The Lessons of the Trade Deadline [2016 Season Review]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The 2016 trade deadline was, truly, a monumental event for the Yankees. The team’s mediocre on-field performance pushed ownership to give Brian Cashman the authority to sell at the deadline, something the club hasn’t done in nearly three decades. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to call this year’s trade deadline a franchise-altering event.

Will the deadline alter the franchise for the better? That’s what we’re all hoping. The Yankees made five trades in the week leading up to the deadline, four of which qualify as “seller” trades, and those trades netted them two big leaguers and 12 total prospects. After the deadline Jim Callis said the Yankees have “the deepest system in the game.” The five trades told us five different things about the Yankees.

The Chapman Trade: The Yankees Are Opportunists

The first of the five trades was the Aroldis Chapman trade with the Cubs. It happened a full week prior to the deadline. I wanted the Yankees to trade Chapman even if they were in the race. I wrote that for I don’t know how many months before the trade actually happened. The club bought low in the offseason and had a chance to sell outrageously high at the deadline.

The Yankees did exactly that. They were 50-48 on the morning of the day of the Chapman trade, and they’d just won six of their last eight games. Rather than hang on to Chapman and try to get back into the race, they were smart about their situation. Contenders around the league were lining up for Aroldis and the offers were impressive. Far better than the draft pick the Yankees would have received after the season.

The Chapman trade told us the Yankees are going to be opportunistic. They acquired him at a deep discount (for terrible off-the-field reasons) and flipped him for a massive return. Getting Gleyber Torres alone would have been a major win. The other three players are gravy. I think it’s pretty gross the Yankees used the domestic violence incident to buy low on Chapman, but the team showed when an opportunity that is too good to be true presents itself, they’re going to pounce.

The Miller Trade: Committed To The Rebuild

Okay, fine, it’s a transition, not a rebuild. Whatever. The Yankees were in a very unique position at the trade deadline because they had not one, but two top notch relievers to peddle to contenders. Chapman was the first to go. Following that deal, the Yankees took offers for Andrew Miller, as they did last offseason. And of course everyone wanted him. Pretty much every contender was in on Miller.

Unlike Chapman, the Yankees didn’t have to trade Miller. I mean, they didn’t have to trade Chapman either, but it was such an obvious move. He was an impending free agent and his value was through the roof. Miller had two more affordable years left on his contract — plus he is insanely good and very popular — and keeping him would have completely justifiable. Teams wish they could have 25 guys like Andrew Miller on their roster.

Rather than keep Miller for those reasons, the Yankees acknowledged the bullpen market had exploded, and they capitalized on the opportunity. They’re so committed to the rebuild transition that they traded exactly the kind of player they want to acquire: affordable, effective, and likeable. The timetables didn’t line up though. A top notch reliever is not what they need right now. They need Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield more.

The Clippard Trade: A Complete Tear Down Isn’t Happening

The Yankees won’t say it, but they’re rebuilding. They’re just not rebuilding all the way. A complete Astros style tear down isn’t going to happen because a) it can’t due to some unmovable contracts, and b) ownership doesn’t want it to happen. Hal Steinbrenner has made that very clear. They want to remain in quasi-contention to keep fans interested (i.e. sell tickets, etc.).

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Tyler Clippard trade, which went down a few hours after the Miller trade, is the perfect example. Rather than turning Miller’s vacated roster spot over to a young reliever, the Yankees brought in a productive veteran to help them win. The cost was minimal — the Yankees gave up Vicente Campos, who got hurt (again) a few weeks after the trade — and the message was clear. The Yankees are still trying to win, which is commendable. There’s something to be said for refusing to be an abject embarrassment on the field.

Now, does it makes sense to try to remain competitive even though the team on the field is telling you the postseason isn’t going to happen? That’s up for debate. I’m sure some fans appreciate the wins while others would rather a slightly better draft pick and larger bonus pool. That’s not for us to decide though. The Yankees have made their position clear. They’re going to try to win while rebuilding. The Clippard trade is the latest example.

The Beltran Trade: The Yankees Aren’t Afraid To Take Risks

The Yankees made five trades prior to the deadline this year but only two actually came on deadline day. The first sent Carlos Beltran to the Rangers for three Single-A pitching prospects in a deal that was more or less inevitable. Once Chapman and Miller were traded, there was no real point in hanging on to Beltran, another impending free agent. Yeah, he was the team’s best hitter, but that also increased his trade value.

As part of the Beltran trade, the Yankees acquired right-hander Dillon Tate, the fourth overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft. Just last year. Baseball America ranked him as the 69th best prospect in baseball coming into the 2016 season. Tate’s stock took a hit in the first half because he hurt his hamstring and his velocity wavered, so much so that he sat in the upper-80s rather than the mid-90s at times. His stock was down quite a bit.

Rather than be scared away, New York targeted Tate in the Beltran trade and was willing to take on some risk in order to get premium talent. The Yankees never have access to players like Tate (and Frazier) in the draft. They never pick in the top ten. They were able to acquire that kind of talent at the deadline. To get Frazier, they gave up a great player in Miller. To get Tate, they had to roll the dice and trade their best hitter for a reclamation project. The Yankees didn’t play it safe. They’re shooting for the moon.

The Nova Trade: A Small Return Is Better Than No Return

Minutes prior to the trade deadline, the Yankees shipped Ivan Nova to the Pirates for two players to be named later. Two! That’s one more than I expected. Nova was another impending free agent, and again, there was no reason to keep him. He wasn’t a qualifying offer candidate and it wasn’t like he was pitching well either. A few teams were interested, including the Rangers, but ultimately Cashman connected with his favorite trade partner and sent Nova to Pittsburgh.

