The Good & Bad of the Trade Deadline [2015 Season Review]

Price. (Presswire)
Price. (Presswire)

On July 24th, one week before the trade deadline, the Yankees were 53-42 and 5.5 games up in the AL East. They had scored the second most runs in baseball (435) but also allowed the 12th most (409) at the time. They were pretty healthy too. Andrew Miller and Jacoby Ellsbury had both returned from their injuries, and Ivan Nova had returned from Tommy John surgery.

Things were going pretty darn well for the Yankees in late-July. There were also some clear needs, particularly at second base and in the rotation. Getting another starter was going to take some creativity because the Yankees had five starters (six if you count Adam Warren), though they sorely lacked an innings eater and, frankly, a dominator. Masahiro Tanaka had his moments but there was a little too much mediocrity mixed in to call him a true ace.

Given those needs, the nice but not entirely comfortable lead in the division, and the fact they hadn’t been to the postseason in either of the last two years, I thought the Yankees would be aggressive at the trade deadline. Instead, they walked away with Dustin Ackley and nothing else. That doesn’t mean they didn’t try to get help, it just means they didn’t pull the trigger on anything. In the end, the results were both good and bad.

The Good: Keep the Kids

Scroll back through our various Trade Deadline Open Threads and you’ll see the Yankees were connected to a whole bunch of players before the deadline, some more than others. They were in on guys like Mike Leake, Jeff Samardzija, Yovani Gallardo, Carter Capps, Tyler Clippard, and Mat Latos, among others. I don’t even remember half of that.

When it was all said and one, we only heard about three serious offers. Well, four if you count the completed Ackley trade. Here are the three deals that didn’t get done:

The Maybin-for-Sanchez offer makes no sense. The Yankees already had a great right-handed hitting outfielder in Chris Young and literally no roster space for Maybin. I guess they could have acquired Maybin instead of Ackley, but why? That was the Braves trying to get a talented young catcher. Didn’t make sense for New York.

Zobrist, on the other hand, would have fit the Yankees perfectly because he fits every team perfectly. He would have stepped in at second base, an area of great need for New York, and provided them with another switch-hitting bat for the lineup. The Kimbrel stuff came after the Yankees decided the price of rotation help was too high, so they were going to beef up the bullpen instead. Gyorko would have platooned with Stephen Drew at second.

Look at the names involved in those trades. Refsnyder, Sanchez, Mateo. Warren’s not really a kid but he was under control for a few more years and was a really valuable piece of the pitching staff in 2015. Luis Severino and Greg Bird were also mentioned in rumors at the trade deadline. So was Aaron Judge. These guys are all among the top young players in the organization and all except Mateo were knocking on the door of MLB at the trade deadline.

The Yankees kept these players and now most of them are in position to help next season. Heck, Severino and Bird helped almost immediately after the trade deadline. Refsnyder helped later in the year. Judge isn’t far off either. There is a clear path for these players to take on significant roles with the Yankees in the extremely near future. Severino has a rotation spot locked up. Refsnyder was going to at least compete for the second base job until the Starlin Castro trade. Bird and Judge are stuck behind Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, though those two will be free agents next winter.

It would have been very easy — and I would have considered it totally justifiable — to trade any of those young players for a rental player at the deadline. Instead, the Yankees stuck to their guns, continued what qualifies as a Yankees youth movement, and kept their top youngsters. Now those players are in line to help and the Yankees will potentially reap the rewards going forward. They held on to their MLB ready guys. We’re not going to wait another two years to see them in pinstripes.

The Bad: Second Half Collapse

The Yankees were 5.5 games up a week before the deadline, seven games up two days before the deadline, and yet they finished six games back in the division. They lost 13 games in the standings to the Blue Jays in the final two months of the season. The Yankees finished one game better than the Astros for the top wildcard spot and two games better than the Angels for a wildcard spot in general.

