The trade deadline is about six weeks away, and Brian Cashman has his work cut out for him. After the 2019 season, I wrote about how Cashman and the Yankees needed to be bold and sign Gerrit Cole, regardless of the cost. They listened. Unfortunately, it seems as if adding Cole to a team that had just made the ALCS didn’t put them over the top. Even after winning the last two games in Buffalo, the Yankees have a middling 35-32 record, seven games back in the division and four in the Wild Card race. Obviously, it has not been a smooth ride. But the Yankees cannot waste the talent they have on the roster.
Like I mentioned back in 2019, Cashman needs to stop trying to be cute and make under-the-radar moves trying to find diamonds in the rough. Sure, it may have worked for guys like Luke Voit and Gio Urshela, but sometimes you have to be bold and make a move for an established player. And it’s going to hurt. But I’d rather try to win now than protect our prospects who will eventually end up being utility men or backend of the rotation starters five years from now. So here is my plan and pitch to Cashman on what the Yankees need to do to have a shot at the World Series in 2021, in order of priority.
1. Trade for Jacob deGrom
Just kidding. Next.
2. Trade for a decent outfielder
Today I learned that the Orioles have above and beyond the best center field OPS at .914 (all thanks to Cedric Mullins). The Yankees are way down at 28th in the league with an OPS at .631 at the position. In left field, the Yankees rank 22nd with an OPS of .666. Outside of Aaron Judge in right, we need an upgrade in the outfield. Sure, Miguel Andujar has picked up the pace offensively, but while he hasn’t been awful defensively in left field, he still has a -2 OAA there, and it’s not his first position. With Aaron Hicks out, Brett Gardner is the team’s starting center fielder with his .215 average, .647 OPS, and 83 OPS+.
There is a particular team that Cashman could target as a trade partner. The Diamondbacks are 20-49, the worst mark in the league. They have a couple of nice outfield pieces that should be a major upgrade for the Yankees: David Peralta and Ketel Marte.
Peralta is a lefty bat which of course would make Boone and Cashman extremely excited. He is under contract through next season on a very reasonable deal ($7.33 million AAV). He is also on the older side, turning 34 in August, so hopefully, that makes his price a little more reasonable. Peralta has been slightly above average at the plate this year, with a wRC+ of 102, but that is better than Andujar at 91 and Gardner at 86. He is also an upgrade on defense, with an OAA of +1.
Marte, on the other hand, is 27 and making an AAV of only $4.8 million. He is also a free agent after next season. He is a switch-hitter, which is a plus, and has a career .286 average. While he has been limited to only 31 games this season, he has put up an impressive 150 OPS+. He’s been somewhat of a liability in center field, though, with an OAA of -4 (Gardner is a +1 in center), but his batter would be a huge upgrade.
Given his age, ability to switch-hit, and offensive production, Marte would likely cost a good amount more than Peralta. However, both would represent major upgrades to our outfield.
3. Trade for a top of the rotation starter (*cough cough* Max Scherzer)
Is Max Scherzer owed a lot of money? Yes. Is he on the older side? Yes. Would it cost a lot in terms of prospects to get him? Also yes. But would he make the team a whole lot better? YES.
Sure, our main problem right now is scoring runs. But could you imaging starting Gerrit Cole and Scherzer in the first two games of a playoff series? We’ve already seen up close what Scherzer can do when he’s healthy: he struck out 14 over 7.1 innings against us in May. He could to us what Justin Verlander was to the Astors in 2017. Plus, the statuses of Luis Severino and Corey Kluber are unclear, and I don’t want to have to trust Domingo German or Jordan Montgomery in a do-or-die playoff game.
Scherzer is currently on the shelf with a groin injury, but he is a gamer. He famously pitched in Game 7 of the 2019 World Series after not being able to put on a shirt the day prior because of neck pain. He will be turning 37 a few days before the deadline, but his average four-seam velocity is right on par with his career average. Scherzer is a free agent after this year, and so there are two ways Cashman could go about trading for Scherzer.
Scherzer is getting paid $35 million this year, and we also know how stringent Hal Steinbrenner has been about going over the luxury tax threshold. However, Cashman has recently said that Hal is open to going over the threshold for the right deal. Who knows if he was being sincere, but if he wants to try and save some pennies, he could get the Nationals to eat a chunk of whatever is still owed to Scherzer for the rest of the season and give Washington better prospects in the return. The alternative is to absorb all the money still owed to Scherzer and give the Nationals lesser prospects.
Sure, there may be some uncertainty around pitchers with the whole “sticky stuff” fiasco, but I wouldn’t say no to having Scherzer on my team.
4. Trade for Trevor Story?
Trevor Story has not been good this year. He has a wRC+ of 85 (in Colorado no less) and is about average defensively at short with an OAA of 1 (for reference, he had a crazy OAA of 18 in 2019). But maybe he’s just tired of the Rockies franchise — could you blame him? I know we say this for a lot of players, but imagine his sweet swing in Yankee Stadium. This would also also allow for Odor to stop getting regular at-bats as our three-hole hitter, and we would be able to slide Gleyber back to second base. Sure, the infield may be a little crowded once Voit comes back, but that seems to be a better problem than the one we have now.
Is this type of trade likely? Probably not. It would take a lot of good prospects and Story could bounce after this year. But it would bring some buzz back to the Bronx.
All in all, Cashman has said that his top focus is to find an upgrade in center field. I just hope that it is not some Quadruple-A guy who we’ve never heard of but who the analytics team thinks they can make great with just a few adjustments. Give me a proven player who is almost guaranteed to help our team. Like it or not, this group’s window is closing, and closing fast. We didn’t pay Cole $326 million to be a third-place team. Let’s be honest: Cashman’s job is potentially in jeopardy. So is Aaron Boone’s.
When talking about his confidence in Boone as the manager: “We’re in this together. We made this bed, and we’re going to sleep in it, and we’re going to make sure that we find a way to fix this together.” He needs to be bold, and not just with his notorious, confusing analogies. He needs to go out and show us that he is serious about winning a title — no more eyewash, please.