Trade season is underway in baseball, with the Blue Jays acquiring Adam Cimber and Corey Dickerson from the Marlins, while the White Sox pursue Diamondbacks infielder Eduardo Escobar. The deadline is back to its usual date of July 31 this year, and over the next month, plenty of teams will try to patch holes on their roster in the chase for a championship.
If there’s a “contender” with bigger problems to fix than the Yankees, who sit fourth in the American League East, just two games over .500 (a worse record than the Seattle Freakin’ Mariners), there isn’t one with a brighter spotlight. New York, though, is in a weird spot approaching the trade deadline.
The Bronx Bombers are 14th in the American League in runs scored, even though they rank fifth in the Junior Circuit with a .319 team on-base percentage. Trading Aaron Judge, and somehow justifying it that it could rejuvenate the Yankees as the Mookie Betts trade did for the Red Sox — one hell of a retcon job — ain’t it.
Judge is the Yankees’ best player, will hit free agency after next season, his age-30 campaign, and the idea that they can’t re-sign him to play right field because of the presence of Giancarlo Stanton, their DH and next-best hitter, is wildly off the mark. Especially if the justification is that Judge is injury-prone, well, what is Stanton? The best Yankees team going forward has both of those guys in the lineup, with the hope that Gary Sanchez’s rejuvenation over the last six weeks is more than a mirage.
If you’re the New York Yankees, and you don’t re-sign Judge long term because of made-up reasons that really come down to “we don’t want to pay the luxury tax,” you might as well just pack it in and move the team to Boise. The Yankees absolutely should be prepared to blow through the luxury tax and deal with the implications of losing draft and international signing pool position. Who do the Yankees ever draft anyway? For the last quarter century, Judge is the only impact player they’ve added in the first round, with the list of busts populated by memorable names such as Eric Duncan, C.J. Henry, Cito Culver, Andrew Brackman, and Eric Jagielo.
To be fair, the Yankees do have a good prospect from a recent first round in pitcher Clarke Schmidt, and their top prospect, Jasson Dominguez, got a $5.1 million signing bonus. But Dominguez had been touted even at 16 as a generational prospect, and New York’s three next-best prospects, pitcher Deivi Garcia and shortstop Oswald Peraza, signed for a combined $375,000. Luis Gil, ranked fifth by MLB Pipeline for the Yankees’ organization, signed with the Twins for $90,000 and came to New York in a 2018 spring training trade for Jake Cave. And with the shortening of the draft to five rounds, it should be easier than it has been in decades for a team like the Yankees to find and acquire undrafted free agents to develop on the farm.
But what should the Yankees do to help their chances now, finding themselves in the odd position where the issue isn’t a lack of talent, but a lineup packed with too-similar all-or-nothing righty power bats? It’s not as simple as the typical trade strategy of we’re buyers, you’re sellers, and we’ll give you some prospects for your top players.
Like, sure, absolutely go get Ketel Marte from the Diamondbacks (once he’s back from a hamstring strain) or Bryan Reynolds from the Pirates to take over center field and add the switch-hitting bat that’s been missing since Aaron Hicks got hurt. The Yankees’ rather full roster, though, means that reshaping this lineup will require some subtraction as well as addition. Here are a few ideas on how to get there.