Zobrist. (Presswire)
Zobrist. (Presswire)

That’s quite a collapse. The Yankees really could have used some help in the second half! Zobrist and even Gyorko would have (potentially) helped the offense, and if nothing else, Kimbrel would have meant fewer innings for the shuttle guys down the stretch in September. There’s also David Price. The Yankees made a run at Price before the deadline but fell short, reportedly because the Tigers really wanted Daniel Norris.

I have a hard time believing it would have been impossible to bridge the gap between Severino and Norris, but it doesn’t really matter now. Price is a balance of power guy. He changes the entire complexion of a division race and we saw that down the stretch. Price dominated (2.30 ERA and 2.22 FIP) for the Blue Jays and they won nine of his eleven starts. He helped them win other games by saving the bullpen too (averaged 6.2 innings per start).

Who knows what would have happened had the Yankees been more willing to trade young players at the deadline. The offense crashed so hard those last few weeks that adding Zobrist or Gyorko or whoever else might not have mattered. The Blue Jays may have beat up on Price and mashed their way to first place anyway had New York landed the left-hander.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say the second half fade could have been slowed somewhat with some deadline help. Enough to win the division? Probably enough. Enough to win the wildcard game? Well that’s a much different story. Price starting that game instead of Tanaka and/or Zobrist/Gyorko instead of Refsnyder at second could have made all the difference in the world.

* * *

Believe me, I’m happy the Yankees kept Severino and Bird and those others guys. I look forward to watching them play next season and beyond. I also appreciate a team that goes for it. Too many clubs are content to sit back and wait for the future. At the time, I wanted the Yankees to go for it at the deadline, especially Price and Zobrist. Not doing so looks smart in hindsight, but only in hindsight in my opinion.

Cashman confirms Yanks rejected Refsnyder and Warren for Zobrist at trade deadline

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Given the way things played out this season, it’s only natural to sit here today and ask whether the Yankees should have approached the trade deadline differently. I wanted them to aggressively pursue upgrades because they were atop the division at the time, and also because 2015 might have been their last chance to win with the Mark Teixeira/Alex Rodriguez core.

Instead, the Yankees acquired Dustin Ackley and nothing else, and maybe the deadline inactivity wouldn’t have mattered at all. We’ll never know. Brian Cashman was asked about the trade deadline following last night’s game, specifically whether he regretted not making more moves. Of course he said no, but he did drop this interesting nugget. From George King:

“The only second baseman was [Ben] Zobrist and [Oakland] wanted a combo of [Adam] Warren and [Rob] Refsnyder,’’ said Cashman, who declined the offer, while Zobrist went to the Royals. “We tried to improve the bullpen and made a significant offer [to San Diego for Craig Kimbrel] and it was turned down. After the deadline, 75 percent of the players were claimed. There was nowhere to turn outside of [Triple-A] Scranton.’’

In a vacuum, trading Refsnyder and Warren for Zobrist is perfectly reasonable to me. I’m higher than most on Warren but am also probably the low guy on Refsnyder. He strikes me as a fine stopgap second baseman, but someone who has a team in contention constantly looking for an upgrade. In terms of talent and value and all that stuff, Refsnyder and Warren for Zobrist works fine.

The problem with that trade is the Yankees had no pitching depth to spare. No one was pitching deep into games in the first half and the rotation was stretched thin — Michael Pineda was placed on the DL immediately prior to the trade deadline, but Zobrist was traded two days earlier — so giving up Warren would have really hurt. They would have had to make another trade(s) for pitching help to compensate.

That would have been fine with me. I wanted the Yankees a pick up new second baseman and more pitching help at the trade deadline. Dealing Warren and Refsnyder for Zobrist, then flipping some prospects for arms would have made sense to me at the time. In the end, who knows. Maybe it doesn’t make a difference. Probably doesn’t. Warren and Refsnyder for Zobrist is a fair trade to me, but it wouldn’t have made sense without another deal for pitching.

Saturday Links: Waiver Trades, Eppler, 2016 Draft, YES

D-Rob. (Presswire)
D-Rob. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Rays continue their Labor Day weekend series a little later this afternoon. Here are some morning links to help you pass the time.

