Trade deadline sets Yankees up for present, future success

Heading into the Trade Deadline, the New York Yankees boasted the second-best record in all of baseball. When you’re more than halfway through the season, that usually proves upgrades are few and far between.

General Manager Brian Cashman realized this. But he also realized that those few and far between upgrades had to be addressed to turn this strong year into postseason success – and beyond.

The first move came a full week before the deadline, when Cashman decided to make a strength even stronger by acquiring Zach Britton in an inter-divisional trade with the Baltimore Orioles for three prospects – Dillon Tate, Cody Carroll and Josh Rogers. Already boasting one of, if not the best bullpen in all of baseball, the Yankees front office decided to take a chance on Britton with the hopes that he could put his injury issues aside and regain form similar to what he showed in 2016. It was then when he was not only healthy but posted a 0.54 ERA and 47 saves.

Cashman then turned to the team’s most pressing need by making another trade within the division by getting Toronto Blue Jays’ hurler J.A. Happ for Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney. Despite being linked to high-profile names like Jacob deGrom, Madison Bumgarner and Blake Snell, none ended up being available. Enter Happ, who not only was arguably the best starter available, but his success against teams like the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros makes him a surefire upgrade over pitchers like Luis Cessa and Domingo German.

There were a flurry of moves after the Happ trade and before the deadline, starting with relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos to the St. Louis Cardinals for minor league first baseman Luke Voit and $1 million international bonus pool money. Cashman then flipped minor league reliever Caleb Frare to the Chicago White Sox for an additional $1.5 million of international bonus cash.

And on deadline day itself, the front office stayed busy. Pool money was still at the forefront, as the Yankees acquired an additional $1.25 million from the Seattle Mariners.

But that’s when some questionable roster reshuffling came into the forefront.

In exchange, Cashman sent unheralded reliever Adam Warren out west. Warren, who had spent all but 29 games of his career with the Yankees since 2012, sported an impressive 2.70 ERA and 54:15 strikeout-to-walk ratio while helping out in middle relief.

Many expected bigger news on the horizon.

Many were disappointed.

In the final move before trading came to an end, the front office shipped Tyler Austin and prospect Luis Rijo to the Minnesota Twins for the underwhelming Lance Lynn. Lynn, who was one of the more sought-after free agent starters this past offseason, has walked 5.5 batters per nine innings thus far while sporting a bloated 1.63 WHIP.

After assessing each move, the Yankees, as a whole, will be a better team for the rest of this season.

Britton will vacate his closer role but will form a dominating one-two punch with Dellin Betances before Aaron Boone puts Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning. Despite having just two outings with the Yankees – one bad (one inning, two hits, two walks, one run), one good (one inning, one strikeout, 10 pitches) – the organization believes he’s returning to his old, successful ways. In nine July appearances, Britton allowed batters to hit just .172 against him, all the while pitching to an even 1.00 ERA.

Happ will bring stabilization to the rotation, something the Yankees have been looking for ever since Jordan Montgomery left his start against the Houston Astros back in May. While some point to the southpaw’s ERA as a cause for concern, Happ’s FIP is more than respectable (3.85) while his strikeouts (10.3) and walks (2.8) per nine innings are impressive in their own right. Plus, his first start in pinstripes went just as well as one can expect (six innings, one run, one walk, three hits, two strikeouts).

Lynn, meanwhile, is a mystery at best. But in the end, the front office believes he can perform in the Adam Warren role better than Adam Warren. If a starter has a brief outing, Lynn can give Boone multiple innings of relief. If a starter is tired, Lynn can make a spot start. If a starter gets injured, he can slide in the rotation. Remember, the Yankees did have interest in Lynn over the winter and could believe some work with pitching coach Larry Rothschild could do the trick. Plus, his 50.8% groundball rate is above average and will work well in Yankee Stadium.

Yankees fans must also keep this in mind: these moves were just as much about the future as they are the present.

Bringing Britton aboard now gives the Yankees a chance to sell him on the culture, a winning organization and a chance year in and year out to compete for the Commissioner’s Trophy before he enters free agency. That would give them the ability to let someone like David Robertson walk, as his age (33) and current struggles may not fit into New York’s future plans.

More importantly, however, is the potential to readdress and restock a farm system that is still praised but has taken a hit with promotions and player movement.

