The perfect teams must do essentially the most work on the baseball trading deadline. This could seem counterintuitive, because one of the best teams are likely to have the fewest needs. But when a team is absolutely good, the toughest part is over: you recognize you’ll be playing in October. Trades are all about boosting your odds when you get there.
“Teams try to make a move that may make an impact,” Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman said through an interpreter on Monday, recalling his trade to the Chicago Cubs in 2016. “Once I got there — where the team was and where the team was heading — they felt they’d an actual shot at winning.”
The Cubs had one of the best record in baseball after they acquired Chapman in a trade with the Yankees. They estimated that Chapman would raise their possibilities of winning the World Series by 5 percent — an enormous number for a single player, actually. With Chapman pitching in all but one in every of their postseason victories, the Cubs won all of it.
The Yankees of 2022 know where they’re and know where they’re headed. They are going to reach the trading deadline on Tuesday at 6 p.m. with one of the best record within the American League (70-34) and 4 recent players to assist when it matters most.
On Monday they made two deals, acquiring starter Frankie Montas and reliever Lou Trivino from the Oakland Athletics and reliever Scott Effross from the Chicago Cubs. Last week, they got left fielder Andrew Benintendi from the Kansas City Royals. In all, the Yankees gave up eight prospects, including seven pitchers. Just one, J.P. Sears, has played within the majors.
“You possibly can at all times improve,” said Aaron Judge, whose forty third homer helped the Yankees to a 7-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Monday night. “I don’t think this team is satisfied with what we’ve done up to now. We’ve gotten out to an awesome start, but we sort of, as a team, did our part — and the front office is doing their part now.”
Two of the pitchers General Manager Brian Cashman sent to Oakland ranked among the many Yankees’ top 10 prospects, based on MLB.com — Ken Waldichuk (fifth) and Luis Medina (tenth). Montas, though, is under team control through next season and provides the Yankees the sort of top-level starter who could make an outsize impact in a postseason series.
“He’s got the total arsenal and the weapons and the stuff that you simply search for in top-of-the-rotation caliber pitchers,” Manager Aaron Boone said. “And he’s gone out and proved that the last couple of years, that he’s that sort of caliber of pitcher.”
The proper-handed Montas, 29, served an 80-game suspension in 2019 after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. He struggled the following 12 months but has a 3.30 earned run average in 51 starts across the last two seasons, with a combination of power pitches (96 mile-per-hour fastball, plus a slider and splitter) that make him effective against each left- and right-handers.
Effross, 28, shouldn’t be a tough thrower but has an analogous assortment of pitches to handle hitters from either side. Without any consideration-handed sidearmer with a fastball, slider and changeup, he’s the sort of reliever who tends to get plenty of work in the trendy, bullpen-heavy postseason.
“In an ideal world, you desire to create versatility — whether it’s different looks, whether it’s guys which might be really adept at getting right-handed hitters for certain parts of the order, whether it’s guys which might be really adept at getting lefties, whether it’s a combination of that,” Boone said. “Sometimes different angles and different sort of stuff is useful. We predict Scott does plenty of that.”
Effross, who has a 2.66 E.R.A. in 44 innings, has been rather more effective this season than Trivino, who has a 6.47 E.R.A. in 32 innings. However the Yankees attribute much of that to bad luck, and Trivino is averaging 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings — a greater strikeout rate than any of his recent teammates.
Add those three arms to Benintendi — a solid left fielder with plate discipline who hits for contact — and a pattern emerges. These are players with the sorts of skills to make a difference briefly series against good teams.
“You possibly can’t have an excessive amount of depth, especially these next two months after which into October,” said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who hit a three-run homer in the primary inning Monday. “I believe it’s an enormous tribute to us on this clubhouse, since spring training, in setting the tone. When the front office comes and makes big moves like this, it just sort of backs us up.”
There are some reasons for concern. Montas had shoulder inflammation in early July and needed a cortisone injection; he rested for 2 and a half weeks and has made two starts since, for 3 innings and five innings.
The Yankees have one other starter, Luis Severino, who’s out with a shoulder issue of his own. He played catch on Monday, which is encouraging, but a great distance from a game.
“He gave me the thumbs-up,” Boone said. “Good begin to the throwing progression.”
Even so, the Yankees placed Severino on the 60-day injured list on Monday, which implies he can’t be activated until mid-September. Now they’ve his substitute, with bullpen reinforcements and a recent left fielder, too. It’s a powerful haul for a team looking for its first championship since 2009 — a team that needed to be aggressive, and acted that way.