Saturday, August 13, 2022

Yankees trade deadline preview: Biggest needs, potential targets, top trade chips ahead of Aug. 2

For much of the season the New York Yankees have been flirting with a pace that would challenge the single-season record of 116 wins. Even if they don’t get to 116 wins, and even if they don’t finish with MLB‘s best record (the Astros and Dodgers are charging hard), New York is a postseason lock and a good bet to win the AL East for the first time since 2019.

Last year the Yankees traded for Anthony Rizzo, Joey Gallo, and others at the deadline because they needed help just to get to the postseason. This year they’re a postseason lock and figure to prioritize players who can have an outsized impact in October, not so much August and September. That said, GM Brian Cashman has said the team’s record won’t change their deadline plans

“No. Ultimately, you stay connected with the 29 other clubs,” GM Brian Cashman told SI.com earlier this month. “Me, (assistant GM) Mike Fishman, and our baseball operations staff get as much information, share as much information from our end to the opposing clubs. You receive all the information they’re providing, ask about a lot of different players to find out what’s real and what’s not really available, and then see if you match up.”

Cashman was at the helm of the 114-win Yankees in 1998 and that team stood pat at the trade deadline, though the Yankees did make a run at Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. That’s a reminder that although the Yankees are having a special season, Cashman won’t make a move just to make a move. It will have to be something that makes sense for the current roster at the current price.

According to FanGraphs, the Yankees are roughly $7.7 million under the $270 million third competitive-balance tier. Go over $270 million and their 2023 first-round draft pick moves back 10 spots. The Yankees treated the third threshold as a hard cap in 2019 and 2020. If they do that again, they’ll probably have to get creative to make any impact deadline additions fit financially. These are the Yankees though, and they’re having a great season. This isn’t the time to set an artificial payroll limit.

Let’s preview the Bronx Bombers heading into the Aug. 2 trade deadline.

Needs

For a team on pace to win well over 100 games, the Yankees have a fair number of needs. Unloading and replacing the overmatched Gallo is a must, though Matt Carpenter’s emergence lessens the need for a lefty power bat. The Yankees seem content with shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, but even if they wanted to replace him, the trade market lacks impact shortstops. Any upgrades to the offense figure to come in the outfield and maybe on the bench.

Luis Severino’s recent lat injury, as well as Jameson Taillon and Nestor Cortes getting whacked with the home run rate regression stick the last few weeks, should push the Yankees into the market for a starter, and not just a back-end innings guy either. The stars are aligned to trade for an impact pitcher. Every contender could use bullpen help and the Yankees are no different, especially with Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Loáisiga not performing as expected and Michael King now out for the season.

Potential targets

Might as well start with the biggest name on the market, right? Soto recently rejected a $440 million extension and the Nationals will entertain trade offers. You’ll have to give up your first and second born (and more) to get a player this good and this young, but the team that gets the generational talent will win the trade, not the team that gets prospects. (I refer you to the Miguel Cabrera trade.)

Soto would more than replace Gallo in New York’s lineup, plus he’s under team control through 2024, so the Yankees would get him for three postseason runs. Also, Aaron Judge rejected a big extension of his own in spring training. Acquiring Soto would give the Yankees a little added leverage in contract talks with Judge and even allow them to move on completely. Losing Judge would sting, no doubt, but having Soto would soften the blow.

Bottom line, when a player as good and as young as Soto becomes available, the front office of a big-market team like the Yankees must pursue him. Players like this rarely become available. Soto fits New York’s lineup right now and would give them a centerpiece for what could be a post-Judge world come 2023.

Soto is the best-case scenario and Reynolds is the next best thing as a productive, contact-oriented switch-hitter who gets on base and has power, and can play center field. His game is similar to late-1990s dynasty era Yankee Bernie Williams. Reynolds is also under team control through 2025, so trade for him and it’s both a win now and win later move. The Pirates have a big asking price and understandably so. The cost to get Reynolds might be beyond New York’s comfort zone, but as Theo Epstein said when he was reinforcing the Cubs at the 2016 trade deadline: if not now, when?

When Benintendi was unable to play in Toronto earlier this month due to his vaccination status, it seemed to close the door on a trade to the Yankees, but that is not the case. They remain in the mix (the Yankees have one more regular season series in Toronto, and could see them in the postseason) and Benintendi, a rental, is essentially the polar opposite of Gallo offensively. He’s a high contact/low power bat, and he has AL East and big market experience from his time with the Red Sox. Benintendi is going to get moved at the deadline. The Yankees are as sensible a destination as any team.

