For most of last week, I was in a room at a high school in Queens Village–shouts to the Hillside Avenue Wendy’s–scoring ELA Regents exams. At first, it’s a nice change of pace from the day-to-day grind that is the end of the school year. It’s fun to read other students’ writings and get a glimpse into how their teachers approach the very same things that I do day in and day out. But, of course, by the second or third day, your eyes are crossed and every word looks exactly the same and the rubric is laughing at you with the subtle distinctions between scores. So you’d think the last thing I’d want to look at is another rubric. Well, you’d be wrong, because as we inch closer to the trade deadline, it’s time to evaluate some pitching targets.
The two the Yankees have been linked to most frequently–though that talk hasn’t been as fervent lately–have been JA Happ of the Blue Jays and Cole Hamels of the Rangers (hey, two former Phillies). Yes, they’ve been linked to Jacob deGrom as well, but that’s a pipe dream. I have more of a chance of successfully teaching pre-calc than the Yankees and Mets have of doing that trade. Let’s stick to more realistic options.
While the Yankees’ starting pitching has been good of late, it wouldn’t hurt to acquire one more starter for the second half and the playoffs when they get here. On a surface level, they fit well. Both are lefties, which the Yankees always love, and both aren’t aces. That last point may be counter-intuitive, but the Yankees don’t necessarily need that right now and that cost would be rather high. As a quick reminder of my very rudimentary trade rubric, see below and an explanation thereof here.
|Cost $||Low $||Medium $||High $|
|Cost player||Low player||Medium player||High player|
|Control||3+ years beyond 2018||1-2 years beyond 2018||Impending free agent|
|Performance||High performance consistently AND recently||Some inconsistencies, may be a rebound/regression candidate||Consistently poor performance|
In terms of money cost, both are relatively low. Haap would cost just under $4.5M for the rest of the year and Hamels, if acquired at the deadline, would fall somewhere around $10-11M, depending on the date. The Yankees, per our most recent calculations, have about $13M left to play with before hitting the luxury tax threshold. Acquiring either one of these guys would leave them with room to get someone else–a reliever?–if necessary.
Given that both are impending free agents–though Hamels has a club option and a buy out–they would score a 1 on the control part of the rubric, but there’s a caveat here. That’s fine for the Yankees this year. They’re not necessarily looking for a long-term piece this deadline season, but rather just one more piece to get them over the top. And both money cost and control combine nicely to help the Yankees out in player cost.
Since they can absorb the money and don’t have to worry about a long term commitment, the Yankees can insist on a lower player cost. Mike outlined the potential cost for Happ here and it seems pretty reasonable. Additionally, as Mike noted, the Yankees have the prospects to win a bidding war. The cost for Hamels is less clear, of course, but it’s doubtful that his cost would be much higher. Either way, the Yankees could acquire one of these pitchers without having to give up Clint Frazier or Justus Sheffield. Improve the team and keep two of the best prospects? Yes, please.
Both players have been solid performers, too. Happ has learned how to be a strikeout pitcher and has had four straight years of an ERA- no higher than 94. Likewise, Hamels–who has added a new pitch–has had no higher than a 92 ERA- in the last few years. Cole is experiencing a bit of a HR spike this year (HR/FB% of around 20%!), but that’s anomalous and should come down, even in Yankee Stadium.
Which one should the Yankees choose? My heart–which has loved Cole Hamels since his debut in 2006 (good god, I’m old)–wants Hamels. My head says that Happ is probably the better choice, since he doesn’t have the option/buyout looming. I’ll be typical, though, and say either one would be fine.