Yankees were blocked in attempts to add pitching

During the waiver trade period in August, the Yankees were “blocked in every attempt” to add pitching, reports Nick Cafardo. Well, that should say “almost every attempt,” because they did claim David Robertson, only to have the White Sox pull him back. Getting blocked on trade waivers simply means a team with a lower waiver priority (i.e. a worse record) placed a claim on a player. In August, players can only be dealt to the team that claims them off trade waivers. They can be dealt to any team if they go unclaimed.

The Yankees were in first place for 18 of 31 days in August, so I’m guessing the Blue Jays did most of the blocking. Wildcard hopefuls like the Twins, Rangers, Angels, Rays, and Orioles were probably in on the act as well. The only pitchers traded in August were Fernando Rodney, Neal Cotts, Randy Wolf, Oliver Perez, and Eric O’Flaherty. Cotts and Perez are useful left-on-left matchup guys, but otherwise the Yankees don’t have much use for those players. Any attempt to add significant pitching was likely blocked. Aside from Robertson, of course.

Eppler continues to be linked to Angels

Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler continues to be linked to the Angels, who will hire a new GM in the offseason following Jerry Dipoto’s midseason resignation. Dipoto lost a power struggle when owner Arte Moreno sided with manager Mike Scioscia. Bob Nightengale heard from one “high-ranking Angels executive” that Eppler is considered the front-runner for the job while Alden Gonzalez notes Eppler’s name comes up “frequently” in Angels discussions Ken Rosenthal reports the Angels have not yet asked the Yankees for permission to speak to Eppler, for what it’s worth. Eppler interviewed for the Angels job back in 2011 and was reportedly the runner-up to Dipoto. There are a few GM jobs open right now (Angels, Mariners, Red Sox) and I’m guessing this won’t be the last time we hear Eppler connected to one of them.

2016 draft set for June 9th

The 2016 amateur draft has been scheduled for June 9th, reports John Manuel. That’s a Thursday. The draft has historically been held on the first Tuesday of June, but in recent years the start date has moved around due to MLB Network. The draft started on a Monday in both 2012 and 2015, and on a Thursday in 2013 and 2014. As usual, it will be a three-day event next summer.

Manuel says there has been talk of moving the draft broadcast to Omaha to coincide with the College World Series, which would allow some more prospects to attend, but that won’t happen next year. The College World Series usually doesn’t start until mid-June, which would mean delaying the draft two weeks or so. Not ideal. Teams want to get their players, get them signed, and get their careers started.

YES ratings up 31% in the second half

Apparently the thrill of a postseason race has more people watching the Yankees down the stretch. YES Network ratings are up a whopping 31% in the second half, the network announced. Ratings are up even more in certain demographics, and YES is “delivering the best demo viewership” since 2012, whatever that means. Also, nine of the eleven highest rated game broadcasts have come within the last month. If you win, people will watch. If you lose, many will still watch.

Sherman: Yankees not looking to add first base help this month

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Even though Mark Teixeira will be sidelined for at least another two weeks and Greg Bird occasionally looks like he’s in over his head as a big league regular, Brian Cashman told Joel Sherman he is not looking to add first base help right now. Cashman essentially said they won’t be able to find anything better than what they currently have.

Now that we are in September, any player the Yankees acquire will not be eligible for the postseason roster. There are no exceptions whatever. The deadline to acquire a player and have him be postseason-eligible was midnight Monday and the Yankees did not add anyone. Their only notable in-season trade pickup this year was Dustin Ackley.

That said, the Yankees could still make a trade and add a player to help for the rest of the regular season. You’ve got to first get to the postseason before you can worry about the postseason roster, right? The Yankees have done this recently too — two years ago they acquired Brendan Ryan from the Mariners in mid-September when Derek Jeter went down with an injury.

