The Yankees Dilemma: Trade for Starter or Keep Prospects?

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The Evil Empire returned upon its throne as public enemy number one as the New York Yankees shocked Major League Baseball by trading for NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton during the 2017 Winter Meetings. Brian Cashman has vaulted the Yankees back to being prominent buyers in the MLB, simply one year after being sellers at the deadline.

A year ago, at the Winter Meetings, the Yankees were looked to be in a rebuilding year or as the organization’s brain trust dubbed it, a “transitional year.” The usual big spenders in the offseason brought back Aroldis Chapman on a large deal for a closer, but mainly opted for shorter, cheaper deals to the likes of Matt Holliday and Chris Carter. Instead of trading prospects, they hoarded them at the 2016 trade deadline and watched them flourish in the 2017 season that put this “rebuild” on a fast track.

During the 2017 season, everything clicked for the Yankee youngsters whether it was Aaron Judge being voted AL MVP runner-up to Luis Severino returning to dominance being third in AL CY Young votes to Greg Bird, Jordan Montgomery, and Chad Green showing promising roles for the future. All this success pushed Cashman and ownership to bolster their roster during the trade deadline, while not mortgaging their future, to help this roster make the playoffs. The additions of Sonny Gray, Todd Frazier, and relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle got the Yankees to Game 7 of the ALCS all while keeping their main prospects for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Fast forward to the 2017 Winter Meetings. The Yankees weren’t expected to make any major moves as they were focused on signing Japanese superstar, Shohei Ohtani, bringing back veteran starter CC Sabathia, and staying under the $197 million luxury tax. All was going to plan until Ohtani eliminated the Yankees from contention of signing him and Derek Jeter, now part-owner of the Miami Marlins, dangled the biggest fish in the market, Stanton. Frustrated with an organization going through another rebuild, Stanton had a no trade clause that only accepted trades to the Dodgers, Yankees, Cubs, and Astros. Being on the list was all the Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner needed to hear.

Stanton was donning the pinstripes three days after publicly putting the Yankees on the list as the Bronx Bombers sent All-Star second baseman Starlin Castro and two prospects, Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers (neither being ranked in the organization’s top five prospects) to the Marlins. Cashman saw an opportunity to put the team over the top, doing a complete 180 from a year before, and reinvigorating the Evil Empire back on top of the baseball world.

The deal actually saved the Yankees money against the luxury tax, despite Stanton having 10 years, $295 million left on his contract.

To many, this puts the Yankees in win-now mode, if they weren’t already, and the rumors around the league are that Cashman is not done weighing his options to trade for a young, controllable starting pitcher.  The names being thrown around are Gerrit Cole, Michael Fulmer, and Patrick Corbin. A deal of this nature would certainly have to include a few of the coveted prospects in the Yankees’ farm system that Yankees fans were beginning to get familiar with, a la, Chance Adams, Clint Frazier, or Justus Sheffield. That brings the question, should Cashman really push his chips to the middle of the table and trade more prospects for a starter?

Simply, no.

The big part of this equation is not focusing on the 2018 season alone, as the roster as currently in place should make the playoffs and be favored to win the AL East, but looking at the next three years. In 2019, Brett Gardner will be a free agent, and likely not be brought back as Frazier will be more than ready to obtain the everyday role in left field. Frazier would be the center piece of any trade along with Adams or Sheffield. My question is, why can’t Adams or Sheffield be this young, controllable starter the Yankees are looking for? This was probably once the thought process of Cashman & Co., but the Stanton move has the organization pushing for their 28th World Series in 2018.

The other part of the equation is the pitching staff that’s already put into place. In the playoffs, the pitching staff exceeded expectations with dominant performances from Masahiro Tanaka (who opted into three more seasons as a Yankee), Luis Severino, and CC Sabathia. Cashman already acquired the young, controllable starting pitcher at the trade deadline in Sonny Gray, now they get a full season out of him. The fifth spot in the rotation, if Sabathia returns, is again Jordan Montgomery who flashed great promise as rookie last year. Pair this rotation with the deepest bullpen in the league, and the Yankees should find themselves in prime position to get to the same situation as last season: having a lead in the ALCS, 27 outs away from a World Series berth.

Stay the course, Cashman.

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The Baby Bombers Change their Diapers

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The Baby Bombers were nine outs away from being dubbed “The Baby Bummers,” in the postseason. The Yankees, in a 2-1 series hole already, were down 4-0 in the bottom of the seventh to the Houston Astros in Game 4 of the ALCS.

To that point, the Bronx’s young superstars, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, failed to produce in the postseason.

Sure, Judge homered in the AL Wild Card game vs Minnesota, which feels like two months ago give his gaudy strikeout numbers in the eight games since then (3-30, 21 K’s). And sure, he homered in Game 3 of the ALCS when the Yankees were already winning 5-0.

Like Judge, Sanchez also lacked a signature moment coming into Game 4. Sure, he clubbed a two-run home run off of Corey Kluber in Game 2 of the ALDS, a game the Yankees would lose, but he entered Game 4 of the ALCS hitless and under fire for not scooping a relay throw home that allowed the Astros to win in walk-off fashion in Game 2.