The Yankees didn’t get a whole lot for Nova. Tito Polo could maybe be a speedy fourth outfielder down the line, and Stephen Tarpley figures to get plenty of chances as a hard-throwing lefty, but neither player is likely to have much of an impact. They’re spare parts. They’re also better than nothing, which is what the Yankees would have received had they kept Nova and let him finish out the season in pinstripes. Keeping Ivan would have been pointless given the team’s place in the standings.

The Nova trade was a common sense trade. Get whatever you can and move on. Polo and Tarpley probably won’t amount to much, but you never really know. Tarpley could figure out how to throw his breaking ball for strikes, or perhaps some team wants Polo as the third piece in a trade. Point is, the Yankees had an asset in Nova whose value was rapidly approaching zero. They accepted a small return at the deadline because a small return is better than no return.

Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: October 2011

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Now that we’re into October, it’s time for another edition of our MLBTR Archives series. I forgot to do this earlier in the month, so my bad for the tardiness. Anyway, the entire point of his monthly series is to look back at trade and free agent rumors from five years ago to see how silly (or genius!) it all sounds now. What good are rumors if you only read them once?

The Yankees finished the 2011 season with a 97-65 record and a +210 run differential despite serious rotation concerns. Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia really bailed them out. Only the Phillies (102-60) had a better regular season record than New York. Unfortunately, the Yankees didn’t last long in the postseason. The Tigers beat them in five games in the ALDS. That stunk. Let’s get to the October 2011 rumors.

October 1st, 2011: Quick Hits: Pettitte, Granderson, Alomar Jr.

Former Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte is enjoying retirement is highly unlikely to return to pitching, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. “I feel the desire [to play] is gone,” Pettitte said. “I am retired. I would never say never, but God would literally have to give me desire again… I’m really doing good. I just had a good peace about [retiring].

Hah. Little did we know that a few months later Pettitte would come out of retirement to join the Yankees not only for 2012, but 2013 as well. I never in a million years expected Pettitte to un-retire — I know people talk about it all the time, but it rarely actually happens — but I’m glad he did. He was pretty awesome after coming back. The first round of “will he or won’t he retire” talk during the 2010-11 offseason was the worst though. It never ended.

October 7th, 2011: Yankees Notes: Sabathia, Posada, Cashman

Joel Sherman of the New York Post suspects that the Yankees will wait, instead of extending Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson this offseason. Both players are eligible for free agency after 2013 (assuming New York exercises Cano’s two options).

This was back when the Yankees had that “no extensions” policy that accomplished … I’m not sure what, exactly. Thankfully that is no more. Extending Cano back then would have been a smart move because he was an excellent homegrown Yankee at a hard-to-fill position — there’s no reason to think Robbie would have entertained an extension offer at that time anyway — and those guys are worth locking up.

Granderson was a different matter. He had a monster 2011 season, hitting .262/.364/.552 (146 wRC+) with 41 homers and 25 steals. Granderson finished fourth in the AL MVP voting and Cano finished sixth. That was also Granderson’s first season with that kind of production, so it was fair to wonder whether he’d do it again. The Yankees had him signed for another two years and could afford to be patient. Granderson had another year like that in 2012 but no extension came. Alas.

October 7th. 2011: Eric Chavez “Leaning Heavily Towards Retirement”

Veteran third baseman Eric Chavez is considering retirement, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).  Chavez, 33, is “leaning heavily towards” hanging up his cleats after 14 Major League seasons. 

The Yankees brought Chavez to camp as a non-roster player in 2011 and he wound up making the team as a bench player. He was okay that year, hitting .263/.320/.356 (80 wRC+) while playing the corner infield and missing time with a foot injury. Not great, not awful. Chavez did not retire that offseason, so the Yankees brought him back, and he rewarded them with an incredible 2012 season. He hit .281/.348/.496 (126 wRC+) with 16 homers that year. Pretty awesome. Chavez played another two years with the Diamondbacks after that, so he wasn’t close to retiring this offseason.

October 9th, 2011: Quick Hits: Payrolls, Jay, Wilson, Epstein

Some people think that C.J. Wilson has keen interest as a free agent in New York, tweets Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated.  He adds that the Yankees are probably the early favorite to sign him.

At the time, Wilson was very desirable as a free agent. The Rangers moved him into the rotation in 2010, and from 2010-11 he had a 3.14 ERA (3.39 FIP) in 427.1 innings. That’s really good! Wilson walked a few too many (9.5%), but he missed bats (21.3%) and got grounders (49.2%), plus he didn’t have nearly as many miles on his arm as most 30-year-old starters because he spent so much time as a reliever.

Alas, the Yankees didn’t sign Wilson, and that was for the best. He actually took less money from the Angels than the Marlins because he thought they were closer to winning. Wilson had a 3.87 ERA (3.95 FIP) in 722.1 innings with the Halos during his five-year, $75M contract. That’s not awful, but it’s not what the team was expecting. Wilson hasn’t pitched since July 2015 due to ongoing elbow and shoulder woes. The Yankees were never seriously in the mix to sign him during the 2011-12 offseason.

October 10th, 2011: AL East Links: Red Sox, Jays, Yanks, Sabathia, O’s

Unsurprisingly, the Yankees are looking for starting pitching and left-handed relievers, tweets Heyman. Our free agent list shows a number of attractive lefty relief options.

The Yankees did indeed get starting pitching that offseason — that was the Michael Pineda trade/Hiroki Kuroda signing offseason — but they took the “let’s bring in a bunch of guys and hope they work out” approach to the lefty relief market. The Yankees added three southpaws that winter: Cesar Cabral, Hideki Okajima (!), and Clay Rapada. Cabral, a Rule 5 Draft, hurt his elbow in Spring Training. Okajima failed his physical and never officially signed with the Yankees.

