of the 24-year-old Baby Bomber, though, the starting rotation is one that’s chock-full of high-risk, high-reward starters.
Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia are battle-tested veterans, playoff proven and can look like top-tier performers on any given night – but their inconsistencies make them hard to be considered reliable. Sonny Gray has performed better as of late but too often looks like someone who struggles with the pressures of pitching in New York. And while youngster Domingo German has shown flashes of potential in the presence of Jordan Montgomery, now lost for the year due to Tommy John surgery, having an unproven starter pitching every fifth day is far from ideal when battling for the Commissioner’s Trophy.
The bullpen, too, can use reinforcements. While Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and Jonathan Holder have all had success this season, David Robertson is still looking to regain his past form, Adam Warren has been hit with the injury bug and Tommy Kahnle looks more and more like a one-year wonder as each day passes. [Kahnle was optioned yesterday, may want to include that.]
Names ranging from Tyson Ross to Cole Hamels to Madison Bumgarner have been linked back to the Bronx. Big time relievers on underwhelming teams like Kelvin Herrera, Brad Hand and Raisel Iglesias will also pique Brian Cashman’s interest.
And if the Padres or Rangers or Giants or Royals or Reds are open for business, the Yankees will be a team their zero in on, thanks in large part the absurd amount of organizational depth.
One attractive name for any team looking at the Yankees as trade partners will be Clint Frazier.
Frazier, the key piece in the 2016 trade deadline deal with the Cleveland Indians for Andrew Miller, showed a lack of plate discipline and inconsistent mechanics when he was first promoted to the major leagues last summer. Fast-forward one year later and the 23-year-old outfielder seems to have finally put it all together and is living up to his top-five billing, which he was back in 2013.
Due to a concussion in Spring Training and loaded outfield depth chart, Frazier has spent a majority of his time in Triple-A, where’s he’s shown improvements across the board. Unlike in years past, the Georgia native has focused on improving his pitch selection, which has upped his average (.311) and on-base percentage (.381), both on pace to be career-highs. At the same time, he continues to slug at a high clip (.575) while also expanding his defensive versatility by playing all three outfield positions, making him one of the best trade chips Cashman has at his disposal.
Frazier is a logical replacement for Brett Gardner next season, but a league source has said Frazier is “far from untouchable.” Frazier could both help the Yankees next season, or could help by leveraging strong returns for the club before the deadline.
Another one of the organization’s best options to dangle is Brandon Drury.
By all accounts, the former Arizona Diamondback is one of Cashman’s favorites and was brought in to be the everyday third baseman. But ever since he was Wally Pipp’d by highly-touted prospect Miguel Andujar (.305/.330/.542 in 190 MLB at-bats), Drury could be someone that catches the eye of opposing general managers.
Drury’s vision issues remain a problem but that hasn’t stopped the 25-year-old from having a solid MLB career while currently excelling against Triple-A pitching. In 93 at-bats with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Drury is hitting an impressive .323 with an OPS of .895, including a .432 OBP. And while he’s exclusively been a third baseman since being acquired by the Yankees, Drury’s versatility could play a major role in other teams’ interest, as he’s also played first base, second base, shortstop and both corner outfield positions in his big league career.
Despite the Yankees’ initial infatuation with Drury, it’s clear that Andujar is their man at the hot corner. Could they hold onto Drury and turn him into a Ben Zobrist-type? Sure. But they can also cash in on him while he’s still young and affordable.
Frazier and Drury represent the best trade bait from a positional standpoint.
Their system is loaded with tantalizing young arms, too.
There wasn’t a more impressive hurler in the farm system than Chance Adams a season ago. The right-hander was on the fast track ever since he was drafted in the fifth round back in 2015 and dominated both in Double-A and Triple-A. Adams combined for a 2.45 ERA in 150.1 innings, including 104 hits, a 135:58 strikeout-to-walk ratio, 1.08 WHIP, .193 BAA and 3.64 FIP.
2018 hasn’t been as fruitful. After undergoing surgery to remove a bone spur in his pitching elbow, Adams has looked far from the pitcher he was a year ago. In 11 starts thus far, he’s pitching to a 5.26 FIP, is averaging just about four walks per nine innings and continues to struggle with command and control. Despite this, and the fact that one scout has told me, “he’s better suited coming out of the bullpen or, at the very least, as an Adam Warren-like swingman,” Adams may be trending in the right direction. In his last start, the 23-year-old allowed just four hits in 5.2 innings pitched while striking out seven along the way.
If a team is looking for pitching help that is on the cusp of the majors or believes they can revert him back to his 2017-form, Adams will be a prime candidate to be moved.
Frazier, Drury and possibly even Adams represent players that can be at the top of a trade packages. But secondary pieces are just as important.
And the Yankees have an abundance of those, too.
Tyler Wade may have looked overmatched at the major league level (which seems to have carried over into his 2018 minor league season) but he was arguably the best player on a stacked RailRiders roster in 2017. Billy McKinney has gone from overhyped draftee to a player who has found his power stroke and has added first base to his defensive repertoire.
According to one scout, Thairo Estrada, “could be a starting middle infielder on a number of clubs right now,” but is blocked by both Gleyber Torres and Didi Gregorius. Dermis Garcia hasn’t developed the way the Yankees have planned but was one of the top prospects in the 2014-15 international crop of free agents and has raw power that teams crave.
Josh Rogers is a left-handed finesse pitcher who currently has a 3.29 ERA in 11 starts in Triple-A. Erik Swanson was world’s ahead of Double-A hitting (.154 BAA, 0.81 WHIP) before earning a promotion to Scranton. J.P. Feyereisen and his nine strikeouts per nine innings is on the cusp of a major league bullpen role.
By July 31, the Yankees will make a move.
It could be Hamels, who could cost Cashman a combination of Rogers and Estrada, amongst others. They could try and pry Ross and Hand together, which would be even more expensive (think Frazier, Drury and a Domingo Acevedo or Freicer Perez-type). They can even go all in on Bumgarner, which will put untouchables on the table – think Justus Sheffield, Estevan Florial, Albert Abreu, and maybe even Andujar – but will be well worth the investment.
And it’s all thanks to the organization’s mindset of prioritizing their farm system and developing young talent.
Dan Federico is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville