Last night’s outburst notwithstanding, the Yankees have had a hard time scoring runs in the second half, and especially over the last week or so. They’ve scored no more than two runs in six of their last eight games, and since the All-Star break they are hitting .251/.316/.412 (91 wRC+) as a team. They’re averaging only 4.19 runs per game since the break. It’s not just Aaron Judge. Lots of guys haven’t hit.
The Yankees did try to get add some offense prior to last Monday’s trade deadline. They made a run at Lucas Duda — “The Mets just wouldn’t trade him to us,” said someone with the Yankees to Jon Heyman — and this week they tried to acquire Jay Bruce. Bruce was instead traded to the Indians last night in a pure salary dump. Cleveland took on the remainder of his $13M salary (roughly $4M) and sent the Mets a non-prospect.
Joel Sherman and Marc Carig report the Yankees were willing to meet the Mets’ asking price. They offered the two prospects the Mets wanted — there’s no word on who those prospects were, and I’m not really expecting the names to leak — but apparently the hangup was the money. The Yankees wanted the Mets to eat some of Bruce’s salary — Ken Rosenthal says they wanted the Mets to eat $1M — and the Mets opted to save money than receive actual prospects, so that’s that.
Bruce, an impending free agent, is hitting .256/.321/.520 (120 wRC+) with 29 home runs this season. The Yankees really need another left-handed bat and Matt Holliday’s injury creates an opening at DH, so Bruce was an obvious fit for the offense. He wouldn’t have even had to change cities. The Yankees were reportedly on Bruce’s no-trade list, though I doubt he would’ve blocked a deal to a contender, especially when he wouldn’t have even had to relocate.
Anyway, the Mets opted for the salary dump and the Yankees still need offensive help. There are two ways to look at this. One, the Wilpons are cheap and petty, and would rather dump Duda and Bruce for payroll relief than trade them to the Yankees for actual prospects. The dynamics of a crosstown trade are complicated, though is it really that big a deal if Duda or Bruce helped the Yankees win? They’re impending free agents. Who cares?
And two, the Yankees should have upped the ante to make sure they got the bat needed. They could have offered more for Duda. They could have offered to take on Bruce’s salary. Heck, they could have claimed Bruce on trade waivers and backed the Mets into a corner. Their options would have been a) trade him to the Yankees for a prospect, b) dump him and his contract on the Yankees with no return as a waiver claim, or c) pull him back and keep him. I don’t see (c) happening. The Mets wanted to clear Bruce’s salary.
While I can understand the argument for overpaying to get make sure you get Bruce or Duda — the Yankees didn’t trade all those prospects to the Athletics and White Sox for nothing, after all — I don’t really agree with it. The money bothers me more than anything. You’re the Yankees, you got the pitching help you needed at the trade deadline, and these guys are rentals. Why not take on the extra cash to get a deal done? Then again, if you’re taking on Bruce’s entire salary, why are you giving up two actual prospects? There has to be some give and take here.
One thing to keep in mind: the Yankees are pretty annoyed with how the Bruce deal played out. They’re one of the quietest teams in the league when it comes to leaks, and yet, since Bruce was traded to the Indians, we’ve heard the Yankees met the asking price and offered two prospects. That’s coming from the Yankees, not the Mets. Why would the Mets leak something that makes them look bad? The Yankees aren’t happy so they’re letting this info out to make the Mets look petty, and hey, it’s working. Mets fans I know don’t like the straight salary dump.
Ultimately, Duda and Bruce were two of the better bats available, and the Yankees made offers for both. Could they have offered more? Yeah, of course, but at some point you have to stand your ground and not allow yourself to be taken advantage of. There are other bats out there (Jed Lowrie, Daniel Nava, Curtis Granderson). The Mets didn’t want to trade them across town and that’s fine. That’s their right. It still leaves the Yankees short a bat, but at least they’re trying. Hopefully they pivot elsewhere and pick up another hitter soon, because they still need one.