Rapada? He was nails in 2012. Had a 2.82 ERA (3.20 FIP) overall and held lefties to a .183/.263/.255 batting line with 28.7% strikeouts. Pretty awesome. Rapada and Boone Logan were a very nice left-on-left matchup tandem during that 2012 season. Unfortunately, Rapada got hurt during Spring Training in 2013 and didn’t pitch a whole lot after that. He pitched for the Philippines in the World Baseball Classic qualifier this past February, then retired.

October 11th, 2011: Raul Valdes, Scott Proctor Elect Free Agency

Relievers Raul Valdes and Scott Proctor have elected free agency, the Yankees announced today (Bryan Hoch of MLB.com tweeted the news).  Having lost Aaron Laffey as well, the Yankees’ 40-man roster now stands at 37.

Like this offseason, the Yankees got a head start on their 40-man roster cleanup during the 2011-12 offseason. Valdes and Proctor were late-season bullpen depth pickups not unlike Blake Parker and Tommy Layne. I’ll never forget Joe Girardi letting Proctor wear it in Game 162 in Tampa that year. That was the year the Red Sox collapsed and the Rays made the postseason on the final day of the season. Girardi brought Proctor in to pitch extra innings that game and you could tell he was in there until the game ended, one way or the other. He threw 2.2 innings and 56 pitches that game. Proctor spent 2012 in Korea and that was pretty much it for his career.

October 12th, 2011: Front Office Notes: Orioles, Yankees, Angels

The Yankees have granted the Angels permission to interview both Billy Eppler and Damon Oppenheimer for their vacant general manager job, tweets Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.

The Angels wound up hiring Jerry Dipoto to be their new GM that offseason, and Eppler was actually the runner-up. Oppenheimer was eliminated from contention earlier in the process. Dipoto resigned last summer — when was the last time a GM resigned? geez — and eventually the Halos hired Eppler as their new GM, partly because they were so impressed during his initial interview in 2011.

October 13th, 2011: David Ortiz Talks Yankees, Red Sox

David Ortiz recently hinted that the offseason could get even more tumultuous for the Red Sox. The designated hitter, who will be eligible for free agency after the World Series, suggested to ESPN’s Colleen Dominguez that he would fit into the Yankees’ culture.

“It’s great from what I hear,” he said. “It’s a good situation to be involved in. Who doesn’t want to be involved in a great situation where everything goes the right way?”

Ortiz says there’s “too much drama” in Boston these days and acknowledged that he’s thinking about moving on.I don’t know if I want to be part of this drama for next year.”

This was so obviously an attempt to create leverage during contract talks with the Red So that the “Ortiz to the Yankees???” stuff never picked up steam that offseason. Yeah, the Red Sox collapsed hilariously in 2011, but no one actually expected him to leave. The Yankees needed the DH spot for Alex Rodriguez and other veterans, plus Jesus Montero was locked into a roster spot at the time, so signing another DH wasn’t a priority, even one as good as Ortiz. He eventually re-signed with the Red Sox to the surprise of absolutely no one. This was like when Mariano Rivera said he was open to signing with Boston during the 2010-11 offseason. Yeah, sure. Like that was going to happen.

October 19th, 2011: Yankees To Decline Damaso Marte’s Option

The Yankees will announce that they’re declining their 2012 option for Damaso Marte, according to Mark Hale of the New York Post (on Twitter). The left-hander missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing shoulder surgery last October. He’ll get a $250K buyout instead of a $4MM salary for 2012.

That’s World Series hero Damaso Marte to you. The Yankees declined Marte’s $6M option for 2009 and instead gave him a three-year deal worth $12M. He had a 6.39 ERA (5.41 FIP) in 31 innings during the life of the contract and didn’t pitch at all in 2011 due to injuries. But! …

You’re cool with me, Damaso.

October 19th, 2011: Yankees Notes: Kuroda, Darvish, Sabathia, Nova

Rafael Soriano will not opt out of the two years and $25MM remaining on his contract, though there’s nothing official yet, according to Marchand.

I don’t know about you, but I was shocked a pitcher who missed half the season with elbow trouble and had a 4.12 ERA (3.97 FIP) when he did pitch didn’t walk away from a guaranteed $25M.

October 20th, 2011: Yankees Notes: Sabathia, Swisher, Blake, Soriano

The Yankees are “very likely” to pick up Nick Swisher‘s $10.25MM option for 2012, reports ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews, though they may wait “until the very last minute” (i.e. three days after the World Series) to do so.

I didn’t understand the “the Yankees might decline Swisher’s option!” talk that was going around after the Yankees were eliminated in the 2011 ALDS. Switch-hitters coming off a .260/.374/.449 (124 wRC+) season with 23 homers are a dime a dozen, I guess. No need to keep that guy for $10.25M. What a weird talking point that was. The option was a no-brainer and of course the Yankees picked it up.

October 21st, 2011: Heyman on Friedman, Darvish, Yankees

Free agent starter Freddy Garcia is popular with the Yankees’ front office and could return in 2012. The right-hander barely qualifies as a Type B free agent, according to our rankings.

The good ol’ Type-A/B free agent system. Garcia did qualify as a Type-B, meaning the Yankees would have received a supplemental first round pick had he signed elsewhere. It would have been, like, 55th overall. Somewhere in that neighborhood. Instead, the Yankees re-signed Garcia to a one-year deal worth $4M. There’s no such thing as too much pitching depth, right? Sweaty Freddy was good in 2011 (3.62 ERA and 4.12 FIP) and not so good in 2012 (5.20 ERA and 4.68 FIP). So it goes.

