This year’s Yankees team has been fairly unimpressive with injuries decimating the pitching staff and an offense that largely hasn’t lived up to the hype. Despite a -30 run differential, they are only three games out of a wild-card spot which, in Hal Steinbrenner’s world, means ignore the mediocrity and go for it.
So rather than be sellers at this year’s deadline and try to retool for the future, the Yankees were buyers as usual. They did pretty well for themselves too landing Chase Headley, Martin Prado, Stephen Drew and Brandon McCarthy for two long-shot prospects and three minor secondary pieces. However, it’s hard to look over at what the Red Sox have done and be happy about the way the Yankees are running things right now.
WHAT THE YANKEES DID
The Yankees essentially acquired Chase Headley, Martin Prado, Stephen Drew, Brandon McCarthy and a few others for Vidal Nuno, Kelly Johnson, Yangervis Solarte, Peter O’Brien, Rafael De Paula, cash and a player to be named later. They’re solid deals too.
The Headley deal was a little suspect as he has had a down year, has been dealing with a back injury and is a free agent at the end of the season. However, Solarte is at best a backup infielder and De Paula certainly has some question marks between starting his career so late, suspect command and inconsistent results. So the Yankees didn’t give up a lot for a rental, but a player that they get a close look at to decide if they want to re-sign or not. Headley’s health and the Yankees ability to resign him determine how good this deal will be, but it’s a deal that potentially helps down the road.
Nuno for McCarthy is similar to the Headley deal as it depends on how he performs and whether or not they can or want to re-sign him. The trade off is getting a close look at him and losing five years of control of a pitcher with underwhelming stuff.
Drew for Johnson is an easy one. Johnson was bad. he hit .219/.304/.373, played poor defense, and is currently on the DL not helping anyone. To give up him and to get a player with Drew’s potential is a no brainer. The problem with Drew is that he’s hitting .176/.255/.328 in 39 games. The upside is his defense, the fact that the slow start might be due to not playing until June, and the fact that he has hit .267/.377/.511. Most importantly, with Derek Jeter leaving this gives the Yankees a chance to evaluate him up close.
Finally, the Prado deal was another solid move. He might make too much money (he’s owed $22 million in 2015 and 2016), however, he is under control for the next two years and plays multiple positions. Sure, he’s basically a league average hitter, hitting .287/.339/.413 over the last three years, but giving up O’Brien should not be a deal breaker in this case. O’Brien has impressive power, but struggles to get on base consistently and there was some concern that he wouldn’t stick behind the plate defensively anyway.
These are mostly short-term deals designed to go for it this season, but it does open the possibility that they could all be long-term players as well. Three of them, Headley, McCarthy and Drew, are technically rentals, but the Yankees gave up very little to acquire each of them and have a great opportunity to evaluate them to determine whether or not they have a future in Pinstripes.
WHAT THE RED SOX ARE DOING
The Red Sox have gone and traded Jon Lester, John Lackey, Andrew Miller, Johnny Gomes, Drew, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront and they acquired Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, Joe Kelly, Johnson, Eduardo Rodriguez, Heath Hembree and Edwin Escobar.
They certainly gave up solid pieces, but what they were players that were leaving via free agency or don’t have a solid future with the team. Meanwhile, they got back Cespedes, under control in 2015, Craig, struggling this season, but had MVP votes in each of the last two years as he hit .311/.364/.852, and Rodriguez and Escobar, strong prospects rated No. 65 and 56 respectively by Baseball America.
To top that all off, the Red Sox are expected to bid on free agent Lester, who won’t have a draft pick attached to him, this offseason.
The fundamental difference here is that the Yankees are still “in it” while the Red Sox are “out”. Both teams are bad, the Red Sox slightly worse as the Yankees run differential is -30 while the Sox are at -55, but neither team really has a legitimate shot at the World Series. The Sox have admitted to this, but the Yankees are in denial (or perhaps worried that the fans can’t handle even the slightest of rebuilds).
So while they have similar chances to win it all this year, the determination by the Red Sox to punt on this season will leave them much better off in 2015 and beyond. The moves the Yankees made could potentially make them better next year, but it’s a gamble. Meanwhile, their refusal to retool means that they will not be as good as they could have been in 2015.
Think about it. Even if the Yankees snag a wild-card spot and have a one-game playoff. Who are they going to send to the mound? Hiroki Kuroda probably. Does that inspire a ton of confidence? What if they manage to win? Can they ride a rotation of Kuroda, McCarthy and David Phelps to championship No. 28? Doubtful. Is a first-round playoff exit worth it?
So instead of cling to this slimmer of hope, the Yankees might have been better off trading Kuroda or, maybe, David Robertson (with whom they haven’t even engaged in preliminary discussions to extend his contract). Or, better yet, if they had done this a year ago what could they have gotten for Robinson Cano?
That’s the thing that so bothersome with the Yankee front office right now. This seems to be a patter of no matter how bad they are, they will insist on going for it every year at the expense of future success.
Headley, McCarthy and Drew are nice, but they’re not that nice. What would have been is the haul they likely would have gotten if they dealt Cano last offseason. They lost that chance even after they knew his demands and knew they wouldn’t re-sign him. It seems like they might have lost out on another chance this time around too.
Photo by: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America.