At this point though, the trade market is barren. Sherman tossed out the idea of Chris Carter or Casey McGehee as potential platoon partners for Bird, but yuck. Mike Olt was designated for assignment a few days ago and could be another option, but again, how much is he moving the needle? Acquiring any of those three guys would be trying to catch lightning in the bottle, nothing more.

Hopefully Teixeira’s bone bruise heals up soon and he can return to action within that two-week timetable. Until then, I say stick with Bird. He’s held his own against lefties so far. The alternatives are not good at all. Cashman’s not looking for first base help and there’s no first base to be had anyway. Let the kid show what he can do.  This is Bird’s time to shine.

Greg Bird

(The GIF was dumped in the comments a few weeks ago and I have no idea who to credit.)

Cashman confirms Yankees unlikely to make a last minute August waiver trade

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

This isn’t a surprise, but over the weekend Brian Cashman confirmed to reporters the Yankees are unlikely to make a last minute August waiver trade. A player must be in the organization by 11:59pm ET next Monday, August 31st, to be eligible for the postseason roster. That’s a hard deadline and there are no exceptions.

“Nothing that’s gotten to me. I’ve done a lot of claims. I’ve never been awarded any of them,” said Cashman to Dan Martin when asked about claiming players on trade waivers. Every team claims lots of players in August — Peter Gammons hears there have been more claims this month than ever before — but trade waivers are revocable, and the vast majority who are claimed get pulled back. Usually only players with favorable contracts get claimed.

It’s important to note circumstances have changed in recent days. Cashman told reporters the Yankees are unlikely to make an August trade before CC Sabathia‘s potentially season-ending knee injury further thinned out the team’s rotation depth. They may have since changed course and started scrounging for an extra arm or two since Cashman’s comments. These things can change in an instant. Either way, the GM doesn’t regret his trade deadline inactivity.

“I wouldn’t say vindicated,” said Cashman to George King when asked about the performances of Greg Bird and Luis Severino. “The criticism comes either way. Just do what you think is right and hope it works out that way. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m very comfortable with the positions we took and why we took them. I wish I could have improved us. I certainly tried, but we were unable to.

“If it was going to cost us Severino or Judge or Bird or Warren or Mitchell or Wilson or Shreve, those were all the guys, combinations that people were like, ‘You’re not going do Severino or Judge or Bird? Well, I need Wilson and Mitchell or Wilson and Shreve.’ None of it was working. So I felt like it dictated the position we took, which is ‘We have a good team, we’re trying to improve it.’ Just felt like nothing made sense under those circumstances.”

If you’re interested, MLB Daily Dish has a full list of players reportedly placed on trade waivers this month. Guys who clear can be traded, guys who have been claimed can only be traded to the claiming team, and guys who have been claimed and pulled back can’t be traded at all. (Well, they can be placed on trade waivers again, but they’re irrevocable the second time around.) There’s really not much to see. Not many exciting names.

The Yankees have not been very active in the waiver trade market in recent years. They acquired Chad Gaudin in August 2009, Steve Pearce in August 2012, and Brendan Ryan in September 2013. That’s about it. Spare parts for depth, not any sort of difference maker. Significant upgrades after July 31st are pretty rare. The Yankees could make a small tweak following Sabathia’s injury but I doubt it. And, even if they are planning to make a move, there’s no reason for Cashman to say so. Nothing to gain.

Heyman: Yankees among teams “poking around” on Jose Reyes

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes has cleared trade waivers and the Yankees are among the teams “poking around,” reports Jon Heyman. They remain on the periphery of the Chase Utley chase but generally seem unlikely to make any sort of major addition this month, whether it be Utley or Reyes or someone else.

“We got a shortstop, we are good,” said Brian Cashman to George King when asked about adding an infielder recently. “Adding money in the short term and long term, how does it fit? (Hal Steinbrenner) is open to money, that’s never an issue. Hal is also sensible and practical and not doing something just to do it.”

The offense has sputtered of late — the Yankees have scored 26 runs in their last eleven games (!) — yet the only position they can realistically make a change is second base. We’d all love to see Greg Bird get regular at-bats but there’s no way to do it without sitting Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez, who have been the team’s two best hitters this season.