October 24th, 2011: Quick Hits: Yankees, Pirates, Moyer, Oswalt

The Pirates have prioritized catching help this offseason and the Yankees would “definitely” trade Francisco Cervelli in the right deal, according to Sherman. The Pirates may not view Cervelli as a starter, however.

The seeds were planted early. In fact, Brian Cashman said he originally proposed Cervelli for Justin Wilson back in 2012, but the Pirates said no. It wasn’t until November 2014 that they went through with that trade. Anyway, Cervelli missed most of 2011 due to injuries and the Yankees stashed him in Triple-A for all of 2012. His value was at an all-time low at the time.

October 27th, 2011: Boras Kidding About Reworking Cano’s Contract

6:32pm: Boras was just joking about a new contract for Cano, the agent tells George A. King III.  “Cash [Brian Cashman] and I have talked three or four times in the last three days. My statements were in jest. Cash always returns my phone calls,” Boras said. “My conversations with Cash about Robinson have nothing to do with the options. We fully expect the options to be exercised.”

9:57am: Agent Scott Boras phoned Yankees GM Brian Cashman to discuss the possibility of re-working Robinson Cano’s contract, according to George A. King III of the New York Post. Boras says he’s hoping to remove the 2012 and 2013 options on the second baseman’s deal and work out a new contract.

“I called Cash to ask about dropping the options and he hasn’t returned the call,” Boras told King.

Oh that silly Scott Boras. I have a hard time thinking Boras would have seriously discussed a contract extension that offseason, not unless the Yankees talked Mariners money. He was fully intent on getting Cano out on the open market and breaking the bank. And he did.

October 31st, 2011: Yankees, CC Sabathia Agree To Extension

CC Sabathia has agreed to a precedent-setting contract that will keep him in pinstripes and off of the free agent market. The 31-year-old left-hander announced on his Twitter account and on Zoodig.com that he has agreed to a new deal with the Yankees. 

Sabathia’s opt-out was, by far, the biggest story of the 2011-12 offseason — really the entire 2011 season, for that matter — and it was over quick. The Yankees and Sabathia agreed to an extension minutes before the opt-out deadline. He got to say he never did opt-out while still leveraging it into more money. Here’s the video in which Sabathia announced the extension:

All things considered, the opt-out situation could have been much worse. The Yankees tacked one additional year and $30M in guaranteed money on top of the four years and $92M left on his original contract. The extension also included the vesting option that covers next season. There was talk of adding two or three more guaranteed years to his contract.

Sabathia had a phenomenal season in 2011 (3.00 ERA and 2.88 FIP) and letting him walk was not something anyone wanted. The extension hasn’t really worked out as hoped — Sabathia had a great year in 2012, stunk from 2013-15, then rebounded nicely in 2016 — but I still love the big guy. Huge money contracts can work out worse.

Thursday Notes: Beltran, Blue Jays, IFAs, Qualifying Offer

(Vaughn Ridley/Getty)
(Vaughn Ridley/Getty)

There are, at most, ten more baseball games left this season. It could be as few as six. That stinks. The offseason is fun in it’s own way, but nothing is better than actual games. That’s why we all watch. Anyway, make sure you check out MLBTR’s Offseason Outlook: New York Yankees post. Nice little rundown of what could happen this winter. Here are some other news and notes.

Blue Jays had interest in Beltran

The Blue Jays had interest in Carlos Beltran prior to the trade deadline, reports Gerry Fraley. Toronto skipper John Gibbons confirmed the club considered a run at Beltran this summer. “Beltran was a guy we even talked about. We saw him over the years with the Yankees and what a great hitter he was, a clutch type performer,” said Gibbons prior to the start of the ALDS.

The Red Sox also reportedly tried to acquire Beltran prior to the deadline, and just like with Boston, it’s unclear whether the Yankees would have actually gone through with an intra-division trade with the Blue Jays. Toronto’s farm system is not nearly as good as the Red Sox’s, though I’m sure the two sides could have found a match if they really set their mind to it. The Blue Jays scored eight runs in the five-game ALCS — five of the eight came in Game Four — and they clearly needed another bat. Beltran would have been able to help. No doubt.

MLB pushing for international draft

To no surprise whatsoever, MLB is pushing for an international draft as part of Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations with MLBPA, reports Buster Olney. MLB has wanted an international draft for years now — it’s a way to keep costs down for owners, that’s the only goal here — but the union has yet to give in. I wonder if this will be the year though. Here are some more details from Olney:

Under the terms of MLB’s initial concept, the new international draft system would start in March of 2018, with a 10-round draft held over two days. As the new structure evolved, with terms grandfathered into the process, the minimum age for draft-eligible players would be 18 years old by 2021 … As part of baseball’s proposal, MLB would operate facilities in the Dominican Republic, where international draft prospects would be invited to live to develop their skills and education before becoming eligible.

Two things. One, those kids are going to have to wait two more years to get their payday, no matter how large or small it may be. That sucks. Right now they can sign at 16. Under this proposal they have to wait until they’re 18. And two, this is yet another incentive for teams to be bad. Bad clubs already get the largest draft bonus pools and protected picks. Now they’ll get access to the top international talent without worrying about other clubs offering more money.

This proposal — thankfully that’s all this is right now, a proposal — is great for the teams and owners. They’ll save money and also get two extra years to evaluate these kids before deciding whether to sign to them. It stinks for the players, who have to wait to get paid and risk having their skills erode before they can cash in. You have no idea how many kids sign at 16 only to then fill out physically and lose the electric athleticism that got them paid. An international draft is inevitable. Hopefully MLBPA doesn’t relent this CBA and we get a few more years of true free agency.

