So the Yankees need some starting pitching help (surprise, surprise). For the next month and a half the baseball world can probably expect a lot of pieces coming out about the Yankees being tied to a lot of pitchers on bad/starting-to-fall-out-of-contention teams.
All of this trade talk is fun and all but honestly a bit underwhelming.
Mainly because the trade options are pretty lackluster.
If you asked me who the best realistic pitcher on the market (as it stands right now) is, I'd say J.A. Happ. That's not a knock on Happ, but it is a sign of just how bad the trade market is for starting pitchers.
Andrew Stoeten (one of my favorite baseball writers who covers the Blue Jays for The Athletic), brought up a good point on his podcast the other day that the market is so weak because the teams that were in rebuild mode from day one have virtually nothing to offer. Mainly because they never bothered to invest in assets that would actually make them a good team in the first place. Or at least an asset that they could flip at the deadline.
Like, remember in 2012 when the Cubs picked up Paul Maholm on a one year deal? The Cubs signed him to a short term deal knowing they were going to be bad, with the intention of flipping him. Maholm wasn't a flashy name that was going to make whoever traded for him an instant World Series favorite, but every contender always needs more pitching and he would've been perfectly serviceable in a pinch. The Cubs capitalized on Maholm (who had a good first half with the Cubs too) and got themselves Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman for Maholm (and Reed Johnson). Even though he never quite panned out like many thought he could, at the time Vizcaino was still a top pitching prospect that a rebuilding club like the Cubs was thrilled to bring into the fold.
But there is no Paul Maholm this year. The closest is JA Happ and that's only because Happ just happens to be in the last year of his three year contract.
Like do the Rangers, Marlins, Reds, Padres, White Sox, Royals, Tigers, Twins (they're done), Pirates, Athletics, Orioles and Rays have anybody immediately available that would actually be worth it? Not really.
Cole Hamels is basically the only other name that's been tied to the Yankees because the Rangers suck so much ass. The thing is that Hamels isn't that great this year. His walks are up and so is his home run rate. Is he going to be worth Clint Frazier or whoever Jon Daniels asks Brian Cashman for? Some may disagree but IMHO, that's a big fat nope.
The other names are pie in the sky pitchers who're going to cost a fortune because they're also supposed to be in the rebuilding teams' long term plans too.
Michael Fulmer is going to cost way more that he's worth.
Carlos Rodon has a history of getting hurt, and he's still going to cost a lot.
Luis Castillo is pitching poorly but will still cost a ton because he's an integral part of the Reds rotation going forward.
Jose Berrios, well the Twins ain't moving him for shit unless they're given a king's ransom amped up to level 11.
Sean Manaea would cost a fortune.
Tyson Ross is going to cost some serious prospect capital and he'll probably fall on the DL before doing anything meaningful.
And no I will not entertain the possibility that the Yankees get a starter from the Mets.
The Yankees could easily trade for any of these guys if they wanted to, they've got the pieces. But they're all overpriced. Happ is a lefty who is battle tested in the AL East, it should be a no brainer.
But it isn't just starting pitching the Yankees need. They could use some bullpen help.
The Yankees are benefitting greatly from Chad Green building upon his great 2017, Dellin Betances regaining his 2014-16 form and Jonathan Holder emerging as someone who can hold, but they also have an ineffective LOOGY in Chasen Shreve who isn't cutting it, and they're not getting much else from their either reliever either (who's been AJ Cole who just went on the DL). They don't particularly need a lefty specialist but someone who can present a bit more stability as the seventh man in the bullpen would be nice. Maybe Tommy Kahnle can be that once he regains his 2017-form but it's looking more and more like the Yankees want to keep him down in triple-A a bit longer to manipulate his service time.
Come playoff time the Yankees can get a big boost from having someone like Domingo German (assuming he isn't shut down for the year after reaching a certain amount of innings) or really whoever was the fifth starter be in the pen, but until then getting more relievers in the Bronx (and more importantly out of Boston or Houston) is key.
