The 2019 season is only 16 games old, but it already feels like the Yankees need to be active on the trade market. They have been decimated by injuries, many of them long-term. Luis Severino and Dellin Betances both suffered setbacks last week and are weeks away. Aaron Hicks is being brought along slowly, we still don’t have a return date for Didi Gregorius, and Miguel Andujar is potentially facing season-ending surgery. That ain’t good.
Normally mid-April would be too early — way too early — to begin considering trade scenarios. This is not a normal year though. The Yankees have many core players on the injured list and there is a single July 31st trade deadline now. No longer can teams wait things out knowing August trade waivers are a viable fallback plan. The single July 31st trade deadline figures to increase early-season trade activity, which is good news for the Yankees.
The injuries have created needs up and down the roster. Add in attrition rates and poor performances and preexisting roster needs, and yeah, there’s a good chance the Yankees will be active on the trade market in the coming weeks. So, with that in mind, let’s look ahead at what exactly they might need (subject to change, of course), why they might need it, and who they could target. Let’s dig in.
How likely will they need it? Very likely.
Why will they need it? Well, Severino just suffered a setback and is looking at a late-June/early-July return in the best case scenario, and that’s a pretty good reason. Also, it would be foolish to count on Jordan Montgomery having an impact so soon after Tommy John surgery. There’s no shame in trading for rotation help at midseason. Four of the last five World Series winners had to do it.
- 2018 Red Sox: Nathan Eovaldi
- 2017 Astros: Justin Verlander
- 2016 Cubs: No one!
- 2015 Royals: Johnny Cueto
- 2014 Giants: Jake Peavy
Lat strains are tricky and it doesn’t take much for six weeks on the shelf to turn into eight weeks and eight weeks to turn into ten weeks. The Yankees should get themselves some protection in case Severino is slowed (again). At a minimum, they should add an innings guy a la Lance Lynn last year. Preferably they would add someone they can put alongside Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton in a potential postseason rotation.
Possible Targets: Impending free agents on bad teams are always a good place to start. Madison Bumgarner will be the big name all summer and, honestly, I think it’s more likely the Giants sign him to an extension than trade him. He is a franchise icon. Does Cole Hamels become available if the Cubs continue to stink? I imagine the White Sox will flip Ivan Nova. The Angels could put Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey out there. Mike Minor, Marcus Stroman, and Aaron Sanchez are either signed or under control in 2020, so they would be longer term pickups. Moreso than any other position, the pitching trade market seems to change constantly throughout the summer.
How likely will they need it? Probably. I mean, maybe. Chances are they will. But maybe not.
Why will they need it? The supposed Super Bullpen has been anything but super in the early going, and if that continues, yes, the Yankees will have little choice but to go out and get bullpen help at the trade deadline. If Chad Green and Zack Britton don’t get going and Betances is unable to make it back reasonably soon, adding a reliever at the deadline will be a must. Who would’ve thunk it? Baseball can be a real jerk sometimes.
That said, it is entirely possible the Yankees won’t need bullpen help at all come midseason. I mean, there’s always room for another quality reliever, but the Yankees won’t be as desperate for another bullpen arm if Green and Britton turn things around, Betances makes progress with his rehab, and someone like Joe Harvey carves out a role. I am definitely a “get as many good players as possible” guy. With the bullpen, the need isn’t quite as obvious as it is with the rotation, at least not yet. The Yankees can take a more wait-and-see approach here.
Possible Targets: With Betances hurting, the best impending free agent reliever is Giants lefty Will Smith, and San Francisco made him available over the winter. I can already see speculation of a Bumgarner/Smith package deal. The Orioles figure to make Mychal Givens and Richard Bleier available, and controllable relievers on bad teams like Drew Steckenrider (Marlins), Alex Colome and Kelvin Herrera (White Sox), and Ken Giles (Blue Jays) are always candidates to move. Maybe pass on the Giles. The other guys are a different matter.
How likely will they need it? More likely than you may think!
Why will they need it? Brett Gardner is not an every single day player at this point of his career and both Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton are hurt. Stanton’s injury might not be a long-term concern. Then again, the Yankees have already had several setback situations this year, so maybe play it safe? The Hicks injury went from day-to-day to week-to-week to two cortisone shots and maybe he’ll be able to begin rehab games before the end of April.
At the moment, the Yankees’ outfield depth chart looks like this:
- Aaron Judge
- Giancarlo Stanton (injured)
- Aaron Hicks (injured)
- Brett Gardner (shouldn’t be a full-time player at this point in his career)
- Clint Frazier (has had injury problems the last two years)
- Mike Tauchman
- I guess Billy Burns?
You don’t have to try real hard to envision a scenario in which the Yankees need another bona fide center fielder at midseason, or at least another warm body for depth. The Yankees had Gardner, Hicks, Judge, and Stanton in the outfield last season, yet there were Shane Robinson and Neil Walker in right field in August, and Andrew McCutchen in September. There are more reasons to believe the Yankees will need to add an outfielder at some point this summer than there were at this time last year.
Possible Targets: As far as center fielders go, Jarrod Dyson is the name to keep in mind. The Diamondbacks will fall out of it eventually and he’s a rental. Dyson won’t hit a ton, but he can really go get the ball in center field and wreak havoc on the bases. Arizona teammate Adam Jones is another possibility. Yasiel Puig if the Reds don’t make a move up the standings? Not a crazy idea! With Judge under control through 2022 and both Stanton and Hicks signed long-term, I have to think the Yankees would focus on rentals should they make a play for an outfielder at the deadline.
How likely will they need it? It depends.
Why will they need it? The single July 31st trade deadline could be a headache for the Yankees with regards to their infield. Do they have enough time to evaluate Gregorius post-elbow reconstruction? Is it enough time to know whether Andujar is completely over his injury and will be able to avoid surgery? The Yankees have to hope the answer is yes and assume it will be no. Prepare to be without Andujar and prepare for a rusty Sir Didi.
With Gio Urshela already in the big leagues — he is out of minor league options and I don’t think the Yankees could count on him clearing waivers should his roster spot be needed for a returning player — the Yankees have pretty much exhausted their infield depth, especially since they don’t seem to like Tyler Wade all that much. At the very least, picking up a depth guy for Triple-A would make sense, something similar to the Adeiny Hechavarria trade last year. Another warm body just to be safe.
We know this much: The (latest) Greg Bird injury opens a spot for another bat. Even if everyone gets healthy and stays healthy the rest of the season, the Yankees could (should) slot Stanton into left field and move Gardner into a fourth outfielder’s role. That allows Luke Voit and the new mystery bat to share first base and DH. I prefer Justin Smoak. Maybe the Yankees get someone else instead. Point is, the Bird injury gives the Yankees an open spot for another hitter.
Possible Targets: Jose Abreu is the only rental first base option beyond Smoak and the White Sox have resisted trading him so long that I assume they’re going to sign him to an extension at some point. Would the Yankees take on money to get Edwin Encarnacion? (Should they?) Josh Harrison, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Wilmer Flores stand out as low-cost utility infielder types. Starlin Castro and Todd Frazier are more expensive options. The infield market could be a buyer’s market. I think there will be more supply than demand, and that’s good for the Yankees.
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The combination of a single July 31st trade deadline and so many long-term injuries leads me to believe the Yankees will look for upgrades and depth aggressively on the trade market. Assuming they want to give themselves the best shot at contention, that is. Also, it’s not like they can wait around long either, because they could be looking at a double-digit deficit in the standings come June without help. The sooner the Yankees act, the better their chances to stay in the race all season. It really is that simple.