Opinion

Yankees’ legitimacy can double with help from this team at the trade deadline

For East Coast fans suffering from sleep deprivation, it’s clear why this week has been coined the ‘road trip from hell’ for the Yankees.

Quite frankly, the stance is rational. While the week began with a thriling win in Anaheim on Monday night against the Angels, the last five days have resulted in deflating losses at the hands of those Halos and Oakland Athletics. In these games, injuries to the Yankees’ hottest players have transpired, and one of the league’s top bullpens is enduring its first true downturn of the season.

But, the situation isn’t all that grim. New York still remains atop the American League East standings with a 38-28 record, and the offense has managed to stay hot, with a total of 27 runs in the last six days. Although slumps and skids are natural occurrences, the team has received contributions from a number of players both young and old, which leaves most pundits to believe the Yankees can maintain success and become a postseason contender.

The only questions that remains are (1) How legitimate is this team? and (2) Could they subdue the AL’s top dog Houston Astros come October?

Perhaps in the minds of fans — deprived of sleep or not — the answers to those questions have been slightly altered this week. But there is a way for the Yankees to boost their legitimacy, and in this case, the boost will come in the form or a trade partner in late July.

While the Yankees resisted the temptation to buy at last summer’s trade deadline and sold its top assets instead, general manager Brian Cashman is eligible to return to the buyer’s chair, and he insists that any course of action made this summer would benefit the team now and moving forward. 

“I think we try to keep things pretty simple,” Cashman told ESPN’s The Michael Kay Show on Friday. “In terms of any individual transaction, you just try to make the best decision possible whether it’s representing a short-term or a long-term interest. So I would say regarding how the team is performing, you’re just trying to make good baseball decisions.”

So, which team would work as that aforementioned trade partner? Maybe it’s the Kansas City Royals — an organization on the brink of rebuilding mode once again. 

Although Kansas City is just three games out of first place in the AL Central, they have the ability to run the trade deadline, with five key players (Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jason Vargas) bound for free agency this winter. A package including two of those names would make a difference for the Yankees, so without further adue, here it is.

1B Eric Hosmer and LHP Jason Vargas

It’s been no secret that the Yankees have lacked production from the first base position. It wasn’t according to plan, however, as Greg Bird‘s spring training hitting spree suggested the corner bag was in good hands. But Bird’s early slump and lingering injuries have made his return to the majors undisclosed, and in his absence, New York has been forced to defer to Chris Carter, who’s underperformed considerably at the plate this season. First base is a position known for power, and for the Yankees, there’s been little of it, even though the overall offense has picked up its slack. 

So, here’s where Eric Hosmer fits in. The 27-year-old hits for average and power, as his .309 batting average, .362 on-base percentage and 80 hits leads all Royals players. Although he’s only hit seven home runs this year, Hosmer hasn’t missed a game, and as a left-handed player, he would fit right in between Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez in the batting order. More importantly, the Yankees wouldn’t be acquiring a massive contract either, as Hosmer is owed $12.25 million by season’s end. Oh, and he grew up a Yankees fan, if that makes any difference. A trade for Hosmer wouldn’t mean the end for Bird in New York, but it would certainly fill the void at first base. 

The second piece of the package is another left-hander in veteran Jason Vargas, who’s pitching an exceptional campaign as the Royals’ ace. The 34-year-old southpaw is 9-3 in 13 starts, and his 2.10 ERA is ranked second-lowest in the American League. Right now, the Yankees are left with one left-handed starter in rookie Jordan Montgomery, as veteran CC Sabathia recently landed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Prior to Opening Day, there were more questions revolving around the starting staff than lineup, and to the Yankees’ surprise, pitching hasn’t been a major issue (4.00 ERA for starters — 7th lowest in MLB). But the old cliche of never having enough pitching is true, and if more inconsistencies or injuries arise, the addition of a veteran like Vargas is beneficial. As for his contract, Vargas is owed $8 million by this winter, and like Hosmer, he’ll soon become an unrestricted free agent.

At a glance, both of these pieces would be useful for the Yankees. But, what would they be forced to yied in a deal like this? Considering that Hosmer and Vargas are essentially rentals, and not long-term commitments, it’s hard to believe Kansas City’s cost for both would be too steep. Yes, prospects like Gleyber Torres, Chance Adams and Clint Frazier appear to be not for sale. But New York does possess a bevy of prospects who won’t be in the team’s future plans, and names like Jorge Mateo, Tyler Wade, Dustin Fowler, Justus Sheffield and Miguel Andujar could be bundled up in a package. The trade would benefit the Yankees in the short-term and the Royals in the long-term, and most importantly, the deal wouldn’t jeopardize New York’s future trajectory. 

Sure, it’s been a week from hell. But the Yankees’ legitimacy will only double with an effective trade in the coming weeks.

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