Qualifying offer system could change with CBA

The qualifying offer system may also be revamped with the new CBA, reports Joel Sherman. The QO isn’t going away, but the MLB and the MLBPA may make it so players can not receive the QO in consecutive years. That means the Orioles wouldn’t be able to get a draft pick for Matt Wieters this offseason since they gave him the QO last offseason, which he accepted. Something like that.

I can’t imagine MLB and MLBPA will ever completely severe ties between the draft and free agency — they don’t want rich teams to have access to the best free agents and first round talent — so this might be the next best thing. If this proposal goes through, you might see some more players sign one-year contracts so they can go back out on the market with no draft pick attached. I think most guys will look to grab the largest payday as soon as possible though. Being set for life financial is pretty cool, I hear.

Heyman: Yankees wanted Panik in trade talks with Giants

(Christian Petersen/Getty)
(Christian Petersen/Getty)

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees asked the Giants for second baseman Joe Panik during trade talks prior to the August 1st deadline. San Francisco was said to have interest in both Andrew Miller and Michael Pineda, and I assume Aroldis Chapman as well. The Yankees reportedly did not view them as a good trade partner given their thin farm system though. Heyman indicates the Bombers wanted Panik for Miller.

Panik, 25, is a semi-local kid from Hopewell Junction in Upstate New York. He went to St. John’s. He’s hitting a weak .240/.317/.380 (89 wRC+) with a career high ten home runs in 505 plate appearances around a concussion this season. Last year he hit .312/.378/.455 (136 wRC) around a back injury. Panik was called up midway through the 2014 season and was the Giants’ starting second baseman during their most recent World Series run. There’s a lot to digest here, so let’s break it down.

1. I really like the idea of targeting Panik. It goes without saying a quality young middle infielder is a very valuable asset. Beyond that, I like going after Panik because he’s exactly the kid of offensive player the Yankees don’t have. He’s an extreme contact hitter — his 9.1% strikeout rate is the lowest in baseball — who also draws a healthy amount of walks (9.7%), so his plate discipline is a big plus. Panik is also an all-fields hitter (2016 spray chart via Baseball Savant) …

Joe Panik spray chart

… with a very small platoon split. It’s almost negligible, really. He’s a career .279/.345/.414 (112 wRC+) hitter against righties and a career .289/.343/.376 (104 wRC+) hitter against lefties. Less power, but the average and on-base ability there. Add in above average defense and strong baserunning, and you’ve got a very nice all-around player. Not a star, but a solid player who fits the classic two-hole hitter profile perfectly.

The Yankees have spent the last few years targeting dead pull lefty hitters who can take advantage of the short porch and I totally understand why, but it hasn’t really worked. It’s led to a very one-dimensional and easy-to-defend offense. Targeting some (note: not only) players like Panik should be a goal going forward. Batting average over power, plus a willingness to take a walk. Let any power boost from the short porch come naturally.

(The Yankees kinda tried this when the signed Jacoby Ellsbury, though Ellsbury was already over 30 and didn’t walk nearly as much as Panik. Prime-aged players, please and thank you.)

2. Whither Castro? Panik was drafted as a shortstop but he’s a pure second baseman now, and the Yankees already have a second baseman in Starlin Castro. How would the two have co-existed? There are a lot of ways to solve this problem (trade, platoon, etc.) and I think the long-term plan would have been Panik at second and Castro at third. I don’t think this means the Yankees are ready to move on from Starlin. Not at all.

Remember, the Yankees originally planned to have Castro play some third base this season. That plan got put on hold because he needed more work at second than I think they realized — he only moved there late last season, after all — so they had him focus on that position in Spring Training. With a full season at second under his belt, Castro would ostensibly be better able to work out at third next year. He wouldn’t need the reps at second.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Starlin’s developing power — his 21 homers are five more than his previous career high, though a lot of that is Yankee Stadium (15 at home, six on the road) — allows him to profile better at third, and I think he’d be a better defender there than at second. He seems to get himself in trouble when he has time to make a play. I think the idea behind getting Panik was moving Castro to third long-term.

What happens with Chase Headley in that scenario? An offseason trade seems obvious — they made him available at the deadline, remember — though keeping him as a backup plan at third (and first?) wouldn’t have been a terrible idea. This is one of those “get a good player and figure it out later” situations. Same goes with playing time in the second half. The Yankees figured to be out of the race. Just get the talent and sort it all out once necessary.

3. Was it a one-for-one trade, or something bigger? Long before the trade deadline I was hoping the Yankees would get one truly top prospect for Chapman, and one top prospect plus a few decent secondary pieces for Miller. The Yankees got much more than that. The bullpen market has been insane over the last ten months or so, starting with the Ken Giles trade over the winter. Teams are paying top dollar for elite relievers.

So, with that in mind, was the offer Miller-for-Panik straight up? Or Miller for Panik plus stuff? Or Miller plus stuff for Panik? Or maybe something even bigger than that. It’s two and a half years of an elite reliever and four and a half years of a good middle infielder. My guess is talks never advanced all that far, so the exact framework was never discussed. Something like this:

“Hi, we’d like Andrew Miller.”

“Okay, but your system kinda stinks, so we want Joe Panik in return.”

“Not surprising. Lots of team have asked about him. We can’t do that though. We’ll get Will Smith from the Brewers instead.”

“So wanna get jiggy wit it?”

“Stop it, Brian.”