But in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the ALCS, everything changed with one pitch.

Houston pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. was spinning a gem, as well as a wicked curveball that had Yankees hitters off balance all night long. That wicked curveball McCullers featured was just the pitch Judge sat on in the seventh to deliver a towering, solo shot to put the Yankees on the board, 4-1.

The stadium rose, the crowd was rocking, and McCullers’ night was over.

Meanwhile, the Baby Bombers’ night had just begun.

The other face of the Baby Bombers, Sanchez, cut the deficit to two with a sacrifice fly, two batters after Judge.

And in the bottom of the eighth inning, it was again, The Baby Bombers coming through in  big moments,

The AL Rookie of the Year favorite and MVP candidate, Judge, continued to swing his gavel, delivering  a game-tying double that brought bedlam to the Bronx.

And Sanchez, with one out and runners on first and third, facing a pull-heavy defensive shift, reminded everyone of the pure hitter he is, smacking a gap-splitting double that put the Yankees on top, 6-4.

The stadium exploded, reminding fans of the days in Old Yankee Stadium where they watched young players like Jeter and Posada and Williams make their postseason mark like Judge and Sanchez were in Game 4.

The Yankees’ season was on life support facing a 3-1 series deficit with Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander looming for Houston in Games 5 and 6, and just like the Wild Card game down 3-0 in the first inning, and just like the ALDS down 2-0 in the series to Cleveland, the Yankees pulled through.

This time was different though.  This time, The Baby Bombers provided the October heroics.

National League Wild Card Preview

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National League Wild Card Preview

By Jared Peterman

PNC Park, the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, hosts the second straight NL one game wild card game.  This year the Pirates will face off with the San Francisco Giants, with the winner taking on the Washington Nationals in the NLDS.  The Giants send ace starting pitcher, Madison Bumgarner to the bump, while Pirates fans will watch Edison Volquez try to hurl Pittsburgh to their second straight postseason series.

Volquez, acquired via free agency in the offseason, has been the Pirates’ newest reclamation project as he sported a 5.71ERA in 2013, almost cutting that number in half during this season as he enters the game with a 3.04ERA.  To add to Volquez’s success, he’s currently riding a hot streak throughout the month of September with a 2-0 record and a 1.08ERA through 33.1IP. Squaring off against Volquez, is no slouch either, as Bumgarner has been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball over the past three seasons.  Bumgarner has never had an ERA over 3.40 while throwing 200+ IP in each season.  The southpaw will look to continue his success to push the Giants into the NLDS.

Pittsburgh’s offense is led by superstar sensation, Andrew McCutchen, but will need production from SS Jordy Mercer, who hits in front of McCutchen tonight.  Mercer has crushed lefties all season and the Pirates will need him to do so tonight to create run production opportunities for McCutchen and the heart of the order.  San Francisco’s offense is led by postseason heroes from the past as Buster Posey and Hunter Pence look to continue the success they have seen in previous high pressured playoff games.  2B Joe Panik makes his postseason debut, hitting second, ahead of Posey, where similar to Mercer, he must find a way to get on base.

The Pirates have the experience in the wild card format, where the Giants have the postseason experience.  The Pittsburgh atmosphere should play a factor, but I can’t pick against Bumgarner.  I’m expecting a very intriguing game as I pick the Giants defeat the Pirates, 5-2.

American League Wild Card Preview

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American Wild Card Preview

By Jared Peterman

The American League (AL) wildcard game presents the Oakland Athletics and the Kansas City Royals playing to advance to the American League Divisional Series vs the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Three or four years ago, you wouldn’t have believed the Athletics and Royals were playing in October, but the Royals have ended their 29 year playoff drought, while the Athletics have revived their franchise over the past three seasons.  The two franchises square off at Kauffman Stadium, the home of the Royals.

The match up couldn’t be set any better as both teams have their aces on the hill in the one game playoff.  James Shields will face off with Jon Lester, giving this game an AL East type feel to it from a few years ago as Shields pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays and Lester pitched for the Boston Red Sox.  Shields was acquired prior to last season along with RP Wade Davis for blue-chip prospect Wil Myers and others, while Lester was acquired at the trade deadline this season along with OF Jonny Gomes for slugging sensation, OF Yoenis Cespedes.  Shields has hurled five postseason games from 2008-2011, going 2-3 and losing his last three appearances.  Lester is known for his postseason dominance throughout his Red Sox career, starting ten games and posting a 2.11ERA over his postseason career.

The Royals surged into the playoffs with an extraordinary month of September, while Oakland has had a losing record since the All-Star break.  Kansas City led the AL in team batting average, but failed to hit 100 home runs throughout the season, the worst in the AL.  Oakland’s offense has been abysmal since trading Cespedes, but the absence of him isn’t the only issue with Oakland as Stephen Vogt and Brandon Moss have drastically regressed over the second half of the season.

Expect a pitcher’s duel in Kauffman Stadium between old AL East foes, Shields and Lester, as Kansas City looks for their first postseason series in 29 years and Oakland tries to make their third straight postseason series. I have a hard time picking against Lester in the postseason as I pick the Athletics to beat the Royals 3-2.