Thursday, July 19, 2018

Moving To Plan B

When it became clear that Manny Machado was going to be traded to the Dodgers a thought came to my head...

If necessary, the Yankees should still trade Miguel Andujar for a top starting pitcher.

Hold on, put the ax down.

My initial reason for this thought was that the Yankees offense was good enough without Andujar, especially when Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez return to the lineup. However, the starting rotation is clearly inferior to the other probable postseason teams (the Astros and Indians rotations are #1 and #2 in MLB with fWARs of 14.1 and 12.7, while the Red Sox are fifth at 9.8 and the Yankees are sixth at 8.3).

On the surface, that opinion makes sense. Going from Andujar to Brandon Drury would certainly lead to fewer runs scored, but the decline in runs scored would be offset by having a starter whose ERA is closer 3.00 than 5.50. Even if we're only talking about 12 or so starts for the rest of the regular season, that could very well lead to three or four more wins. And winning three or four more games over the final 67 could mean the difference between starting the postseason in a winner takes all Wild Card game and the American League Divisional Series.

But once I started doing the research I realized something... the Yankees do not need a top starter. They don't need a guy like Jacob deGrom or Madison Bumgarner. The 2018 New York Yankees simply need their starter to avoid blowing up like Domingo German did in his last start against probable American League Central winner the Cleveland Indians (six runs, all earned, in four innings).
*Note: the Yankees lost that game 6-5, which is further proof that they don't need a shutdown starter to win.

That simply means someone like JA Happ or Cole Hamels. Guys that won't cost a coveted youngster such as Andujar, Justus Sheffield, or Estevan Florial.

For the record, unless Brian Cashman is able to pull something out of his... you know what... then I wouldn't mind if JA Happ joins the team. 

Yes, Happ has been hit around recently, but here are a few things to keep in mind...

1. On June 20th, against the Atlanta Braves, Happ did give up four runs. However, that was over 8.1 innings, and he didn't walk a single batter.

2. In his next start on June 25th, against the Houston Astros, Happ gave up three earned runs in six innings. With the Yankees bullpen and offense being as good as it is that type of outing should still be enough to win (for evidence, see the aforementioned German start against Cleveland).

3. In Happ's last start before the All Star break, against the Boston Red Sox, not one of the five runs he gave up were earned. Furthermore, JA struck out six while walking just one. 

4. Happ is just as good when facing a lineup the first time through as he is facing them the second and third time. This season opponent's OPS the first time through the lineup is .698, the second time through it's .704, and the third time though it drops to .635. Mind you, in his career, his OPS against the fourth time through is .857 but that leads me to the second part of my plan... improving the bullpen to avoid him even needing to face them a fourth time (more on this later).

I should point out that I've thought about the Yankees acquiring more than one starter, which would mean removing Sonny Gray from the rotation. But I can't do it. I know it's crazy being okay with keeping Gray in the rotation, but I just can't give up on the guy. He's throwing as hard as he ever has, and in his last start (zero runs over six innings, along with eight strikeouts and only three hits) he finally reverted to throwing mainly fastballs and curveballs, instead of throwing a much higher percentage of cutters and sliders.

So here's what I'd like to see happen...

1. Trade for JA Happ. It will likely cost Clint Frazier, as the Blue Jays should be desperate to improve their corner outfield situation for now and the future. However, I'm perfectly okay with that. As good as Brett Gardner has been, he'll probably be back in left field next season, which would leave Frazier on the outside looking in again. Which would be a complete waste of resources.


2. Trade for a top reliever such as Brad Hand (I published this article right before the news broke of the Indians trading for Hand). This would allow the Yankees to limit the innings pitched by all their starters, as they wouldn't have to worry about handing the ball to a lesser reliever such as Chasen Shreve. Nor would they have to worry about overworking guys like Chad Green. Making everyone fresher for the postseason.

The returns of Torres and Sanchez will make their offense one of, if not the best in the Majors, in the second half of the season (currently second to the Red Sox in runs/game... 5.41 to 5.19). Their bullpen, which is already the best in the league (and by quite a bit, as evidenced by their 6.6 fWAR compared to second place Houston and their 5.1 fWAR), will be even better. And while their starting rotation may not be the best, it should be more than good enough to beat anybody.