New York Yankees pondering trade deadline plans

Mar 3, 2017; Dunedin, FL, USA; New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi (28) talk prior to their spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner suggested the team could make some moves at the trade deadline. But just how far should they be willing to go?

Last season, the New York Yankees found themselves in the unfamiliar position of being sellers at the trade deadline. They unloaded Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran for a bevy of top-rated prospects, pulling off a major farm system makeover in a matter of weeks.

Of course, the August promotion of Gary Sanchez and his eleventh-hour run at the Rookie of the Year award unexpectedly kept the Bronx Bombers in the Wild Card race until the season’s waning days. The Yankees have continued to ride momentum from their youth, namely slugger Aaron Judge, to a strong start in 2017. They currently sit in first place in the AL East with a 24-13 record, and they own the best run differential in baseball at +63.

If the Yanks’ success continues, they could very well re-assume their usual role as trade deadline buyers later in the summer. Owner Hal Streinbrenner suggested as much in a conversation at this week’s baseball owners’ meetings, per the Associated Press via ESPN.com:

“We’re going to see where we’re at, what options are available and what those options would cost,” he said at the baseball owners’ meetings.

Though Steinbrenner praised his club’s starting pitching, if the Yankees are serious about contending for the division and a postseason run, that’s likely where they are going to need to improve. As a unit, Yankees starters hold a mediocre 4.45 ERA, which ranks 19th in the league. While Michael Pineda and Luis Severino have done a solid job so far, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia‘s inconsistencies have bogged down the group a bit.

However, Steinbrenner also said the team will not trade from its crop of upper-tier prospects. That might make it difficult to acquire the more elite names on the market. Early trade talk has centered around star pitchers like Yu Darvish and Gerrit Cole. Either would provide an instant upgrade to the Yanks’ rotation, but the club would almost certainly need to part with one of its best minor leaguers.

Of course, with the Rangers on an eight-game winning streak and the Pirates a not-insurmountable 5.5 games behind in their division, there’s no guarantee Darvish or Cole will even be made available come July.

Steinbrenner is not wrong in being protective of the Yankees’ young blood. Shortstop Gleyber Torres is MLB.com’s overall #2 prospect and probably about as untouchable as you can get. But could Clint Frazier be moved in the right deal? With the Yanks’ sudden glut of outfield talent, it’s perhaps not completely out of the question. But it would have to be for a player they really need, and likely not a rental.

The window for these Yankees is opening, not closing. If they were trying to make one last playoff run with an aging core (not unfamiliar territory for them), you could justify trading top prospects to fill needs. But that isn’t the situation this franchise finds itself in right now.

The Yankees are among baseball’s top-performing clubs at the moment, and with the exception of dropping three of four to the Astros over the weekend, they haven’t really slowed down. There is plenty of season left, but if they’re still playing well in June and July, they should absolutely seek upgrades via trade. Dealing from the middle tier of their deep prospect pool will likely still allow them to get a useful player or two.

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