“In West Philadelphia born and raised…

/click

Getting Panik straight up for Miller would have been pretty darn good, I think. Then again, I never thought the Yankees would get two top 100 prospects and more for Miller, so what do I know. Somehow nothing would have surprised me, not a straight one-for-one deal and not one side kicking in more. This would have been a complicated one.

4. The Giants did trade a starting infielder. The idea of a team trading their starting second baseman for a reliever in the middle of a postseason race seems crazy, but remember, the Giants did trade their starting third baseman. Matt Duffy went to the Rays in the Matt Moore trade. San Francisco picked up Eduardo Nunez a few days earlier and was able to plug him in at third. They could have traded Panik, kept Duffy, and used Nunez at second.

It’s not quite that simple, of course. Duffy was on the DL at the time, so the Giants weren’t actually subtracting him from their lineup when they made the trade. Also, trading Panik and keeping Duffy would have meant finding another way to solve the rotation problem. Trading Panik for Miller and Duffy for Moore seems like a non-option. How could a contender trade half their starting infield, especially when both guys are young?

The Giants were obviously not completely opposed to trading a building block infielder to address their roster needs. The Duffy trade shows that. The fact talks with the Yankees about Panik didn’t go very far suggests they’re much higher on him going forward, which makes sense. Duffy’s power outburst last season was really unexpected, plus top prospect Christian Arroyo is likely headed for third base long-term. They have Duffy’s replacement already.

With San Francisco’s farm system short on high-end talent, the Yankees were smart to ask for a big league player in Miller talks, and Panik was the guy to target. The Brandons (Belt and Crawford) are going nowhere and there’s reason to believe Duffy isn’t quite as good as he was last year. Panik’s concussion explains his down year, but the fact he’s shown more power this year with maintaining his elite strike zone control is a promising sign. This would have been a fascinating deal.

Rosenthal: Rangers made last minute push for Ivan Nova

(Andy Lyons/Getty)
(Andy Lyons/Getty)

According to Ken Rosenthal (video link), the Rangers made a last minute push for Ivan Nova prior to the August 1st trade deadline. The two sides exchanged proposals, and Rosenthal says talks occurred so late they might not have had time to review medical information before the deadline. Nova was instead traded to the Pirates for two prospects.

Nova, 29, had a tough start yesterday but has generally been very good for Pittsburgh. He has a 2.93 ERA (2.67 FIP) in nine starts and 55.1 innings since the trade deadline. Nine starts since the deadline? Was it really that long ago? Geez. Anyway, I’m guessing more than one team made a run at Nova before the deadline given the general need for pitching around the league. I have a few thoughts on this.

1. What would have been a comparable package from Texas? The Yankees received two players to be named later for Nova and they were legitimate prospects: outfielder Tito Polo and lefty Stephen Tarpley. They’re not high-end prospects — the Yankees traded Ivan Nova, not Greg Maddux — but they’re bonafide prospects with a chance to help the Yankees at the big league level or as trade chips at some point.

Both Tarpley and Polo were at High-A at the time of the trade. Tarpley’s a bit of a ‘tweener in that he has quality stuff but may lack the command to start long-term, while Polo is a toolsy player who may profile best as a fourth outfielder. Using MLB.com’s top 30 Rangers prospects list, here’s a list of comparable Rangers prospects:

  • RHP Pedro Payano: “Payano may lack a plus pitch, but he has three effective offerings and knows how to use them.”
  • RHP Jonathan Hernandez: “Hernandez may not have more of a ceiling than No. 4 starter, he’s a safe bet to remain in the rotation and could advance quickly.”
  • RHP Tyler Ferguson: “The bullpen might be the best destination for him anyway, because he’ll never have fine command and has yet to show aptitude for throwing an offspeed pitch.”
  • OF Jose Almonte: “Almonte’s below-average speed and quickness precipitated his move from third base but shouldn’t prevent him from becoming a competent right fielder.”

This isn’t an apples to apples comparison, of course. I was just looking for Single-A players who fit the “maybe a starter, likely a reliever” and “toolsy fourth outfielder” profiles. The Rangers system isn’t all that deep in those types of players. They have a lot of teenage infielders in the back of their top 30 prospects list.

Anyway, the point is the Yankees probably weren’t missing out on anything great by trading Nova to the Pirates instead of the Rangers. Some Single-A prospects with iffy profiles work out. Most don’t. That’s baseball.

2. The Yankees had to trade Nova. I have a hard time believing anyone would think otherwise. The Yankees sat 5.5 games back of a wildcard spot and they were coming off four straight losses the morning of the trade deadline. They had just been swept by the last place Rays. There was no reason to think they would miraculously storm back into the race, even temporarily.

Nova is an impending free agent and he was not a qualifying offer candidate because he’d pitched to a 4.99 ERA (4.98 FIP) in 191.1 innings following Tommy John surgery. They could either keep him, get another 12-13 mediocre starts, then lose him for nothing after the season, or they could trade him for some lottery tickets. Regardless of whether Nova went to the Rangers or Pirates or some other team, the Yankees were smart to move him.

3. No, the Yankees shouldn’t try to re-sign Nova. Nova’s the big winner here because there seems to be a belief that the Pirates are magicians and can fix any pitcher — why did they have to trade for Nova in the first place if that’s true? — and Nova is the latest example. Someone’s going to pay him good money in the weak free agent class, the same way J.A. Happ and Edinson Volquez made more than expected after leaving Pittsburgh.

