This isn’t particularly surprising: Hal Steinbrenner indicated the Yankees will lean towards acquiring rental players at the trade deadline this year while talking to Ken Davidoff earlier this week.“I’m not afraid to spend money. I never am. You know that. So when July rolls around, the trade deadline rolls around, we’re going to see where we’re really deficient and we’ll do what we can,” added Hal.
Over the last few years the Yankees have looked for long-term solutions in the offseason and band-aids at midseason. The most notable exceptions are Martin Prado and Alfonso Soriano — Prado had two years left on his contract at the time of the trade last year and Soriano had one year left when he was acquired in 2013, though the Cubs ate a ton of money to facilitate the trade. Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, Stephen Drew, Ichiro Suzuki, Lance Berkman, Jerry Hairston Jr. … all rentals.
There’s an obsession with team control years nowadays — “oh wow, that hard-throwing reliever is under team control through 2018? great trade!” (what are the odds that guy is even MLB caliber in 2018?) — and I think rentals have gotten undervalued in a sense. They typically don’t cost as much to acquire, there’s no long-term risk, and the player has every reason to be at his best given his impending free agency. Rentals are often good bargains.
The Yankees have clear needs on the middle infield — second base moreso than shortstop, they aren’t giving up on Didi Gregorius yet — and every team could use pitching, so I expect those to be the areas of focus. Here’s the list of upcoming free agents. Potential trade targets — guys who have a realistic chance to become available — include Ben Zobrist, Mike Aviles, Daniel Murphy, Bartolo Colon, Johnny Cueto, Doug Fister, Dan Haren, and Scott Kazmir, among others.
I don’t think the Yankees would steer clear of non-rental players this summer if the opportunity to acquire a longer term solution presents itself. The Prado trade showed that last year. Cole Hamels is obviously going to be available, and I think the Padres would give Jedd Gyorko away at this point (78 OPS+ since signing his six-year extension!), but otherwise I’m not sure who else would be a fit. Give it a few weeks and the market will develop.