The Fit: New York Yankees

On pace to win 110 games, it’s safe to say that the New York Yankees have met their 2018 expectations after falling one game short of the World Series last season. Yet with the Red Sox on a similar pace, the AL East crown will likely be decided in September which will prompt both teams to look for ways to strengthen their roster via trade.

After pulling the trigger on a Sonny Gray trade last season, the Yankees once again have their eyes set on acquiring a reliable starting pitcher. Their starting pitchers have posted a serviceable 3.82 cumulative ERA this season, which ranks 5th in the American League behind the Astros, Indians, Red Sox and Angels. These are all teams New York could end up facing in the postseason, which will further tempt them to make a deal.

Cole Hamels gives the Yankees the reliable left-handed starter they are looking for, which could have significant implications on the AL East race with a Red Sox team that has struggled to hit left-handed pitching. The 34-year-old’s days as an ace are over, however he has still posted a respectable 3.61 ERA this season. While Hamels has the ability to veto a trade to New York, it’s hard to imagine him turning down the opportunity to pitch in the postseason. After all, it is unlikely that any major league team would be tempted to pick up Hamels’ $20 million option next season, which will almost certainly result in a $6 million buyout.

One thing is for certain; the Yankees have their ace in Luis Severino, who’s 11-2 record paired with a 2.24 ERA has made him a surefire Cy Young Award candidate. The remainder of their rotation is made up of question marks, starting with the 37-year old CC Sabathia. Abandoning his four-seam fastball has been a career-saving adjustment for CC, who has maintained an impressive 3.18 ERA in 14 starts for the club this season. Yet durability will always be a concern for pitchers his age, as the Yankees will look to limit his workload as the season progresses. 

Before straining both of his hamstrings earlier this month, Masahiro Tanaka’s numbers were once again plagued by the longball. According to FanGraphs, his 1.98 HR/9 ranks the second worst in baseball among starting pitchers with at least 70 innings pitched. Sonny Gray’s home/road splits are also a cause for concern, sporting a strong 3.28 ERA on the road yet a 7.22 ERA  at Yankee Stadium.

With left-handed starter Jordan Montgomery out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Yankees have turned to their farm for reinforcements in Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga. While both youngsters have demonstrated potential, German’s 10.00 first inning ERA and Loaisiga’s lack of Triple-A experience do not fare well in the postseason.

The Trade

Yankees get LHP Cole Hamels, LHP Jake Diekman

Rangers get RHP Chance Adams, LHP Josh Rogers, IF Thairo Estrada  

Analysis

The Rangers shouldn’t expect a major return for an aging starter in a contract year, and will look for a deal that improves their lack of starting pitching depth. While their system has a pair of promising young arms in Hans Crouse and Cole Ragans, they are both years away from contributing at the major league level. Texas will have to eat some of Hamels’ salary as New York looks to remain under the luxury tax threshold, which will only improve the quality of players they get in return.

Chance Adams was a consensus top 100 prospect at the start of the season, yet the 23-year-old starter has been wildly inconsistent in Triple-A this season with a 5.21 ERA in 14 starts. While the Rangers would likely continue to develop Adams as a starter, his lack of a pitching arsenal suggests he may be more suited for the bullpen, where he could be dominant. Josh Rogers has been a revelation for the Yankees this season, maintaining a 3.32 ERA through 15 starts in Triple-A. His recent success can be attributed to the addition of a deadly slider to his arsenal, also throwing a curveball, fastball and changeup. The 23-year-old could still use more minor league experience, having thrown just over 125 innings in Double and Triple-A combined.

Thairo Estrada is one of the most talented infielders in the Yankees organization, who projects as a high-average hitter with little to no power. His first season in Triple-A has been decimated with injury, missing the start of the season recovering from a gunshot wound and currently recovering from a back injury that could keep him out for the rest of the year. Still just 21, Estrada could develop into an everyday-type player, and at the very worst could be a valuable utility player at the major league level.

Meanwhile, the Yankees get a reliable innings eater in Hamels while also giving them another lefty to deal with the Red Sox lineup. Boston has a .250/.308/.396 line against southpaws this season, with a strikeout percentage at almost 24 percent. Here’s what their rotation would look like with Hamels:

  1. RHP Luis Severino
  2. LHP CC Sabathia
  3. LHP Cole Hamels
  4. RHP Masahiro Tanaka*
  5. RHP Sonny Gray

  *on 10-day DL retro (6/9)

Sabathia is no longer the only lefty in the rotation, while the Yankees will have the ability to resort to a four-man rotation in the postseason if Tanaka or Gray continue to struggle. This is a strong package to surrender for an aging starter, which makes the addition of Jake Diekman to the deal a pivotal factor.

The 31-year-old Diekman is having a strong season in the final year of his contract, holding a 2.96 ERA over 27.1 innings. The only left-handed reliever on the Yankees 40-man roster is Chasen Shreve who has struggled mightily as of late, making Diekman an extremely valuable addition to an already dominant bullpen.

While it will be difficult for the Yankees to part with such promising talent, this is a necessary move for a club that does not want to find themselves in a one-game playoff with 100-plus wins.

 

-Featured Image from MLB Trade Rumors