Major League Baseball
How Yankees can address 3 biggest roster concerns ahead of MLB trade deadline
Major League Baseball

How Yankees can address 3 biggest roster concerns ahead of MLB trade deadline

Updated Jun. 13, 2024 2:38 p.m. ET

We're roughly 70 games into the season, and the Yankees own the best record in baseball. Still, it would be a mistake for general manager Brian Cashman to sit pat at next month's trade deadline. New York is in full-throttle mode, after all, with high expectations to reach the World Series after completely missing the playoffs last year. 

So, let's explore three roster vulnerabilities the Yankees should aim to address by the trade deadline. 

1. The right side of the infield

The Yankees have an Anthony Rizzo and Gleyber Torres problem. No one, not even FanGraphs' reliable ZiPS projection system, had these two teammates performing this poorly. The Yankees' right side of the infield ranks T-26th in extra-base hits (31), 23rd in RBIs (51), 23rd in slugging (.339), 24th in average exit velocity (87.3 mph), and 21st in batting average with runners in scoring position (.226).


Torres' 86 OPS+ is the worst of his career, with shoddy production arriving in his walk year, no less. The 27-year-old is faring better on the road (112 wRC+) than he is at home (66 wRC+) this season, which only supports the theory that he could excel outside of New York. While many have noted his mental lapses in the dirt have returned, Torres' 0 DRS is an improvement over last year's -4 DRS at the position. Oswald Peraza, long believed to be Torres' successor, has struggled at Triple-A this year. 

The Yankees could trade Torres for prospects and then flip those players for, say, Padres infielder Ha-Seong Kim, or Reds second baseman Jonathan India. Regardless of what the Yankees decide to do with Torres, whose name is annually floated in trade rumors, the second baseman's skimpy offensive output is costing him millions in his next contract, regardless of if he's traded before August.

Though Rizzo's numbers weren't projected to be that much more productive than a league-average hitter, he was at least expected to sport a positive WAR. Instead, his age-34 season has been a disaster. 

There are 22 qualified first basemen in MLB recording higher fWARs than Rizzo (-0.5). In the American League, only two (the Angels' Nolan Schanuel and the Tigers' Spencer Torkelson, who's been demoted to the minors) are having worse offensive seasons. The Yankees' 77 wRC+ at first base ranks 24th in the big leagues.

Rizzo has played in all but four games at the position. What, really, can the Yankees do about it? His trade value has never been lower, and it's not as if a change of scenery or a different clubhouse would solve his hitting issues. Rizzo is a well-liked veteran and a key member of the Yankees clubhouse, and he has excelled in New York, right up until his concussion-impacted 2023 season. 

It makes sense for the Yankees to hold onto Rizzo, for now, but to use him less. DJ LeMahieu can slide over to first base and the high-energy Oswaldo Cabrera can settle in when getting regular playing time at third base. Having Rizzo come off the bench in, say, a playoff game for a big, pinch-hit spot wouldn't be the worst option. He won a championship with the 2016 Cubs, after all, and still has the makeup to help the club down the stretch.

2. Luis Gil's workload

The right-handed rookie has been an unexpected boon for the Gerrit Cole-less Yankees rotation. His 2.04 ERA is fifth-best in MLB. His .136 batting average against is the lowest mark in the majors, and helped to earn the 26-year-old AL Pitcher of the Month and Rookie of the Month honors in May. His .889 winning percentage when he takes the mound is the best in the AL. His 10.80 strikeouts per nine ranks ninth in the majors. He's been calm under pressure, he's ferocious against top lineups, and now he's in the conversation for the AL Cy Young Award. There's hardly anything not to like about Gil — except his increasing workload.

The miles on Gil's arm (75 innings pitched) have started to add up. Manager Aaron Boone admitted that, in Gil's most recent outing against the Dodgers this past Sunday, the righty started to feel fatigued in the fifth inning. Though Gil is still rookie eligible, he made seven starts for the Yankees in 2021-22 before undergoing Tommy John surgery. Now, in the first extended stretch of his career, Gil eclipsed his high-water mark for big-league innings at the end of April. The last thing the Yankees want to do is remove a stud from the rotation, but lessening his workload is the best short- and long-term decision for the club. 

With Cole close to returning, the Yankees could move Gil to the bullpen, shortening his leash and saving his arm in the process. But it would cost New York its most effective starter to date, and he would no longer be stretched out if/when another starter goes on the injured list. They could give him what pitching coach Matt Blake called a "timeout," but that scenario presents concerns of its own, particularly whether Gil could return to be just as effective after a break. There's no telling how Gil would respond to either decision, but moving him to the bullpen is likely the safest bet to avoid injury while keeping him active. 

The rest of the Yankees rotation is quietly in a similar boat as Gil. Marcus Stroman has thrown 176 innings four times in his career, but Carlos Rodón has only surpassed that mark once (178 IP in 2022), while neither of the remaining healthy starters (Nestor Cortes, and Clarke Schmidt) has done it. There are just not a lot of workhorses in the Yankees' staff to maintain this run when paired with middle-of-the-road expected FIP.

Adding another top-tier starter at the deadline would surely lessen the dependence on Cole & Co. A reunion with a two-month rental like Luis Severino seems unlikely this soon after the Yankees let him walk. Swapping for young White Sox left-hander Garrett Crochet, who has two more years of team control remaining, would be a strong option, but he's also dealing a career-high in innings pitched this season. Perhaps right-hander Jack Flaherty is the man for the moment, since he hits free agency in the offseason and the Tigers could be shaping up to be sellers.

3. The bullpen's right-handed reliance

No, it's not just Clay Holmes' entrance song that's a problem within New York's bullpen (though something better than a slow, anticlimactic country song would be welcomed). At a quick glance, the Yanks' relief corps is solid. The bullpen's .313 ERA ranks third in MLB and its .212 batting average against is fourth. The unit's 1.19 WHIP is tied for fifth. But the bullpen's strikeout rate is only 22.0%, which falls to 20th in MLB. While the lack of punchouts hasn't hurt the team just yet, strikeouts become a priority in the playoffs. And, in October, the Yankees offense is unlikely to put up quite as many runs and give the bullpen the same cushion when regularly facing the best pitchers in the game.

So, taking a closer look, here are the Yankees pitchers' runs allowed per game by inning, followed by MLB ranking.

1: 0.31 (3rd-best)
2: 0.26 (best)
3: 0.43 (9th-best)
4: 0.17 (2nd-best)
5: 0.31 (4th-best)
6: 0.39 (4th-best)
7: 0.51 (19th-best)
8: 0.37 (9th-best)
9: 0.33 (14th-best)

That much of a drop-off is hard to ignore. The Yankees certainly won't be the only team looking for relief help these next handful of weeks, but they can at least center on southpaws. The Yankees currently have just two left-handed options in the bullpen, and while Victor González (2.84 ERA) has done his job in low-leverage spots, Caleb Ferguson (4.71 ERA) has been a disappointment. The Yankees should target Marlins southpaw Tanner Scott, who isn't earning nearly enough save opportunities in Miami, and assign him to a set-up role before giving the ball to Holmes. Adding Scott (1.30 ERA, 27.2 innings) to a bullpen that might also gain Gil or Schmidt from the rotation is certainly a more playoff-ready relief unit.

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.

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