Be Forewarned – Don’t Expect an Exciting Trade Deadline:
As journalists across the internet start to make cases for players that the Yankees may/should covet at the Trade Deadline to address many of their concerns (Center Field, Starting Pitcher, etc.), Ethan wants to remind you of the way the Yankees have played this game the last few years.
Be forewarned, the trade deadline is going to be boring for the New York Yankees.
The Last 5 Trade Deadlines (2016-2020):
Over the last 5 seasons of trade deadline moves, it is without a question the most exciting year was 2016, though 2016 was also an oddity when it comes to how the Yankees played the trade deadline game. Sitting at a 44-44 record going into the All-Star Game, the Yankees were 4th in the AL East and 7.5 game back of the Baltimore Orioles and 9 games back of the Minnesota Twins (for the top wild card spot). Thus, the Yankees sold. They sent Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for Gleyber Torres, Andrew Miller to the Indians for Clint Frazier, and also ditched Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova.
In 2017, after a “retool” the year before, the Yankees would make three considerable moves. One with the Chicago White Sox for Todd Frazier & David Robertson (for Blake Rutherford), one with the Twins for Jaime Garcia, and one with the Oakland Athletics for Sonny Gray. Much would be the same in 2018 as the Yankees would again primarily focus on bringing in some arms, notably Zack Britton (from the Baltimore Orioles), J.A. Happ (from the Toronto Blue Jays), and Lance Lynn (from the Twins).
And those moves were exciting. The Yankees were going for it. They were getting good talent to fix problems of the team. So, who did they acquire in 2019? Edwin Encarnacion. A decent move, but a player who only added to a plethora of right-handed power hitters with injury problems. Maybe they’d fix the problem in 2020, which on one hand you can say they did: they didn’t bring in a power hitting right-handed bat with injury problems. Partially because they didn’t acquire anybody at the deadline. Why?
Well, the Yankees had about half the team on the IL and they were going to come back over the months of August and September. So, Cashman sat by waiting for players to return from injury. As you can see during my Trade Deadline live-thread from last year, this was incredibly frustrating. And I expect it to happen again.
The Injured Yankees of 2021:
Going into today (6/4), the Yankees have 11 players on their Injured List including 7 who would be starters had they been healthy. This list includes 2 starting pitchers (Severino, Kluber), 3 relief pitchers (Britton, O’Day, Wilson), and 2 batsmen (Voit, Hicks). Now, ignoring Aaron Hicks- as he is not scheduled to return in 2021- the Yankees front office is likely looking at selling the fanbase in a similar direction at the trade deadline as they did last year.
Luis Severino is about to begin his rehab starts in the minors (starting this upcoming Sunday with the Tampa Tarpons) and Corey Kluber is scheduled to begin a throwing program in the coming days. Luis Severino is expected to return in mid-to-late July while Kluber would likely be a mid-August addition. To Cashman, this could very well be his excuse to not need to trade for a starting pitcher.
With the trio of relievers, all of them are expected to return at some point soon. Both Britton and Wilson have expected return dates in the next week as O’Day is expected to return back another week after that. To Cashman, he just acquired 3 solid relief arms for free. No need to trade for anyone.
And Luke Voit could be coming back at the end of June. He’ll be the fix the lingering ongoing infield problems.
Now, this doesn’t address center field as Aaron Hicks is not going to return in 2021. And, it’s clear that Brett Gardner (61 OPS+) is not the solution. But, there’s another factor at play as to why players like Starling Marte or Ketel Marte aren’t likely to be possibilities and/or considered…
The Bottom Line:
According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Yankees have a buffer of exactly $2,368,827 before they reach the luxury tax limit. Everybody and their mothers knows that the Yankees refuse to go over that limit. It won’t happen, so I’m not even going to pretend.
Now, to make this an easier exercise to evaluate, let’s not consider any bonus clauses that may add to any players 2021 salary, and let’s say that the Yankees will only have to cover 50% of a players 2021 if they get them at the trade deadline. In this scenario, the Yankees could go after any player/combination of players that are making less than $4,737,654 in 2021. That opens up the following list of decently-okay and likely available players for just trying to mend the Yankees biggest need at center-field (thanks again to Spotrac):
Kevin Pillar – $3.6 Million – Mets 4th OF
Michael A. Taylor – $1.75 Million – Royals CF
Billy Hamilton – $1.25 Million – White Sox 4th OF
Now, that’s an incredibly uninspiring list.
Though, we could point to a player like Ketel Marte who is only making $6 Million in 2021. The Yankees may be able to get the Diamondbacks to cover some cost for him, to make that work. However, he is also under control in 2022 and would likely cost much much more than the Yankees would be willing to spend in terms of prospects (on BaseballTradeValues.com Marte has a 74.10 MTV, which would be similar to the value of Gleyber Torres). So, it isn’t worth it to really consider any more than a pipe dream.
And, Starling Marte is making $12.5 Million this year. The Yankees would need the Marlins to eat nearly $8 Million alone to even consider a deal. That’s effectively already off the table too.
A Closing Note:
Be prepared. The Yankees have put themselves into a very tight position when it comes to the trade deadline. Their propensity to go after risky players with uninspiring injury histories has led the team to consistently needing a roster of 30 worthwhile players, as the Yankees also avoided making depth moves for the 2021 season.
They have no money to spend or much wiggle room to play with. They don’t have the ability to trade for top-of-the-line talent. They haven’t been fun at the deadline in recent years either.
Be prepared and be forewarned. The 2021 Trade Deadline is going to be boring. Bringing in Michael A. Taylor and waiting for players to return from injury is not going to excite this fanbase.