The new, lump sum trade deadline has come and gone and the Yankees moves are listed below:
The Yankees have acquired LHP Alfredo Garcia from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for RHP Joseph Harvey.— New York Yankees (@Yankees) July 31, 2019
To quote a very well known proverb: It’s not what you want.
I have to disclaim everything that comes after this with an important point. The Yankees are a very good baseball team. They’re clearly the best one in the AL East this year and the standings back that up. Furthermore, the team did get better in the 2018 offseason. I’ve said it a ton on Twitter: The Yankees got better in several ways and the Red Sox got worse. There’s credit due to the front office there.
But the point of roster construction is to minimize the “ifs,” and the Yankees simply didn’t do enough of that. They came into the deadline today needing a big reinforcement of the rotation, and barring that, some kind of injection to the bullpen to make up for shaky depth there. The reason these moves were so imperative was because of decisions they made in the winter, and then even up to the days following the 2019 draft.
First was the choice to not sign Patrick Corbin, ostensibly over the length of his preferred contract and then signing JA Happ to a deal that takes him through older years than even the length of the deal the Nats ended up giving to Corbin. At that point, though, any rotation issues were still hypothetical. Then they started the season down Severino, but Dallas Keuchel was still available as a free agent due to the QO penalty looming over him. The Yankees then proceeded to not sign him over what is, in baseball terms, a piddling amount of money. So we come to the trade deadline.
The biggest news today was that Houston had acquired Zack Greinke, an ace even though nobody ever gives him the respect due. Greinke has a career 3.36 ERA over 2800 innings, backed by a 22.4% strikeout rate and a mere 5.7% walk rate, which includes a ridiculous 3.3% rate in 2019. He’s been a six-time All-Star and has a Cy Young award. Beyond that, Greinke is a fun wierdo even among a position that almost requires you to be a weirdo in order to be any good at it.
I assume it’s widely known but it’s still worth pointing out that in this case, the Yankees never had any chance of trading for Greinke. The team is specifically on his limited no-trade list, and for years every source has affirmed that it’s because Greinke has no interest in pitching here. Some people choose to interpret this as “fear” when really it’s because he just doesn’t want the trouble. He’s proven over those 2800 innings that he can pitch and he’s done in on a very famous team in a big city. Boston’s on the no-trade list and probably for similar reasons (also who the hell would want to have to live and work in Boston?)
And I don’t think anybody could have predicted this move. Much like Houston landing Verlander, it was completely without buzz, without leaks, without rumors. The cause of so much angst isn’t that the Yankees didn’t get Greinke, it’s not even so much that Houston did as an inherent issue. It’s that by doing so, they’ve opened a huge chasm in rotation quality between the Astros and Yankees, and eliminated yet more “Ifs” going into the stretch and post-season.
Right now for Houston, who also added several other arms of various quality (well, pre-Astros magic quality) the only real “If” for them is health. They’re WS favorites if everybody stays healthy. Compare this to the Yankees, who are WS favorites if the rotation gets back to being able to pitch more than 4 innings per start. If those 4 innings don’t involve 5+ ER. If Severino makes it back, and then if he’s even 75% of what he was at the beginning of last season. If Dellin makes it back, and if he’s as good as he was. If Masahiro Tanaka can find some semblance of a splitter, which he is rapidly running out of time to do. If James Paxton can be the ace the Yankees wanted when they traded for him. If Domingo German can keep this up.
Their options to fix the rotation in the week leading up to the deadline were very different from what they looked like even a month beforehand, and given what little we know about the prices asked for, I can’t be too mad at Cashman for not making one of those deals. But it all goes back to “Ifs” that could have been resolved before we even came to this. If only they signed Corbin. If only they signed Keuchel.
If only they didn’t back themselves into a corner and hang everything on making a big trade this year.