The 2018 amateur draft is finally complete. The Yankees selected 40 players these last three days and they’ll probably end up signing 20-something. Maybe 30-something. Whatever the number, the draft is over, and now front offices will move on to bigger and better things. That means the July 31st trade deadline. It’s less than eight weeks away and soon clubs will get serious about making moves.
The Mariners currently sit in first place in the AL West and they decided to strike early, trading for Denard Span and Alex Colome two weeks ago. They needed outfield and bullpen help, the Rays were a ready and willing trade partner, so a deal was struck. Seattle is trying to end the longest active postseason drought not only in baseball, but all North American sports. GM Jerry Dipoto acted quickly and decisively, and his team is better for it.
Other clubs are not as desperate as the Mariners and seem content to wait for the trade market to fully develop. That includes both buyers and sellers. The Yankees, despite getting good work from their starters the last few days, have an obvious need in the rotation in the wake of Jordan Montgomery’s Tommy John surgery. Another starter feels imperative. Another reliever could help too. A starter though, that’s the top priority.
In my perfect world, the Yankees would follow the Mariners’ path (ewww) and make a trade soon rather than waiting until July 31st. Get the help you need now and have that help on the roster for an extra few weeks. Consider the current standings projections:
Yankees: 100-62 (.619)
Red Sox: 101-61 (.623)
Yankees: 101-62 (.619)
Red Sox: 98-64 (.605)
The Red Sox are very good. So are the Yankees! But the Red Sox are very good and you didn’t need to see the projected standings to know the AL East race will be neck-and-neck all year. The division race may very well come down to Games 160, 161, and 162 between the Yankees and Red Sox at Fenway Park. MLB and the television networks would love it. This would be all of us watching the games:
Point is, I am pro making a trade as soon as possible, because the longer the Yankees have that rotation update on the roster, the better their chances of winning the AL East. As fun as last year was, I can’t say I’m eager to sit throughout another Wild Card Game. The AL East runner-up might win 100+ games and play a do-or-die Wild Card Game. I don’t want the Yankees to be that team.
The problem, of course, is finding a willing trade partner this far in advance of the trade deadline. The Mariners and Rays matched up well. Tampa’s ready to move anyone at any time, plus Dipoto and Rays GM Erik Neander have made several trades in recent years, so they have a strong working relationship. The Yankees and Rays are division rivals and it’s difficult to see them matching up for a trade.
Would any clear non-contenders be willing to make a deal so far in advance of the deadline? I’m certain the answer is yes, as long as the trade makes sense for them. The Padres, for example, could be eager to move Tyson Ross because he’s pitching well (3.31 ERA and 3.44 FIP), he’s on a one-year contract, and he has an ugly injury history. The longer they wait, the more injury risk they assume. Would the Tigers sell low on Michael Fulmer right now? Probably not.
There are still 100-something games to go, but it sure looks like the AL East race will be crazy tight all season. Every win the Yankees (or Red Sox) can add the roster is incredibly valuable. It could sway the division ace, truly. As such, the sooner the Yankees can address their weakness(es), the better their chances to take control of AL East. Making a deal weeks before the deadline isn’t easy. But the sooner the Yankees can add help, the better their chances of avoiding that Wild Card Game.