Does that mean the Yankees should try to re-sign Nova? That’s an easy no for me. I’m not convinced his recent success is the result of anything more than a favorable schedule — he’s faced the Reds, Brewers, and Phillies six times in his nine starts — and a friendly home ballpark in the non-DH league. Nova might only be fixed the same way Phil Hughes was fixed with the Twins in 2014. Ivan’s going to get paid this winter and good for him. The 700-something innings in pinstripes far outweigh the 50-something innings with the Pirates in my opinion.

Olney: Yanks have been aggressive making waiver claims

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

According to Buster Olney (subs. req’d), the Yankees have been aggressively claiming players on trade waivers this month. Obviously none of those claims have led to a trade. Olney says the Orioles in particular are looking to add pieces, presumably pitching, but the Yankees have a higher waiver priority and keep blocking the O’s trade targets. That’s usually how it goes this month.

Quick trade waivers primer: every 40-man roster player has to go on waivers to be traded after the deadline. If the player is claimed, he can only be traded to the team that claims him (with 48 hours of the claim). If he goes unclaimed, he can be traded anywhere. Trade waivers are revocable, meaning you can pull the player back if he’s claimed. Everyone goes on waivers at some point. It’s a zero risk move. Anyway, I have two quick thoughts on this.

1. The Yankees are always aggressive with trade waivers. This is nothing new. The Yankees have always been aggressive when it comes to claiming players on trade waivers, dating back to when the Devil Rays unexpectedly dumped Jose Canseco on them in 2000. They made a ton of claims last year too, including David Robertson. At the time it seemed the Robertson claim had more to do with preventing him from going to the Blue Jays or Astros than trying to acquire him.

The Yankees have plenty of payroll flexibility, more than they seem willing to admit (which I guess makes sense, since it gives them leverage in trade and free agent talks), so they’re in position to be aggressive with claims. If someone gets dumped on them a la Canseco, they’re better able to absorb the contract than other teams. Even if the claims are only block moves, the Yankees have every reason to be aggressive.

2. There’s not much time left to make a trade. The deadline to acquire a player and have him be eligible for the postseason roster is 11:59pm ET tomorrow night. There’s no loophole around that one. It’s a hard deadline. Teams can still make trades in September — the Yankees acquired Brendan Ryan from the Mariners in September — but the player(s) won’t be postseason eligible, so September trades are very rare.

I don’t expect the Yankees to make a trade prior to tomorrow night’s deadline, though grabbing some pitching help wouldn’t be a bad idea. The rotation is pretty thin and the middle relief is a mess. This goes the other way too. The Yankees don’t have much time left to trade away a player, such as Brian McCann, who has already cleared trade waivers. Others like Brett Gardner and Michael Pineda could be of interest around the league.

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Despite all the claims, the Yankees have not been very active on the waiver trade market in recent years. They dumped Matt Thornton on the Nationals two years ago, brought in Ryan three years ago, and added Chad Gaudin in 2009. That’s pretty much it. The waiver trade market is typically lots of hype and little action. There’s no reason to think this year will be different.

Yankees can still add depth for the stretch run with small waiver trades

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Despite trading away valuable veterans at the deadline, the Yankees remain in the wildcard race and have a chance to at least make these last few weeks interesting. Are they the front-runners for the second wildcard spot? No. But they’re within striking distance, and as long as they’re close, they should continue to push for a postseason spot. If you’re not going to do that, what’s the point?

The Yankees are an obviously flawed team that is now at least fun to watch. They were pretty boring for most of the season. All of the recent call-ups have made things way more interesting, and I’m pretty sure they’ve made the Yankees an overall better team too. There are still ways to get better, and the Yankees can still make upgrades through waivers trades in the coming weeks.

A really quick crash course on trade waivers: every player on the 40-man roster has to go through trade waivers to be traded after the deadline. If the player goes unclaimed, he can be traded anywhere. If he is claimed, he can only be traded to the claiming team. Trade waivers are completely revocable, so if a player is claimed, he can be pulled back. Pretty much every player is placed on trade waivers this month. By putting everyone on waivers, teams mask the guys they actually want to trade.

Players must be in the organization by 11:59pm ET on August 31st to be eligible for the postseason roster and that’s a hard deadline. There are no loopholes around that one. Obviously if you make a waiver trade, you want to be able to take that player into October. But the Yankees aren’t in position to think that far ahead yet. They have to get to the postseason first, and if that means making a trade after August 31st, so be it.

The Yankees are committed to this transition and playing the kids, as they should be. There are still ways to upgrade the roster around them and improve the team’s chances of contention, and the Yankees should look to do that in the coming weeks. Here are the obvious spots Brian Cashman & Co. could look to upgrade for the stretch drive, plus some potential targets on teams out of the race.

The Sixth Starter

The last turn through the rotation has gone well thanks to Chad Green and Luis Cessa, who are replacing the injured Nathan Eovaldi and the ineffective Luis Severino. Severino is the sixth starter by default right now, which isn’t great because he has some things to work on in Triple-A. There’s always room for more pitching, though right now, the pickin’s are slim. Unless you want to pay big for someone like Jeremy Hellickson, that is. One veteran candidate stands out as a possible trade target.

De La Rosa. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)
De La Rosa. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)

Jorge De La Rosa, Rockies: The Rockies were three games back of a wildcard spot as recent as August 4th, though they’ve struggled of late and have slipped to seven games back. De La Rosa, an impending free agent, has a 5.07 ERA (5.19 FIP) in 110 total innings this season, though that doesn’t tell the whole story. He started the year in the rotation, pitched terribly, got demoted to the bullpen, then eventually rejoined the rotation.

