If as reported the Yankees are still in the mix of teams vying for the services of White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana, that means they know they are going to have to give up the only thing Chicago is interested in – and that’s prospects. And the implications of that are far-reaching.
If the New York Yankees wanted to, they could pretty much put the 2017 season on cruise control by putting aside an all-out effort to win a division that is probably not in reach anyway, and concentrating instead on the further development of the young talent they’ve assembled over the past few months. Talent that’s both here now, and the ones that are on the way. Yankees fans who are knowledgeable about what the franchise is trying to accomplish would, for the most part, be understanding and some would even applaud them for going that route.
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They could, if they wanted to, let CC Sabathia, who is in the final year of his contract, pitch until his arm falls off. They could let struggling Aaron Judge get 500 uninterrupted (barring injury) at bats. They could let Brett Gardner play left field for another season, or at least until the trade deadline, and not be any worse for it. Ditto Jacoby Ellsbury .
They could, if they wanted to, give Greg Bird the time he will probably need to get back into a hitting groove, without the must-win-now pressure normally associated with the Yankees. In the same way, they could take the young starters they have like Luis Cessa (24), Bryan Mitchell (25) and Luis Severino (22) and give them 25-30 starts to see who’s got it and who doesn’t. Using all three plus Sabathia on a consistent basis would also enable Masahiro Tanaka the chance to catch an extra day of rest here and there when you add the starts of Sabathia and Michael Pineda to the mix. And speaking of Pineda, this should be his final chance to gain some consistency for the Yankees, because next year the team is in it for real.
Plus meanwhile back on the farm, Gleyber Torres gets a chance to prove Brian Cashman wrong by breezing through Trenton and Scranton and giving the Yankees no choice but to add him to the team right after the All-Star break. And Clint Frazier gets a chance to do the same thing.
All of this would sound like a good plan if the Yankees were not really trying to acquire Jose Quintana. To be sure, Quintana would be welcomed to the untested staff already spoken about, and he would also be a large piece of the puzzle later as well. But the question the Yankees are going to have to answer is how much is he going to cost?
And for once when it comes to the Yankees, we’re not talking about “cost” in terms of money – we’re talking about talented players of the future, which is again something the Yankees haven’t been able to talk about since the days of the “Core Four.” Because we know the White Sox will not deviate from the pattern they’ve established and they want prospects, or no deal. And who has the most and some of the best prospects right now? You guessed it – the Yankees.
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So who would it be? Who would you give up? Would you sacrifice, for example, the prize that might allow you to get Quintana in a straight one-for-one deal in Gleyber Torres? Or do you succumb to giving up two prospects one step down on the ladder?
And then if you do, that there is the real kicker. Where do the Yankees stop? Because once they have Quintana, they are legitimate contenders, at least for a Wild Card spot and it easily becomes a slippery slope where you say to yourself, “Well, I can get this guy now (say Sonny Gray, just as an example) if I trade one or two more prospects.” And before you know it you’re back to being the Old Yankees instead of the New York Yankees. All for the (realistic) chance to be at best maybe a team playing in the ALDS.
Just as the Yankees need to have patience with the players they are developing, they need to have patience with themselves even more. Jose Quintana is a symbol of the direction the Yankees are really taking for the future. Has it all been a mirage brilliantly choreographed again by Brian Cashman? Or is he just trying to stoke the fire a little bit so another team gives up their farm and the Yankees stay pat until next year when the team is freed of the money owed to Sabathia and A-Rod.