Unlike Benintendi, Happ is not a rental. He will remain under team control through 2023, which could appeal to a Yankees team that is uncertain to re-sign Judge after the season (I think they will, but it’s not a lock). The first-time All-Star has cut down on his strikeouts significantly this year and is now a rock solid all-around switch-hitter. The Yankees and Cubs hooked up for the Rizzo trade last year and perhaps Chicago’s familiarity with the Yankees’ farm system will help facilitate a Happ deal.

Soto is Plan A, Reynolds is Plan B, Happ is Plan C, and a guy like Peralta figures to be Plan D. The Diamondbacks are loaded with young outfielders and the soon-to-be 35-year-old Peralta is a goner one way or another, either at the deadline or as a free agent after the season. He’s an affordable lefty bat who punishes righties and is a sneaky good left field defender. Peralta may not be the sexiest name, but he represents an upgrade over the current version of Gallo, and would lengthen New York’s lineup without requiring a significant prospect package. 

Every contender wants Castillo, a 29-year-old two-time All-Star with upper-90s gas and one of the game’s best changeups. The Yankees got a firsthand look at him two weeks ago, when Castillo marched into Yankee Stadium and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, and finished with one run allowed in seven innings.

The Reds have been dumping payroll since the offseason and the deadline could be an opportunity for the Yankees to use their financial might by taking on a bad contract to lessen the prospect cost for Castillo. Mike Moustakas is owed roughly $27 million through 2023. If that’s too much, Mike Minor (about $4.5 million left this year) or Tyler Naquin ($1.4 million or so left this year) could work instead. Either way, Castillo is an obvious fit for the Yankees as a 1B to Gerrit Cole’s 1A, plus he would remain under team control next season as well. He’s not a rental.

The question is not will the Athletics trade Montas, it’s when will the Athletics trade Montas? A recent bout of shoulder inflammation came at a bad time, though Montas looked good in his return last week, and he never did go on the injured list. When healthy, Montas is on par with Castillo, and he’s also under team control through next season. The two are very comparable. Castillo isn’t coming off a recent shoulder issue, however. But, if Montas is truly healthy now, it’s possible he’s the better bang for the buck.

How about a third stint in pinstripes? The 37-year-old Robertson is having a fantastic season, his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, and he is the kind of rental high-leverage reliever who can help any contender. Robertson also passed every “can he handle New York?” test in his previous two stints with the Yankees. He can close, he can set up, he can pitch middle relief, you name it. Robertson is an ideal modern reliever given his bat-missing ability and versatility.

The Rockies do some weird things, but I think even they know they have to trade Bard, a 37-year-old free agent-to-be. Bard has an upper-90s sinker and he both misses bats and gets ground balls, which is exactly what the Yankees build their bullpen around these days (think Clay Holmes). Walks can be concern at times, especially given his history with the yips, but Bard is a bona fide high-leverage reliever, and the Yankees can use one of those right now.

The ugly ERA (over 7.00 most of the season) hides a pitcher with a new sweeper slider and a tendency to get weak contact on the ground with a power sinker. The Matt Chapman and Matt Olson trades downgraded Oakland’s defense tremendously and Trivino has seen a ton of ground balls sneak through as a result. He’s a much better pitcher than his ERA would lead you to believe and is exactly the kind of buy-low opportunity smart teams target (like the Yankees with Holmes last year).

Trade chips

Gallo has little to no trade value and is a change of scenery candidate at best. Padres GM AJ Preller briefly overlapped with Gallo when he worked in the Rangers‘ front office and has long been a fan, and Preller might jump at the chance to get Gallo on the cheap. That said, he won’t bring a significant return. Neither will 2018 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Miguel Andújar, who is buried in Triple-A and has requested a trade (multiple times). These two aren’t “trade chips,” necessarily, but they are very available.

The Yankees have three consensus top-100 prospects in outfielder Jasson Domínguez and shortstops Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza. Outfielder Everson Pereira and lefty Ken Waldichuk have popped up on some top 100 lists as well. The Yankees love — love — Volpe and he is likely to be off-limits, perhaps even in a Soto trade. Domínguez is not untouchable but would be difficult to pry loose. I think Peraza, Pereira, and Waldichuk are the best prospects the Yankees are ready to deal at the deadline.

Last year the Yankees used the deadline to clear out a looming 40-man roster logjam. They have a deep farm system, so rather than potentially lose prospects in the Rule 5 Draft after the season, they can package a few together to get big-league help. Catcher Josh Breaux, lefty Matt Krook, and righties Jhony Brito and Randy Vasquez are on the 40-man roster bubble and could be dangled at the deadline. Breaux, Brito, and Krook are Triple-A players close to MLB ready too, making them attractive to rebuilding teams who don’t want to wait for a lower minors prospect to develop.

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