Well, that escalated quickly. Before my return post examining the Yankees' trade deadline choices could be published, Brian Cashman finalized a deal to send Yangervis Solarte and Rafael DePaula to San Diego for third baseman Chase Headley and cash considerations (seriously). In case you feel like skipping over that post now, here's the conclusion I came to:
I’m not gonna lie, I really don’t know what the best answer is here. Probably a combination of buying and standing pat, holding out as long as they can to see where they’re going to be in a week, then making a move if they still have a shot. I definitely think they should go for it if possible this year though, if only because the near future doesn’t look much brighter than this season. None of their veterans are getting any younger, and Tanaka may spend 2015 rehabbing from surgery. If they stay within striking distance, their best bet may be to put the chips in this year’s pot and hope the baseball gods want to send The Captain into the sunset in grand fashion.
I think it's fair to say that this deal fits squarely in that frame of approaching the last week leading into the deadline.
First and foremost, let's establish that picking up Headley is not a blockbuster move that dramatically reshapes the playoff picture going forward. While he had an MVP caliber season in 2012 and was once one of the most tantalizing and talked about trade targets in the game, those days are probably over. While he's still a very solid defender at the hot corner, he's hitting only .229/.296/.355 this year, which includes a .209/.290/.353 line away from the spacious confines of Petco Park.
That's actually a bit worse than Solarte has been at the plate this year, and if we compare what they've done to this point in the season this isn't much more than a lateral move. The bet, obviously, is that Headley will be more productive than Solarte for the rest of the season, and that's not an outrageous assumption to make by any means. If nothing else, it's unlikely the Yankees will ever really come to regret trading Solarte away, so much like swapping Vidal Nuno for Brandon McCarthy there's at least very little downside to the swap. Of course, the wild card there is DePaula. The 23 year old had a 4.15 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 89 innings for Tampa this year, but he also struggles with his command, and it's easy to see him becoming the next version of Dellin Betances; a tantalizing prospect who tops out as a (very good) reliever.
In the here and now, however, the Yankees have picked up an upgrade of some magnitude at little cost, while maintaining some flexibility if things turn south sooner rather than later. It would be easy to write that the move shows the Yankees are "all in" on this year, but in truth there's very little commitment here. Not only did they not have to give away any high value minor league assets, but Headley is a free agent at the end of the season as well. If the team falls further out of first place before next Thursday, or if Cashman simply can't find a good match for additional trades, it won't be an extra blow of any magnitude that they've already given something up for Headley.
Not that this should be read as a negative appraisal of the trade or a (newly) pessimistic view of the team's chances going forward. Not every move has to be a huge splash to be a good one, and there's never anything wrong with upgrading your team without giving away anything of real consequence. In fact, a move like this is exactly what the team needed at this point, and if they can find one or two more similar deals, they could find themselves in a position where making a much larger acquisition really could change the landscape in the A.L. East.