Stephen Drew is hitting .194/.261/.392 (77 wRC+) with 15 home runs, and those homers are his only redeeming quality at the plate. Making an out nearly 74% of the time is not acceptable. At least not to me it isn’t. (It is to the Yankees apparently.) Rob Refsnyder is not necessarily out of favor, but it’s telling the Yankees have opted not to call him up for an extended trial.

Reyes, 32, is hitting .274/.308/.365 (81 wRC+) overall this season, so he hasn’t been that much better than Drew, especially since he’s only stolen 19 bases. The days of 50+ steals are long gone. Reyes is also owed $48M from 2016-17 and hasn’t played second base in about a decade, so that would be an adjustment. Then there are all the leg injuries he suffered over the years.

While I certainly understand why more than a few folks want Reyes, I think there’s too much downside. I mean, it’s almost all downside. Speed guy whose legs aren’t what they once were, bat clearly in decline, defense slipping, ton of money left on the contract … yeah that’s a deal to avoid, even if the Rockies are willing to eat money and take Grade-B prospects in return.

At this point, with September call-ups just two weeks away and Refsnyder likely to take platoon at-bats from Brendan Ryan, I think the best thing the Yankees can do is wait. Just ride out this second base situation, hope some other slumping players snap out of it, then look for a long-term solution in the offseason. Maybe it’s Refsnyder, maybe it’s a player in another organization.

Reports: Yankees scouted Chase Utley on Monday

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to Jim Salisbury, the Yankees had a scout on hand to watch Chase Utley last night. He went 1-for-3 with a single, a strikeout, and a sac fly against the Diamondbacks. Jon Morosi reports the Phillies placed Utley on revocable trade waivers Sunday, which means his waiver period expires today. Once he clears, he can be traded to any team … kinda.

Utley, 36, is hitting a weak .190/.262/.294 (49 wRC+) with four homers, a 12.9% strikeout rate, and an 8.0% walk rate in 69 games this year. Stephen Drew, for comparison, is hitting .192/.261/.378 (74 wRC+) with 13 home runs, a 16.3% strikeout rate, and an 8.3% walk rate. Utley missed six weeks with an ankle injury and has gone 5-for-13 (.385) in four games since coming off the DL.

At this point, Utley is only appealing because he is not Drew, and that’s not really a good reason to go out and get him. I haven’t seen much of Utley this season but I’m guessing Drew is the better defender at second base. Utley had that ankle problem this year and he’s had a ton of knee injuries in recent years. Between that and his age, his mobility can’t be what it once was, right?

The Giants (Joe Panik is injured) and Cubs (Starlin Castro has been benched and Addison Russell is now playing short) also scouted Utley on Monday, says Salisbury. The Dodgers also figure to have some interest now that both Howie Kendrick and Justin Turner are on the DL. Utley has five-and-ten rights, so he can pick his destination, which includes possibly staying with the Phillies. That’s the kinda part I mentioned earlier.

Utley will be a free agent after the season and he’s incredibly popular in Philadelphia, so the Phillies would probably have to get something decent in return to move him. It’s not worth dumping him just to shed salary. Think back to the Ichiro Suzuki trade — he was clearly in decline, but he had marquee value, so the Mariners were able to get two pieces for him. Not great pieces, mind you, but more than what the Angels got for Vernon Wells, for example.

I’m not sure there’s much of a reason to pursue Utley assuming he clears waivers, which might not happen. I could see the Giants putting in a claim to keep him from going home to the rival Dodgers, if nothing else. (And if the Phillies dump Utley on the Giants, so be it. They need a second baseman and have had success with guys like him.) Drew’s very bad and I’m in full blown “anybody but Drew” mode at this point, but, looking at this rationally, it’s hard to see Utley as an upgrade.

Update: Ken Rosenthal says Utley did indeed clear waivers. So he can be traded to any team now, pending his approval.