Thursday, May 18, 2017

How Far Away Is The Trade Deadline?

"My wallet's in my pocket, why do you ask?"

Recently Hal Steinbrenner has made comments that lead us to believe the Yankees be buyers at the trade deadline, which is not really a surprise. Any team that's in contention for a postseason berth is going to try and improve. But I'm not 100% sure where the team will look to get better.

Sure, Chase Headley is not going to get any All Star votes, at least outside of those Yankees fans that will simply vote for Yankees players. But Headley is not that bad. His OPS+ of 98 this season tells us he's pretty much average at the plate, and he's basically average in the field too. So the team could certainly improve here, but I just don't see it happening.

The team has also gotten below average production from the first base spot. But with Greg Bird healing up I doubt we see anything happen there, either.

The only place I can see the Yankees looking to improve would be in the starting rotation. And when I say that I'm not talking about them looking to acquire a starter that's simply "good". Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, and Jordan Montgomery are "good". At the same time I still believe Masahiro Tanaka will turn things around and be ace-like. CC Sabathia? Meh, he can at least eat innings.

Keep in mind, too, that the Yankees are not going to get under the Luxury Tax threshold this season. Therefore, it's quite possible they acquire a fairly expensive rental at the deadline. But seeing what Cashman and Co. have done lately I believe they will look at this season as well as the future.

The Yankees starting rotation after this season will, yet again, be a big question. Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia will be free agents, while Masahiro Tanaka will likely opt-out of his contract and join the free agent market as well. I suppose Tanaka could be re-signed if the Yankees don't have another top of the rotation starter going into 2018. Pineda may be re-signed if he continues to be as effective as he's been. CC Sabathia? Again... "meh". To be blunt, I wouldn't count on any of those three wearing Yankees pinstripes in '18.

When it comes to free agency the Yankees will have nearly $95 million come off the books after this season (joining the aforementioned three in free agency will be Alex Rodriguez, Matt Holliday, and Tyler Clippard), so the team can actually spend without worrying about going over the Luxury Tax threshold again. But Tanaka and Pineda may actually be the best two starters on the market, seeing as how Jake Arrieta looks lost on the mound anymore and Yu Darvish has battled injuries lately (most notably having Tommy John surgery in 2015).

Even though the starting rotation for the Yankees seems just fine for now, I think they'll look to deal for a starter to pair with 'Hiro at the top of the rotation to make a strong postseason push. Of course that leaves the question of which of the five starters would be removed from the rotation, but that stuff tends to work itself out.

Looking at teams that may very well be selling at the trade deadline, five pitchers stuck out to me. Now, I'll admit ahead of time that some of the names listed are far from surprises or bold predictions, but I believe they are real possibilities so I wanted to put it out there.


1. Jose Quintana - Chicago White Sox
Yeah, yeah, yeah... We've all read and heard all there is to know about Mr. Quintana.


2. Gerrit Cole - Pittsburgh Pirates
Gerrit is just 26 years old and won't be a free agent until after the 2020 season. Even with the elbow issues he faced last season, Gerrit still posted a sub-4.00 ERA thanks to nice strikeout and walk rates. I felt stronger about Cole being dealt before Jameson Taillon was diagnosed with testicular cancer, as Jameson would be the Pirates' new ace. But it's not like Pittsburgh doesn't have other nice pitching prospects like Tyler Glasnow and Mitch Keller.

"Okay, I'll become a Yankee this time, but I'm still not going to cut my hair."


3. Sonny Gray - Oakland Athletics
Gray is a year older than Gerrit Cole, but he too won't be a free agent until after the 2020 season. Between his debut in 2013 and 2015 Sonny's ERA+ was an outstanding 133. Unfortunately his 2016 season was riddled with injuries to his trapezius muscle and forearm, leading to him starting this season on the disabled list as well. But if Gray can get healthy I could easily see him earning "ace" status in MLB.

Plus, Oakland is stacked with young pitching talent in Jharel Cotton, Sean Manaea, Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn, and Andrew Triggs. So it's not like they should feel the need to hang onto Sonny Gray.


4. Julio Teheran - Atlanta Braves
We've heard Julio's name come up in trade rumors before, and I'm guessing we'll hear that name come up just as much this time around as well. Teheran is 26 years old, and like Cole and Gray won't be a free agent until after the 2020 season (that's shaping up to be a very nice starting pitcher class).

The fact is Julio is as dependable as they come. He's started 30 or more games in each of the past four seasons, posting solid strikeout and walk rates, while also limiting the long ball.

The Braves may be willing to deal Teheran away, thanks to them having some top of the line pitching prospects coming up. Sean Newcomb is killing it at AAA, while the team also has Koly Allard, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson, and Max Fried in the pipeline too.

But Atlanta would likely want a dependable starter for 2018, as they are set to lose three of their current starters to free agency (Bartolo Colon, RA Dickey, and Jaime Garcia). That could mean at least including guys like Luis Cessa or Bryan Mitchell in a trade. Then again, those losses wouldn't be a real problem IMO.


5. James Paxton - Seattle Mariners
Paxton is a little older than others on this list, but at 28 he's not what I'd call "over the hill". And even though he's older, James won't be a free agent until after the 2021 season. I'm not sure Seattle would be willing to deal Paxton, but he will be arbitration eligible for the first time next season so they may want to save money. If so, the Yankees should take a hard look here.

James Paxton's strikeout rate of 9.2 per 9 innings in 158.2 innings since last season shows he's very good at missing bats, and he is good at limiting the home run too. Mind you, his ground ball rate has dropped this season, but that seems to be more of an anomaly than a trend.

And the Mariners may be open to trading away Paxton thanks to a handful of good to very good pitching prospects that includes Andrew Moore and Ryan Yarbrough, both of whom are in AAA and could join the big league rotation as early as this year.


Okay, seeing that it's only May 18th it's probably way too early to even be thinking about the trade deadline, but after hearing Hal Steinbrenner I couldn't help myself. I should note, too, that Hal has said he isn't looking to trade away any top prospects. That means Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres should still be in the Yankee farm system come August.

"Yes! I love those guys!"

I'd love to hear about other pitchers, or hell... anybody for that matter, that you think the Yankees could acquire to make a strong run in the postseason. If anything, we can say we mentioned certain players first. And who doesn't like to brag?

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