New York Yankees trade deadline failure could have been avoided

Cameron Maybin, New York Yankees (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Cameron Maybin, New York Yankees (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The New York Yankees were unable to acquire any help for their pitching staff. While Cashman had good reasons, this could have easily been avoided

The Trade Deadline has come and gone. The New York Yankees, armed with the best record in the American League, felt they were ok with what was currently on their roster.

They consistently stated if they acquired help from the outside, it would be at their price. Ultimately, the Yankees never felt comfortable with anything and let the deadline pass without acquiring any help for their starting rotation.

The starting rotation has been the Yankees’ biggest weakness for most of the season. That weakness was painfully brought out over by last weekend’s drubbing at the hands of the Boston Red Sox. Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton were both dreadful. CC Sabathia was not much better and was placed on the injured list following his start.

Domingo German pitched well but was only able to get through 5.1 innings before having to give the ball to the bullpen. JA Happ was the only starter that didn’t pitch in the series, but he’s been poor for most of the year. The prevailing thought was that the Yankees would be inspired by that series to add another starter. They did not.

Since they did not, many fans will view this as a failed trade deadline. When a team has a championship window, the attempt to win should be at the forefront of every franchise. That’s a good thought from the fanbase. The Yankees failed deadline, however, easily could have been avoided had they made better decisions in the recent past.

In the recent past, the Yankees have been connected to four frontline starters. Three of them are considered aces. One is an excellent pitcher. They are Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander Gerrit Cole, and Patrick Corbin. Each time they came available, the Yankees passed. Their reasons were different each time, but ultimately it came down to one issue with three of the four pitchers, money. With that in mind, let’s look at the context surrounding the situations with each of the four pitchers.

Max Scherzer – Scherzer came available following the 2014 season, where the Yankees finished above .500 but did not qualify for the postseason. At the time that Scherzer came available, the Yankees rotation was riddled with questions. Masahiro Tanaka looked the part early in his rookie season but missed a good portion of the season with an elbow injury. Michael Pineda was riddled with the inconsistency that continued to mar his career. CC Sabathia was struggling through the loss of velocity and was checked into a rehab center for alcoholism by the end of the season. The Yankees did not need to justify the pursuit of Scherzer in the slightest. He could have co-headlined a rotation with Tanaka, or as we have seen play out over the last five years, become the best pitcher of his generation. Instead, the Yankees sat idly by as the Washington Nationals gave Scherzer a 7-year $210 million contract. Those numbers are eye-popping. Ultimately, that became the Yankees’ most significant issue. They were scared off by the money and chose not to pursue Scherzer.

Justin Verlander – The 2017 Yankees were one of the most fun teams of the last ten years. They were a pleasant surprise as many thought they were one year away. Instead, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius led the Yankees on a deep playoff run that saw them get within one game of the World Series. Their offense was dynamic throughout the season. Their pitching staff, however, could have used some reinforcements. They were able to acquire Sonny Gray and Jaime Garcia at the trade deadline to pair with Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. At the waiver deadline, however, one of the best pitchers of the generation came available. The Houston Astros were desperate for a starter to lead their staff in the postseason. Placing a waiver claim could have blocked the Astros from getting Verlander. Instead, the Yankees again stood pat because they did not want to assume financial responsibility for the remainder of Verlander’s contract. Their unwillingness to spend ended up costing them. Verlander has been reborn since going to Houston. He dominated the Yankees in the ALCS, winning Game 1 and Game 6 in Houston.

If Verlander were to be a Yankee, they at least get to the 2017 World Series. 2018 becomes much easier as he could have matched up with Chris Sale in the ALDS. He also likely makes the Yankees better to where they may not have had to play in the Wild Card game in the first place. Instead, Verlander has become their arch-nemesis for the last three seasons and plays for the team standing directly in their way of getting to the World Series.

He was another player not acquired due to money. Of all the pitchers, this is one that has hurt the most.

Gerrit Cole – Cole is a difficult one to be too upset with the Yankees about merely because of the price in prospects it would have required to get Cole. Reportedly, the Pirates wanted a package that included Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar. The Yankees have also insisted they believe the package they offered the Pirates was better than what they ultimately got from Houston.

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That being said, Cole would look nice in pinstripes. The Yankees have long admired him. They originally drafted him. They’ve tried to trade for him. It will be interesting to see if they pursue him in the offseason. With the front office’s newfound aversion to spending big on contracts, it’s fair to say this is a long shot.

Patrick Corbin – Corbin should have been easy. He was local. He’s left-handed. Brian Cashman called him a “special pitcher” leading into the Winter Meetings.

He was only a secure signing until he wasn’t. The Yankees reportedly only offered discussed a 5-year $100 million contract as a concept. Cashman would go on to stay he never made a formal offer to Corbin, which led to some frustration amongst the fan base.

For all the hand wringing this offseason about Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, it’s clear the biggest miss the Yankees had this offseason was Corbin. Instead of Corbin, they re-signed JA Happ and CC Sabathia.

Both pitchers have been inconsistent, to put things mildly. Corbin would give them a younger, more dynamic version, of someone that could be set atop their rotation. He certainly is not the pitcher that Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer is. He is, however, a very good pitcher that would have paired nicely atop their rotation with Luis Severino and James Paxton.

He didn’t cost prospects. He didn’t cost anything other than money. That’s something the Yankees print. Shortly after the trade deadline, Brian Cashman stated that signing Corbin would have prevented them from other signings such as DJ LeMahieu. Take that how you will. Add these four instances together, and you have a Yankees rotation in shambles still looking for some consistency to go into the postseason. The rest of their roster is World Series ready.

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If they are unable to get to the World Series, many will point to a deadline where they stood pat. Instead, they should point to these four decisions as the Yankees continue to suffer the consequences. Whether they were unwilling to part with prospects or money, it’s that they were reluctant, not unable.