Edwin Encarnacion a Yankee: The Fallout
As all of the Yankee universe is well aware, the Yankees pulled off a trade to acquire Edwin Encarnacion last night. No matter what you think about the roster construction as it stands now, there is no doubting that the Yankees now have one of the most dangerous lineups in all of baseball once Judge and Stanton return next week. Our own Ethan Semendinger posted a great breakdown of the trade this morning, but I would like to look at the trade from a different angle.
This Is Not The Last Move
I had a feeling that the Yankees would be players on the trade market this summer, but striking first by acquiring one of the best-hitting first basemen in baseball sets the tone. The Yankees are about to be the healthiest that they have been all year in the field, which means that they are going to have a very crowded 25-man roster situation. It is a bit of a fallacy to say that the Yankees have to make a move immediately based on the trade. I am of the opinion that having too much depth is never a bad thing, and there are ways that the Yankees can temporarily mitigate the roster crunch. For instance, Frazier, despite his excellent performance at the plate, still has options remaining and can be sent to the minors. The Yankees can also DFA Morales and find a dump-deal for Maybin (as good as he’s been).
All of that being said, the Yankees greatest area of need is at Starting Pitcher, and last time I checked, Encarnacion can’t pitch. The extra depth this move creates makes some of the Yankees prospect and position player capital expendable. Looking at the current situation, I see 5 players that are now prime trade bait with varying degrees of value: Estevan Florial, Clint Frazier, Thairo Estrada, Tyler Wade, and Gio Urshela. All but Urshela are of little surprise to Yankee fans, but hear me out. Urshela has broken out in a big way this year, and had previously held some prospect shine in his youth. His combination of offensive capability and clear defensive aptitude make Urshela a very valuable commodity. As I stated in my piece about Urshela’s breakout, Urshela really only has value as a third baseman, as he does not have a lot of defensive value elsewhere on the diamond. As good as Urshela has been, the Yankees now have a squeeze in the infield. If given the choice between LeMahieu and Urshela, I take LeMahieu. LeMahieu is fantastic defensively in multiple spots around the diamond, and the fact that the Yankees now have two 1B/DH type players (Encarnacion and Voit) on the roster limits their ability to get creative with the DH spot. I love Urshela, and I realize that it is a controversial idea to trade him, but there are ways to make the roster work without him. Urshela has gone from being an expendable piece to someone who could be quite valuable on the trade market.
Florial and Frazier are both players who could bring back a real return in trades. Florial is a high-ceiling prospect who is now healthy. Frazier has finally proven that he is capable of hitting in the middle of an order at the big league level, even if he needs further development defensively and on the bases. Both of those guys can be centerpieces to a deal.
Estrada and Wade are two of my favorite prospects from the past few seasons. Estrada looked fantastic in his limited time in the Majors this season, and multiple reports indicate that teams have been calling about him. Estrada is not quite a good enough prospect to be a centerpiece to a deal for an established starter, but he is a great complimentary piece. Wade has flashed some of the skills that made him a popular prospect, but he has not proven that he can hit consistently. There really isn’t a spot for Wade in the big leagues, and he could be an attractive piece around the league as a guy who needs a change of scenery.
In any case, I think any trade the Yankees make for a starter will begin with these names. Urshela and Frazier have more value now than when they began the year, and it probably makes sense for the Yankees to cash in on the added value. Same goes for Estrada, and Florial and Wade both could be in the mix as well.
Looking around the league, I think that a bunch of teams should be looking to deal with the Yankees, but in addition to the names I’ve mentioned in the Weekly Mailbag and in other posts I’ve written here, there are two new names I think that we should keep in the back of our heads. The first is Matt Boyd with the Tigers. He is just coming into his prime, and his performance has gone from middling to stellar. The Tigers are looking to sell, and anyone young who isn’t tied down makes sense for them, as they just need an injection of young talent. The Tigers have leverage in this situation, but I think that any trade for Boyd starts with Florial, Frazier, and one of Estrada or Wade. The asking price could even be higher than that, but I think an offer like that at least gets the Yankees in the door.
The other guy I’d look at is Zack Wheeler with the Mets. I wrote about Wheeler this past off-season, but let’s re-visit this scenario for a second. Wheeler has struggled some this season, but all of the underlying numbers that made me like him remain. I think that Wheeler is due for positive regression, and would be a great acquisition for a Yankee team with World Series aspirations. The biggest problem is that I have a hard time imagining the Mets’ management team okaying a trade with the Yankees. If ownership turns over a new leaf (unlikely, but possible with a new GM in town), the Yankees and Mets match-up for a trade. In this scenario, I could see the Mets asking for Urshela, Frazier, and Florial in a deal for Wheeler.
The other names on the market are familiar. Of note, I do not like the idea of acquiring Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner is on the downside of his career, the numbers are all trending in the wrong direction, and I do not think that he is a real upgrade over any of the Yankees in-house options. I would much rather go for younger, high-upside arms like Wheeler and Boyd.
The new Yankee lineup could be a lot of fun, and I have a hard time finding anyone other than the Astros who could lay claim to a better lineup. Here’s one iteration of the lineup that I’ve been playing around with in my head:
Yes, there are some strikeouts in the lineup, but man that’s a lineup that can mash. The bench in this scenario (with the current roster) would be Urshela, Gardner, and Romine. That is as good a lineup as you can find. I can’t wait to see what the Yankees do next, but this lineup could be the best in baseball. The replacements have been fun, but this lineup may make this summer one to remember.