When it comes to high end relievers, there are two big names. Raisel Iglesias of the Cincinnati Reds and Brad Hand of the San Diego Padres. Both are very good and under control. Two things that make them very valuable to their teams and expensive for potential bidders. Good relievers are a luxury for rebuilding clubs, the teams don't HAVE to trade them, but they don't necessary need them either.
San Diego reportedly asked for Rafael Devers from Boston if the Red Sox wanted Hand. Before you go laugh at the Padres, just know that all negotiations begin by asking high and then gradually lowering what you'd take down to a level you'd find acceptable that the other party can also agree too. I'm sure every trade discussion Billy Eppler ever has starts with Mike Trout and then works itself down immediately. I'm also pretty sure what the Padres (and Reds) want is basically the modern equivalent of the packages the Yankees got when they traded Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Americans and Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs. Two high caliber top-100 prospects along with a third/fourth complementary piece with upside of their own. AJ Preller seems like the type of madman who'd promise to keep paying for Hand's contract if it meant he could squeeze another high caliber talent into the trade somehow too.
The Yankees have the pieces to get them if they wanted to too, but there are other trade candidates out there. Those are probably going to be more realistic and the names the Astros and Red Sox look to go after more than the two big names.
Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Darren O'Day, Keone Kela, Nate Jones and Sergio Romo stand out as names that will draw a lot of interest. The Orioles pretty much have to trade all of the assets they should've have traded two years ago or risk losing them for jack shit. The Rangers are in the weird position where they could be good again before Kela is due to leave, but keeping a reliever in the midst of a rebuild when you're presented with a good offer for them is a dumb thing I don't see the Rangers doing. Jones is under control but the White Sox won't need a good bullpen for a while so they could just sell high on him. Romo's been a part of the Rays' interesting starting reliever experiment, but he could be used a bit more conventionally on a team that thinks he might be able to help.
My lowkey pick for an intriguing relief option is Ryan Tepera (also of the Blue Jays). He's arb eligible next season but still under team control until 2022. His walk rate is bad and will lower his price, but his strike-out rate is pretty nice so there is something to work with there. If he's like the fourth-to-sixth best arm in your pen (which he would be in the Yankees pen) your team is in good shape.
The asking price for these tier-B type of relievers is probably going to be like what the Nationals had to pay to get Kelvin Herrera. Two-to-three prospects (none of whom are particularly highly rated) and the team acquiring the reliever has to take on a significant chunk of the remaining salary too. You'd think that rebuilding teams would pay the player they trade away's salary to get a bigger return in a trade, but I guess owners want to pocket the savings for themselves instead.
As you can see, I'm pushing hard for a Yankees-Blue Jays trade. Yeah there's some awkwardness about trading within the division but honestly, who cares? If a trade with the Jays later leads in the Yankees winning the World Series then it's a total success. And in the same trade ideally the player(s) sent to Toronto do really well and are a thorn in the rest of the ALE's side for years to come (en route to even more 85-win third place finishes). It's a win-win. Clint Frazier for JA Happ straight up. Right here, right now.
And no I do not think the Jays having qualms about "helping the Yankees" because a Happ trade (a rental trade) could only help themselves. They're getting assets (assets they're taking away from a rival that could've been used for other types of upgrades) for a player they were about to lose to free agency anyway. As for if they're worried fans won't like trading with the Yankees, the way the Jays kept Vlad Guerrero Jr. down when he was destroying the baseball for the first few months of the season is proof enough that they do not give a rat's ass about what the fans think.
So bye Clint, good luck in Toronto. Hello Happ, work some of your 7 IP, 6 K magic on that feeble Red Sox lineup.
*Note, I think a more realistic package for Happ is something like Dillon Tate and Tyler Wade, and maybe a third piece depending on who picks up the rest of the salary owed to Happ this season*
As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).