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Yankees’ top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield at ease while trade buzz surfaces


Justus Sheffield understands the nature of baseball’s trade deadline period.  He’s grown accustomed to the incessant commotion in July. 

But the Yankees’ top pitching prospect is making an effort to ignore the several rumors involving his name, even though it’s often a challenge to block out all of the noise.

“I try not to pay attention to it at all,” Sheffield recently told D.J. Eberle of Scranton’s Times Leader. “Obviously I can see it with notifications and stuff on my Twitter and things like that, but I’ve been through it every year this time of year.  It seems to be every team that I’ve played for, we’re contenders to make a playoff run and that’s when the talks start coming on, when there’s a couple weeks left til the deadline.  I’m kind of used to it.”

Sheffield’s reasoning comes from firsthand experience.  Back in July 2016, the Cleveland Indians dealt the 22-year-old left-hander and rookie outfielder Clint Frazier to the Yankees in exchange for southpaw reliever Andrew Miller.  According to MLBPipeline, Sheffield was a Top-100 prospect at the time, ranked No. 78 overall.

Since then, Sheffield has steadily progressed in the minors.  And while his numbers with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (3-3, 2.53 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, .208 BAA in 11 games) suggest a big league promotion is on the horizon, Sheffield’s future with the Yankees is more so ambiguous.

On Wednesday morning, MLB Network’s J.P. Morosi reported that the Baltimore Orioles are inclined to send All-Star infielder Manny Machado to the Yankees if Sheffield is headlined in a package deal. 

However, according to the New York Daily News, general manager Brian Cashman has balked at the notion of moving Sheffield for a coveted trade target like Machado, who will ultimately become a free agent the Yankees can pursue this upcoming winter.

Although it’s sometimes difficult to determine what’s fact and what’s fiction, Sheffield told Eberle that it’s still satisfying to know he’s a wanted and valued commodity.

“You can’t believe everything you read, but who knows.  I think it’s pretty easy for me to just keep it away and not distract me,” Sheffield said.  “It’s pretty cool to know that other teams are out there that want you and want you to be a part of their organization, but you never know what can happen.  I just have to go out there and do my thing on the field.  I’ve been through it before.  I would be surprised, wouldn’t be surprised.  It’s one of those things.”

During the upcoming All-Star break, Sheffield will participate in the Futures Game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.  After that appearance, the Yankees will have two more weeks to address their trade deadline need, which is to acquire at least one starting pitcher.  

So, sooner rather than later, Sheffield will know where he stands with the organization.

“I think he’s definitely making progress to potentially be a [major league] option [during the second half],” Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone recently told the YES Network.  “Look, we’ve had to obviously tap into some of our depth as we’ve seen, and I think Justus continues to make the strides that are putting him in those conversations, there’s no question about it. 

“So, yeah, I think he’ll definitely continue to be a part of those conversations and hopefully continue to make the strides we want to see in Triple-A.”

Sheffield agrees with Boone’s comments, and according to Eberle, his goal is to solely get better each outing.

“I really do believe that I could go up there and, you know, help if they need me.  But then again, I’m not the GM and can’t make those moves,” Sheffield said.  “I just have to keep doing me.  I know it sounds — it’s cliche, I say it all the time — but I have to keep doing me, go out there and do what I can control and that’s it. 

“If I get the opportunity to go up there, I’m definitely going to take the best of that.  If not, I’m just going to continue to work and get better every day.”


If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.

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