By moving Tate, Carroll, Rogers, Frare and Austin, the Yankees now have additional room on their 40-man roster. Sheffield is a no-brainer to be added. Chance Adams, who is having a down year but posted a 2.45 ERA and .193 BAA in 15 starts in 2017, is a likely candidate. With names like Juan De Paula (1.73 ERA in six starts), Kyle Holder (.290 AVG, .351 OBP) and Stephen Tarpley (0.93 WHIP, .156 BAA) amongst others, also eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, it makes more sense as to why Frare was moved for cash and Austin was traded for a fringy fifth starter.

And then there’s the case of international bonus pool money, which has become a norm in trades involving the Yankees and a talking point among fans.

There aren’t many organizations that are as visible and vigorous in the international free agent market than the Yankees. 15 of their 30 top prospects, per MLB Pipeline – including top 10 youngsters Estevan Florial, Jonathan Loaisiga, Albert Abreu, Domingo Acevedo and Luis Medina – were signed with the same money Cashman acquired in trades. To take that positive spin even further, Gleyber Torres (Chicago Cubs), Aroldis Chapman (Cincinnati Reds), Luis Severino, Miguel Andujar and Gary Sanchez were all signed as international free agents, too.

And Cashman has been quick to use his newly-received money in a major way.

On July 29, he inked right-hander Osiel Rodriguez for $600,000. The 6’3” 16-year-old – who lists as the 10th best international prospect – is considered a “strike-thrower” and has “a good mound presence and demeanor.” He’s also noted as someone who has an abundance of pitches and tends to throw them at all different types of arm angles.

Two days later, Cashman dished out an eye-popping $2.5 million to Alexander Vargas, who ranked eighth on the same list . A switch-hitter, the 16-year-old Cuba native is noted primarily for his speed, defense and ability on the base paths, with noting, “he has the potential to steal 30 bases in the big leagues and sport a .270 batting average.”

For so long, the Yankees played with a win-at-all-cost” mentality, trading prospect after prospect for a chance at the present. It was a simple game of checkers for George Steinbrenner.

But these aren’t Steinbrenner’s Yankees anymore. This is Cashman’s team.

And Cashman plays chess.

Dan Federico is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.


Milwaukee Brewers: Two ways to push and one way to win

With the deadline looming, the Milwaukee Brewers will have to decide whether to stand pat or make a push now. The wrong move could impact the team for years. 

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Will to Believe: Mike Moustakas is the right move for the Milwaukee Brewers

Boy, that escalated quickly.

What more can we say than that? OK, I’ll try.

One day, we’re thinking about the Milwaukee Brewers acquiring Manny Machado, maybe Jacob deGrom, Chris Archer, Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Kevin Gausman, Jonathan Schoop, Matt Harvey

Aside from Machado and deGrom, Brewers followers and faithful alike, I say that in the most literal of terms. Almost all those guys were mentioned in one day in Brewers rumors on social media. After last night’s proceedings, a 3-1 victory against Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants, David Stearns finalized a deal with the Kansas City Royals for third baseman Mike Moustakas, sending to Kansas City top prospects Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez.

Wait, what?

The move gives the Brewers an extra starting-grade third baseman and a fourth lefty bat with pop to accompany Eric Thames, Travis Shaw and Christian Yelich. Shaw reportedly will move to second base, a position where Brewers have routinely underachieved. Social media reaction has been mixed. Amongst the BtB cooperative, the reactions have been mixed.

What do we do when we are caught between genuine, competing choices?

And now . . . let us go straight at our question. I have said, and now repeat it, that not only as a matter of fact do we find our passional nature influencing us in our opinions, but that there are some options between opinions in which this influence must be regarded both as an inevitable and as a lawful determinant of our choice.” William James, 1896

Moustakas is having a very Moustakas kind of year: .249/.309/.468 with 20 home runs, 21 doubles and a Ryan Braun-esque .247 BAbip. He doesn’t have a ton of plate discipline (30 BB/63 K), but it’s not Domingo Santana-grade deficient. Until today, he’s been trapped in the spacious confines of Kauffman Stadium, in a division with sizable dimensions in all its parks. Moving to the NLC and its relatively cozy right-field porches might yield a low-key JD Martinez kind of situation.