De La Rosa made his first start back in the rotation against the Yankees and held them scoreless over five innings, as you may remember. Since rejoining the rotation the 35-year-old southpaw has a 3.56 ERA (5.00 FIP) in 78.1 total innings. The Yankees have been connected to De La Rosa before, both as a free agent and in trades, so there may be lingering interest. You could do a lot worse than a guy with a history of missing bats, getting grounders, and experience pitching in a harsh home ballpark for your sixth starter.

The Extra Reliever

No, they’re not Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, but Adam Warren and Tyler Clippard have done a fine job in the seventh and eighth inning since the trade deadline. The middle relief is still a bit sketchy — Tommy Layne and Blake Parker haven’t done much to solve things — and besides, there’s always room for another quality reliever. Reliever prices have been pretty high, though there’s a chance they may come down as rebuilding teams look to unload impending free agents rather than lose them for nothing after the season. Here are some potential bullpen targets.

Jim Johnson, Braves: The Braves have been signing and flipping scrap heap arms for prospects all year. They did it with Bud Norris, Jhoulys Chacin, Jason Grilli, and Lucas Harrell. Johnson has a 3.50 ERA (3.32 FIP) in 46.1 innings thanks to an improved strikeout rate (24.2%) and his typically excellent ground ball rate (56.6%). He’s been closing the last few weeks, ever since Arodys Vizcaino landed on the DL with an oblique problem. Johnson’s on a cheap one-year contract.

(Christian Petersen/Getty)
Logan. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Boone Logan, Rockies: The Yankees went from having two of the three best lefty relievers in baseball to no reliable southpaws at the trade deadline. Miller and Chapman are gone, leaving guys like Layne, Chasen Shreve, and Richard Bleier to pick up the slack. It hasn’t gone too well. Logan is having a phenomenal contract year, pitching to a 2.65 ERA (2.42 FIP) in 37.1 innings. More importantly, he’s held left-handed batters to a .148/.213/.253 batting line with a 32.6% strikeout rate and a 62.5% ground ball rate. He’s been a shutout left-on-left matchup guy.

Carlos Torres, Brewers: Don’t ask me why, but I’ve been an irrational Carlos Torres fan for a few years now. He’s have a strong season in Milwaukee (2.86 ERA and 3.78 FIP) and he’s a rubber-armed swingman, someone who can throw two or three innings at a time and pitch back-to-back-to-back days with no problem. As an added bonus, Torres would remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2018. The Yankees don’t have a long man at the moment and Torres would fill that void well.

The Big Bench Bat

Pitching is pitching and teams always need it. These next two positions are September specialties. Only once rosters expand does it make sense to dedicate a spot to an extra lefty bench bat, something the Yankees lack right now. (Their current bench is Mark Teixeira, Aaron Hicks, Ronald Torreyes, and Austin Romine.) Expanded rosters give teams the flexibility to carry a dedicated pinch-hitting specialist, which can come in handy. Here are two candidates.

Ryan Howard, Phillies: Go ahead and laugh. After all, Howard is hitting .198/.252/.445 (78 wRC+) on the season and he’s been a punchline for three or four years now. He hasn’t even hit righties this year (.206/.268/.472). So why target him? Because Howard is a short porch friendly left-handed hitter who can still hit a baseball to the moon …

… and he’s hitting .378/.425/.838 (228 wRC+) this month. The Phillies have been trying to give Howard away for close to two years now. Picking him up for cash considerations, say the pro-rated portion of the league minimum, to pinch-hit 12-15 times in September as literally the 40th man on the 40-man roster is a super-low-risk move. One well-timed dinger in those 12-15 September at-bats would make it all worth it.

Justin Morneau, White Sox: The Howard logic applies to Morneau, though Morneau is at least hitting a respectable .275/.312/.480 (108 wRC+) in limited time with the White Sox this year. They signed him at midseason following offseason elbow surgery and the club has since fallen out of the race, so there’s not much point in keeping him. As with Howard, Morneau could be a strategic September pinch-hitter as long as he comes super cheap.

The Pinch-Runner Specialist

Designated pinch-runners have become a September staple. The Yankees don’t have a true burner in Triple-A, and in fact their best pinch-runner option may be Jorge Mateo, who will have to be added to the 40-man roster for Rule 5 Draft protection after the season anyway. Is it worth calling him and starting his service time clock for that? Maybe. There are other candidates around the league though.

Emilio Bonifacio, Braves: Bonifacio never has been able to carve out as a role as a super utility guy, but he can still run, and he currently leads the Triple-A International league with 37 steals (in 42 attempts). He’s always been a bit reckless on the bases, which isn’t necessarily a good thing, but at least he won’t hesitate to run. Bonifacio is mighty aggressive.

Michael Bourn, Diamondbacks: Bourn’s days as an elite base-stealer are over because he’s old by speed guy standards (33), but he can still run a little and is 12-for-17 in steal attempts this year. I also think there’s something to be said for his base-stealing experience and knowing pitchers (and their moves) around the league.

Mastroianni. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Mastroianni. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Darin Mastroianni, Twins: A sexy name? Nope. But neither was Rico Noel last year, and Rico did the job well. Mastroianni has been up-and-down and hurt this year, so he hasn’t played much and only has ten steals (in 13 attempts). This is a guy who went 56-for-67 (84%) in steal attempts from 2013-15 though. Remember, the September pinch-runner only has to run. He doesn’t have to hit or even field. Just run. Mastroianni can run.

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The important thing here is expanding rosters. There’s no sense in acquiring someone like Howard or Mastroianni right now. They’re guys you acquire on August 31st and activate on September 1st, once rosters expand so you don’t have to cut someone loose. The Yankees can still commit to playing the kids while upgrading the margins of their roster, either with some extra arms or bench players. And as long as they’re in the postseason race, even minor league upgrades are moves worth making.