NEW YORK — As the MLB Trade Deadline draws closer, Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman has begun reaching out to opposing teams, testing the waters.
Those initial conversations and inquires with other clubs across the league are to be expected in the days leading up to the deadline each season. This year, however, presents a new set of challenges.
With just 30 games remaining in this summer's truncated campaign, a season that could theoretically come to a screeching halt at any moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cashman must weigh the risks and rewards of a "risky marketplace."
"I'm certainly engaged with the other teams trying to determine what's available," Cashman said on Saturday afternoon ahead of a 2-1 walk-off victory over the Mets. "I have been having conversations with my baseball operations staff as well as ownership about the best next step."
While those talks are in the earliest stages of development, Cashman said pitching is "clearly" an "area of focus" for New York. That includes addressing a gaping hole in the starting rotation left behind by an injured James Paxton as well as a bullpen (also ravaged by injuries) that as of Saturday now has blown late-inning leads in four-consecutive games.
To Cashman, the risks of acquiring a ballplayer before Monday's deadline are clear, no matter how much they'll help the Bombers win this season.
He must ask himself, is it worth the price to ship off highly-touted prospects for an individual that may only don pinstripes for a little over a month? Adding an additional salary to a steep payroll has its own set of financial implications. A player could opt out at any point, or potentially test positive for the coronavirus. Plus, there are additional travel and team chemistry hurdles to trading in the COVID-19 era.
In past years, rentals are around for more than just one month. Besides, with this season's modified playoff landscape—expanding to 16 teams with each club forced to squeak through an opening best-of-three series where anything can happen—a move may simply not be worth the price of admission.
Nonetheless, with the clock ticking down to Monday afternoon, Cashman is working though his progressions to potentially find the right fit.
The next step after coordinating with another club, GM or owner, getting the ball rolling in negotiations, would be to bring the situation to Hal Steinbrenner. Cashman said he keeps the Yankees' managing general partner and co-chairperson abreast to all that's transpiring in the marketplace and would have to go through him to make any definitive decisions.
"If I get to an area, which is called the sweet spot, where this might match up for us and them meaning the New York Yankees and an opposing organization, I'll take it to Hal for some very difficult decisions that might be had," Cashman explained. "Do you shoot those prospect bullets to add the impact player potentially? That typically adds more salary to it. And there's so many factors of risk reward, you have to factor into that."
While some trades already have gone down across the game, taking some of the best available arms off the table, Cashman doesn't have any deals in the works.
Don't let that convince you that he and his staff won't pull some strings to make something happen. Just a few days ago, when asked what he expects to occur leading up to the deadline, manager Aaron Boone said "you never know where the process leads."
Again, pitching likely will be the position New York addresses should a move be made. Right-handers Tommy Kahnle and Luis Severino are both out for the season, Paxton is on the shelf for the foreseeable future and reliever Zack Britton is still working back from an injury as well.
Add in a veteran arm to eat up innings, or a dynamic lights-out reliever to cure the bullpen's recent struggles, and a slumping Yankees club—that's just coming off a seven-game losing streak—could be back in business.
Just remember, to make a deal in this unprecedented environment, the price truly has to be right.
"My first job is to see if I can manage matching up to get help, and then seeing if it's the right thing to do to execute a deal that would provide help, but I haven't matched up first so you know Hal Steinbrenner might not even get to the position of being there to make a final call on something because I haven't gotten there yet."
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