By Matt Citak
With the first half of the MLB season in the rearview mirror, the Yankees find themselves 3½ games behind the Boston Red Sox for the lead in the American League East. While trailing their rivals for the division crown, the Yankees have managed, despite their 15-21 record since June 1, to stay atop the race for the wild card, leading the Minnesota Twins by a game.
The play of the young Yankees team has left general manager Brian Cashman in an interesting position, as he must decide how aggressively to approach the trade deadline. With New York having one of baseball’s strongest farm systems, Cashman has the ability to add some serious talent to an already competitive roster. However, the general manager made it clear that while the team will look to improve in certain areas, he will not do so at the expense of the franchise’s long-term plans, describing the team as “careful buyers” in an interview with the YES Network, according to CBS Sports.
“We have a long-term plan that I think people are seeing the excitement from, and we’re definitely not going to deviate from that,” Cashman said. “… Part of that long-term plan is in the short term — winning now and putting out the best effort possible, but not at the expense of what we feel can lead us to more championships, plural. … If we can find that balancing act and retain the players we desperately need to retain … I think that’s the walk we’re trying to walk.”
Based on these comments, do not expect the Yankees to weaken their rich farm system for a rental player such as Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer or third baseman Mike Moustakas. Both players would require New York to surrender at least one of the team’s top prospects, and both are set to become free agents during the offseason. However more realistic trade targets that could help New York both in the short and long term are starting pitchers Jose Quintana of the White Sox and Gerrit Cole of the Pirates.
Quintana’s current ERA of 4.49 represents the first time the 28-year old has had an ERA over 4.00 in his career. In fact, in his first five seasons in the majors, the southpaw never had an ERA above 3.76. What makes Quintana an ideal trade target for the Yankees is not only his talent, but also his team-friendly contract. The 2016 All-Star will earn $8.85 million next season, and has club options for 2019 and 2020 at $10.5 million. While trading for Quintana would cause the Yankees’ farm system to take a hit, it would add a talented starting pitcher on a relatively cheap contract to the team’s rotation for the next 3½ seasons.
Cole is also in the middle of his worst season since joining the Pirates in 2013. The 26-year old is 7-7 with a 4.43 ERA in 18 starts with Pittsburgh, having already allowed 113 hits on the year. However, this is Cole’s first season with an ERA over 3.88, not to mention he is only two seasons removed from finishing fourth in the NL Cy Young voting. Similar to Quintana, Cole is also under team control for the next few seasons, as the young starter is eligible for arbitration in 2018 and 2019.
With less than three weeks until the trade deadline, all we can do is wait and see if Cashman stands by his comments about New York’s plans for the future.