With the Major League trade deadline looming less than a month away, the New York Yankees are among the many teams that may wait until the last minute to decide what their approach will be. A team basically has four or five options as follows:
- Buy aggressively
- Buy to tweak what the team already has
- Sell off some in-demand parts
- Sell aggressively
- Sit tight
For this season, the Yankees are likely to choose option #2. Principal owner Hal Steinbrenner and GM Brian Cashman may have viewed things very differently just two short weeks ago. But, that was before the Yankees were hit with a rash of injuries that coincided with all-around poor play. After losing two of three to the Blue Jays this week, the Yankees have now dropped 17 of 24 contests.
There’s a big difference in your decision-making when you are four games over .500 compared to when you are 15 games over .500. Like every team on the market, the Yankees rotation and bullpen need the most tweaking. However, they could also use a solid, not spectacular bat, and some added depth.
A lot of what will take place over the next month also depends on a couple of factors. 1) Although CC Sabathia is back, how quickly will Matt Holliday, Aaron Hicks, and Tyler Austin make their way back to the lineup? 2) Will a current member of the squad, especially the bullpen, step up and eliminate the need for an outside acquisition? The Yankees may continue to look within the organization to fill some needs.
Miguel Andujar, Tyler Wade, Clint Frazier, and Ji-Man Choi have all been summoned from the minor leagues in recent weeks. They could be joined eventually by first baseman Mike Ford, and starters Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield. While there are a number of areas that need shoring up, for now this post will concentrate on one position.
Who’s on First?
Yes, Lou Costello, that really was Chris Carter at first base this week. A week after he was designated for assignment and accepted a spot at Triple-A, Austin’s hamstring injury necessitated Carter’s return. It didn’t last long though and now Ji-Man Choi is the Yankees first baseman of the moment. It’s hard to imagine the Yankees relying on an unproven player such Choi as the regular first baseman down the stretch. Especially if they truly want to make a go at the playoffs this season.
With Greg Bird struggling to return from injury and Austin still trying to prove himself, it’s imperative that the Yankees get a first baseman who can swing a power bat. However, bear in mind that Cashman will not go after an expensive bat. So think more along the lines of Danny Valencia rather than Joey Votto or Brandon Belt, or somewhere in between.
Logan Morrison: There are two problems right off the bat with Morrison. He plays for the division rival Tampa Bay Rays, and the Rays are notoriously difficult to make deals with. That being said, Morrison entered last Sunday’s play with 24 HR and 57 RBI. You can throw out his .256 batting average since he has a .364 on-base percentage (OBP) and is slugging at a rate of .581.
Morrison, who will turn 30 in August, will become a free agent after this season and will be looking for a substantial increase from the $2.5MM he made this season.
As you can see from Morrison’s spray chart above, Yankee Stadium would be a nice fit for his swing. Just two of his 24 home runs are to the left side of the outfield. Morrison’s home runs are already a career high and he’ll certainly top his previous best of 72 RBI, which he accomplished back in 2011 with the Marlins.
Of course, Morrison may have complicated a trade between NY and Tampa with his critical remarks about Gary Sanchez being chosen over him for the HR Derby.
Yonder Alonso: A’s Executive VP Billy Beane doesn’t trade away parts for next to nothing in return, though how much he can command for Alonso remains to be seen. It has taken Alonso parts of eight years and three different teams to become a reliable Major League hitter. With two home runs on the 4th of July, Alonso already has set a career high with 19 HR, and is already well on his way to a new RBI high, with 41.
If the Yankees stick to their guns, and they should, Cashman won’t deal top prospects unless it’s for a proven starting pitcher or an above-average-hitter. Alonso is having a breakout season, but could go back to his old inconsistent ways next year. Like Morrison, Alonso hits from the left side, but as you can see from his spray chart above, he spreads his power over more of the field than the Rays’ first baseman.
Eric Hosmer: The Royals’ first baseman won a World Series ring in 2015 and is very popular among the fanbase. However, he’s earning $12.5MM this year and he becomes a free agent after the season. Hosmer gives a lineup a mix of offense and defense. He’s a two-time Gold Glove winner and currently owns an .855 OPS.
Though not a traditional slugger, he’s on target to match his 25 HR season of a year ago. As seen on his spray chart, the lefty hitter uses more of the field than Morrison or Alonso, but doesn’t pull the ball much. As a result, he’s more likely to reach on a double than hit a home run.
Hosmer’s RBI total is way down from last year and much of that has to do with the Royals’ lack of production. They averaged 4.16 runs last season, the second-worst total in the AL. This year, the Royals are averaging the same 4.16 runs per game, again ranked near the bottom of the barrel.
With a 43-40 record, GM Drayton Moore finds himself in a quandary. Entering play yesterday, the Royals were just 1.5 games back of the first-place Indians in the AL Central. But with the continued decline of outfielder Alex Gordon and the pending free agency of Hosmer, outfielder Lorenzo Cain, shortstop Alcides Escobar and third baseman Mike Moustakas, Moore and ownership have to decide whether to be buyers, sellers, or to stand pat at the trade deadline. So a Hosmer deal may not come quickly, if at all. Of the pending free agent group, he would bring the most in return.
Justin Bour: With the Miami Marlins up for sale, a makeover would not be out of the question for the team. Rumors have many teams inquiring about Bour as well as former Yankee Martin Prado. Bour entered Wednesday night’s play with 18 HR and 54 RBI, two seasons after he hit a career-high 23 HR. Last season he missed 72 games, mostly due to an ankle injury. The 29-year old is an effective hitter when healthy.
The Marlins are going to want a bundle back for Bour since he’s under contract through 2020. While he’ll be arbitration-eligible prior to next season, the 29-year old is currently making $5.5MM. Like Morrison and Alonso, Bour would enjoy taking advantage of Yankee Stadium’s inviting right field fence.
So, there you have it. Who do you want to see get the bulk of playing time at first base for the remainder of the season?