Brian Cashman's multiple moves shore up Yankees' playoff push

ByColey Harvey ESPN logo
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

NEW YORK -- They may have followed a circuitous path with a few unexpected and unconventional moves, but the place where the New York Yankees settled by the end of Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline appears to be a better one than where they started.

Not only did the Yankees address their upcoming postseason run in recent days, but they also shored up matters in the immediate short term, while simultaneously setting themselves up for potential long-term success.

Present? Check. Near-term future? Check. Long-range future? Check.

It may not have been the trading period most Yankees diehards had hoped for, but it was still a good one. When the dust settled Thursday afternoon, the Yankees had finalized a haul that included starting pitcher J.A. Happ, reliever Zach Britton, potential sixth starter Lance Lynn, first baseman Luke Voit and about $3.75 million in international signing bonus pool money.

"We were really extremely busy," general manager Brian Cashman said. "We did a lot of different things, and for a lot of different reasons."

The downside of the Yankees' deadline work was that each trade had a cost. In this case, the likes of beloved-in-the-clubhouse relievers Adam Warren and Chasen Shreve, well-regarded, do-everything infielder Brandon Drury, fiery BoSox-brawl-participating Tyler Austin, and promising minor-league outfielder Billy McKinney were among those dealt away.

From the beginning of June, the Bronx Bombers' faithful were mostly looking for their club to make a big deadline splash. After all, Cashman is known to go after big-name stars. Not to mention, New York had seemed for much of the first half to be possibly one starting pitcher away from having a complete team.

But as Cashman and the front office were confronted with the prospects of a rather weak pitching trade market, they knew they would have to approach this deadline differently than some might have hoped.

"It doesn't have to be splashy," Cashman said. "It just has to work."

When it became clear early that Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner were not going to be brought to the Bronx, the Yankees continued their search elsewhere.

It's why that search led them first to Britton, who came from Baltimore last week to add to an already strong bullpen for late-game pitching insurance. Then, when they finally had a deal that could work with Toronto, they sought out the "underrated" Happ (as Yankees manager Aaron Boone calls him) to provide the starting pitching depth they had been seeking.

Going a step further, Lynn's addition Monday from Minnesota gave the Yankees another backup plan; an extra starter to give others in the rotation a break, or to fill in on more immediate notice. After Happ contracted hand, foot and mouth disease this week, Lynn could go into the rotation as early as this weekend.

Indeed, the team's present and the near future were handled. Check.

"We feel like Lance Lynn gives us that protection and that depth in a lot of different areas," Boone said.

For the time being, the Yankees' plan is to start with Lynn in the bullpen. But they feel good about moving him into the rotation on an as-needed basis. On Tuesday, as the Yankees began a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, it was likely Lynn will fill a rotation role soon, even before Happ's illness.

What the Yankees didn't get during this trading period was an outfielder whose bat could help alleviate the pressure the lineup is feeling without Aaron Judge in it. Judge could be out nearly another two weeks due to a wrist injury he suffered last week.

Given Cashman's reasons for not being able to land that coveted extra bat until Judge returns and outfield prospect Clint Frazier gets over post-concussion migraines, it seems to make sense that the Yankees stood still in that regard.

"Is it [starting] one to two to three times over the coming weeks while we wait on Judge's return or Frazier's return?" Cashman wondered about what the Yankees would ask of potential outfielder acquisitions. "What do you pay for that? We were not able to match up in a comfortable way with what we were importing, whether it was their salary trying to fit into our luxury-tax issues, or the prospect value that we were going to have to give up."

Enter another solution for the present addressed during the trade deadline: Voit. His name is unrecognizable to most fans, but both Boone and Cashman mentioned Voit as a hitter who could help absorb some of the production lost with Judge's injury. In 125 career at-bats across the past two seasons, Voit had five homers and 21 RBIs for St. Louis, before he was dealt to New York (along with international bonus pool money) for Shreve over the weekend.

Perhaps the most important part of the Yankees' flurry of trade activity was their ability to secure so much international signing bonus pool money. With it, they can bring into the fold elite prospects from other countries who could one day be cornerstones within the franchise. The long-range future was secured, too. Check.

"Your job is to try to turn things upside down, inside out, and play in the present and evaluate future value that could be available to you at the same time," Cashman said. "You saw us import a lot international slot money over the last few days. ... Hopefully it'll benefit us in the future."

Current Yankees stars Luis Severino and Miguel Andujar were the team's international signings. Gleyber Torres, who was similarly inked out of Venezuela by the Chicago Cubs, later came to New York via a trade-deadline deal.

"We have a great opportunity in front of us here in the short term, obviously, with the chance to have a special season this year," Boone said. "But just as importantly, too, we're set up to be incredibly competitive for years to come."