Could the Yankees be buyers at the deadline?

As the late-great Robert Frost once said: “two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both.” Perplexingly for the 2016 Yankees, it seems as though they could take both roads at the trade deadline, as GM Brian Cashman has stated that the team plans to be both buyers and sellers. The Yankees organization has already struck gold by dealing away closer Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs earlier this week, as the Bombers received a major league arm in former Yankee Adam Warren and two elite prospects, headlined by the Cubs top prospect SS Gleyber Torres, as well as a solid throw-in to the deal in Rashad Crawford. However, according to Cashman, this move does not mean a fire sale is imminent.
Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson | AP
"This isn't a white flag," Cashman said. "This is a rearrangement, as well as capitalizing on maximizing the acquisition cost on Aroldis Chapman. We'll see where it takes us. I just think it was the right move for our franchise."

While some Yankees fans would prefer to see the Yankees trade away impending free agent Carlos Beltran and rumor-laden players in Michael Pineda or Nathan Eovaldi as they could net prospects that may poise the team for success a few years down the road, it is tough to ignore that on July 27 the bombers sit at 52-48 and are just four games out of a wildcard spot. Let’s take a few minutes to play devils advocate to the general consensus among Yankees fans that this team has no hope, and instead take an optimistic look as to why the Yankees should buy, and who they could target.

Even though Chapman was certainly a valuable asset, the Yankees still have Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, who are arguably the best eight-nine-inning duo in all of baseball. As Warren now figures to take over duties in the seventh inning in his return to the Yankees, perhaps the Pinstripers will hardly miss the luxury of having three closers in their bullpen.

Another strength has been the team’s starting rotation, as they have done an excellent job of getting the ball to the aforementioned late relievers. The Yankees have a bona fide ace in Masahiro Tanaka, as he boasts an even 3.00 ERA through his first 20 starts, and is complimented by a resurgent Michael Pineda who has allowed three or fewer runs in his last 10 starts after getting off to a miserable start. The same can be said about Luis Severino, as after a horrendous first seven starts of the season in which he went 0-6 with a 7.46 ERA, he made 11 starts in the minors and solved his issues on the mound, as he went 7-1 with a 3.11 ERA in AAA. Assuming he can continue his success back in the majors, and Nathan Eovaldi and CC Sabathia can continue to pitch like above-average middle/backend of the rotation arms, the Yankees adequate rotation pairs nicely with their lights-out late inning arms. In fact, in the team’s last ten games their rotation has gone 7-1 with a 1.85 ERA and teams have hit just .208 against them.

Additionally, the Yankees have won 12 of their last 16 games which have come against the Indians, Red Sox, Orioles, Giants, and Astros - all of which are playoff caliber teams.  Even though they are 6.5 games behind the first place Baltimore Orioles, let’s take a quick look at how the Yankees pitching stacks up against the division leaders. One could argue that the Yankees most impressive team statistic is that they lead the American League in strikeouts. Their pitchers aren’t getting lucky. 

They have overpowering, swing and miss stuff unlike the Orioles who have 141 fewer team strikeouts. In fact, only six teams in the MLB have less team strikeouts than the birds. The Yankees are third in the AL in batting average against, as teams have hit just .248 off their pitchers. The Orioles come in at 10th (out of 15) in the AL with a .261 BAA. As we’ve seen in the recent trend of World Series winners, the days of mashing your way to a ring are in the past. Pitchers dominate today’s game, and the Orioles do not have the staff to win the AL East, no matter how many home runs they hit.

While pitching is the core of each team, it’s no secret that the Yankees need to produce more at that plate if they hope to contend. The Orioles and Blue Jays lead the MLB in team home runs and the Red Sox lead the MLB in hits. However, if the Yankees maintain this winning streak heading into the August 1 deadline, it is hard to imagine owner Hal Steinbrenner and Cashman not pursuing a player (or several) to help bolster the team. Assuming that the Yankees now have the prospects to make any of these deals happen, let’s take a look at a few available players that could put the Yankees over the hump.

Chris Sale
Could the Yankees get back to being World Series contenders by forgoing the entire rebuilding process? Earlier this week, Joel Sherman looked at the possibility of the Yankees flipping some of their now abundance of elite prospects to pursue arguably the best starter in the AL in Chris Sale. After his clubhouse episode of cutting up a White Sox throw back jersey and being suspended five games, it is entirely possible that the relationship between the team and Sale is severed (pun intended), and that they could be willing to deal him even with three years left on his contract. Sherman compared the possibility of this deal to the 2015 Texas Rangers and their acquisition of Cole Hamels at the deadline last season. The Rangers run differential at the time was -44, while the Yankees is currently -24. Sale currently boasts a 14-3 record with a 3.18 ERA and 129 strikeouts.

Akin to what Hamels did for the Rangers last year, sometimes all it takes is one pitcher to completely change a ballclub. While this move wouldn’t help their offensive woes, if Severino’s AAA stats translate to the MLB level, any rotation that features Sale, Tanaka, Pineda, Severino, and Eovaldi/Sabathia is absolutely a World Series contender. Paired with the Yankees dominant back end of the bullpen, perhaps all the offense would need to be is league average (which it currently is) to make the Yankees a World Series threat. One could argue that such a bold move like this could even spark struggling veterans like Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Alex Rodriguez and/or Mark Teixeira to perform up to their capabilities again.
Photo Credit: Joe Nicholson | USA TODAY Sports
Jay Bruce
If the Yankees decide that their rotation is already satisfactory, they could go out and pursue a power bat, something they desperately need in the middle of their order. I feel that it is important to mention that Yankee prospect Tyler Austin is absolutely raking in the minors, boasting an impressive line of .288 AVG/.390 OBP/.515 SLG to go along with 15 bombs and 69 RBI’s in 92 games between AA and AAA. However if the Yankees feel that these stats will not translate to the MLB they could go out and get a big bat like Jay Bruce. While he has cooled off a little as of late, Bruce currently leads the NL in RBIs with 78, and has hit 24 jacks while hitting at a .271 clip. His swing would translate perfectly to the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium, and a move to a contending team could light a fire in Bruce and send him on his way to putting up career-best stats.
Photo Credit: Joseph Camporeale | ICON Sportswire
Josh Reddick
If the Yankees refuse to meet the asking price for Bruce, a solid alternative is Josh Reddick. After spending a little more than a month on the shelf, Reddick has returned to his usual form. While Reddick doesn’t quite possess the same power that Bruce has, his swing too would benefit from playing at Yankee Stadium. He has hit a respectable .296 this season, and could be a valuable spark to the middle of the Yankees line-up. Reddick’s extension talks with the Athletics are reportedly going nowhere, so this could be a solid rental acquisition for the Yankees without dealing away one of Torres/Jorge Mateo/Aaron Judge/Gary Sanchez.
Photo Credit: Brad Penner | USA TODAY Sports

Conclusion
Regardless of whether you believe this team is doomed and that any of these moves would be a waste of prospects, or that these moves could put the Yanks smack dab in the middle of a pennant race, brace yourself for the most important week of the Yankees season thus far.

Article by: Sammy Criscitello
Follow me on twitter @SCriscitello11
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