Moose also has championship pedigree, but we said the same thing about Lorenzo Cain‘s return to Milwaukee: that experience of a pennant and world championship off Blue Ridge Cutoff would help a team without a lot of veteran, postseason experience. He adds more of that, but at this stage of the game, it’s hard to think that Stearns was trading predominantly for clubhouse presence.

So, I understand the kernel of Brewers Nation’s relative disimpression with the move. With Brent Suter down and a clear need at second, the Gausman/Schoop rumors that enjoyed an uptick Friday afternoon and evening made a lot of sense. Stearns using Machado talks as intelligence-gathering to see what the erratic Orioles organization might do against what they did with their superstar infielder seemed like a brilliant stroke of brinksmanship.

More to the point, I have a soft spot for that generation of Kansas City Brewers; Doug Melvin only gave them a full third of their championship-grade starting nine (Cain, Alcides Escobar, Nori Aoki), while Jake Odorizzi was a key component in the Royals garnering James Shields and Wade Davis from the Rays; both of them, as you undoubtedly recall, were essential to their 2015 title. Latter-day Melvin was always more helpful to other teams than he was his own.

Now that we’ve come full circle, the hope is that what we have now is the Milwaukee Royals. And that is one reason why I will to believe that this is the right move for the Brewers.

And I get the questions surrounding Moustakas–none of this really seems like a David Stearns trade. Moustakas has never been one to hit for average (though he does hit to contact), he is certainly limited in the field (Shaw, being a good sport, is moving to second) and he’s neither particularly young nor controllable ( there is a mutual option for 2019; both parties are almost certainly going to pass that up.) He is, however, a good clubhouse guy and the temptation for lots of RF dingers has to be tantalizing for all involved parties.

Further, Stearns hasn’t blown a trade. He has the track record to justify and perhaps excuse a calculated gamble here at the deadline. Getting Joakim Soria for good, but inessential farmhands earlier this week was nothing but savvy. And in trading Phillips and Lopez, the only thing that gets hurt are Brewers’ fans sentiments toward a fantastic human being and tremendous clubhouse goofball (along with that Death Star superlaser for an arm.) It’s a solid value-based trade for a rental and Phillips gets his long-awaited chance to show what he can do unencumbered by a glut of organizational outfielders. There’s no reason to think Phillips can’t shine in Kansas City and can help a rebuilding team break their fall while becoming a doubles machine. Lopez, too, gets a chance to develop in a low-pressure environment; he still has good ceiling and profiles to be effective at the major league level.

Corey Ray made the leap this season, and he profiles to be major league-ready sooner than later. Braun is locked-in as a Brewers lifer. Cain and Yelich are here for the long haul. Phillips, as talented as he is, was due for a change of scenery and a chance to have the stage to himself.

Godspeed, Maverick.

Plainly put, with Moustakas, Brewers fans don’t know what they’re going to get. Advanced metrics seem to indicate that he’s been snakebitten with a moribund team and good opposing defense. His WAR, nonetheless, is trending toward the best it’s been since 2015, a season where he slashed .817 with 57 XBH and the Royals won it all. This would suggest a tendency to hit the accelerator when his teams are competitive, and the 2018 Brewers are nothing if not that.

If he’s also pulling something along the lines of fellow Royals predecessor Carlos Beltran and treating this like a contract year, more power to him. Remember, Beltran went from Kansas City to the Astros and put up video game numbers. Everybody wins if Moustakas outpaces, opts out and earns a big payday elsewhere. (Then again, that was supposed to happen last hot stove.)

In the absence of a clear choice one way or the other, it is acceptable to make the choice with your gut. I understand the consternation of those who don’t get the trade. With the data accessible to us, in a move more suited to William James than Bill, I choose to think this the right one.

Brent Sirvio is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville. 

Milwaukee Brewers: The all or nothing that could have been

The Milwaukee Brewers were maligned by fans and pundits alike after not grabbing a big arm in free agency this preseason, but the David Stearns methodology may be turning the talking heads on their heels.

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Yankees Have the Necessary Trade Chips to Win at the Trade Deadline

At 39-18, the New York Yankees have enjoyed as much success as any organization in 2018.

The reality, however, is this: unless they bolster their pitching depth – and it could be argued that one or more starters and relievers are needed – the franchise’s World Series aspirations will be tough to make a reality.

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