When the second half opened last Friday, the New York Yankees found themselves out of the postseason picture, a game behind the third wild-card spot and a game up on last place in the brutal AL East. Injuries and an underperforming offense have landed New York on the postseason bubble, and they’re desperate enough that they changed hitting coaches just before the All-Star break.
“I wanted to give things a chance to work its way through, but I feel honestly at this point, it’s not going to improve, at least as it sits,” GM Brian Cashman told MLB.com about the hitting coach change. “It doesn’t mean the offense couldn’t have gotten better organically, but I feel like we’ll be better served with a new messenger.”
As poorly as the offense has performed this year and as much as fans are frustration, there is zero chance — zero — the Yankees sell at the deadline. They’re in the race and they have Gerrit Cole in his prime. You only get so many bites at the apple with a guy like that at the height of his powers. The Yankees will add at the deadline and push for a postseason spot, as they should.
The trade deadline is Tuesday, Aug. 1, giving Cashman & Co. only two weeks to reinforce the roster for the stretch drive and the postseason push. What do the Yankees need? Who could they target? Here’s what you need to know about the Yankees heading into this summer’s trade deadline.
New York’s single biggest need is not something they can acquire at the trade deadline: Aaron Judge. The reigning AL MVP tore a ligament in his toe crashing into the Dodger Stadium wall on June 2 and has not played since. He has begun baseball activities but there is no firm timetable for his return. Without Judge, the offense has stagnated. All they can do is wait for him to get healthy.
The Yankees have received below average production — closer to the worst in the league than average, really — production at third base and in left field. Veterans Josh Donaldson (now injured) and DJ LeMahieu are underperforming at the hot corner. In left, the Yankees have started nine different players this season, most commonly utility man Oswaldo Cabrera. These are glaring needs.
You can never have enough pitching and that’s true for the Yankees even with Carlos Rodón‘s recent return from the injured list. Luis Severino has struggled badly this year, Nestor Cortes is out with a shoulder issue and is several weeks from returning, and Clarke Schmidt will soon set a new career high in innings. A depth arm to lighten the load on everyone else feels worthwhile.
The Yankees got to see how Bellinger’s swing would play in Yankee Stadium a few weeks ago, when he took Rodón deep into the second deck in the final series before the All-Star break. Bellinger’s father, Clay, broke into the big leagues with the Yankees in 1999. “The Yankees obviously mean a lot to our family. (My father) won a few championships here, a role player and pretty good player. It was obviously all in the old stadium, but still feels the same,” Cody told NJ.com last weekend.
Bellinger’s underlying numbers (exit velocity, etc.) do not fully support his surface numbers this season, though he would address New York’s need for a lefty bat who doesn’t strike out excessively, and almost no realistically available outfielder offers the same upside. Add in very good defense and Bellinger is likely the best outfield trade target for the Yankees this summer. The Cubs are positioned to sell and Bellinger is a rental.
How the Yankees will handle the Donaldson and LeMahieu situation is uncertain. Donaldson could miss the rest of the season. Bench LeMahieu, who is signed through 2026? If yes to at least one, then Candelario would fit well at the hot corner as a switch-hitter with a propensity to pull the ball as a lefty hitter. He’s the kind of guy who could get a nice boost from Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch. The Nationals are in last place and rebuilding. Candelario, a rental working on a one-year contract, is one of their top trade chips.
A reunion with lefty Jordan Montgomery would make sense, though I don’t get the sense the Yankees want to pay a big price to add to their rotation, making Flaherty a more likely target. He is still only 27 and there have been times this season in which he flashed the ability that made him a Cy Young contender in 2019. Under pitching coach Matt Blake, the Yankees have had success with in-season fixer-uppers (moreso in the bullpen than the rotation), and Flaherty is the sort of buy-low player with upside they love. He is a rental and the last-place Cardinals are likely to trade him at the deadline.
Montgomery, White Sox righty Lucas Giolito, and Tigers lefty Eduardo Rodriguez are pitchers the Yankees could target in the event they’re willing to deal significant prospects to get a starter. A reunion with James Paxton could be in the cards too if the Red Sox decide to sell and the two historic rivals can find common ground on a trade.
The Yankees and Mets have made just one player-for-player trade in the last 18 years (Miguel Castro for Joely Rodríguez last April), though the days of the Wilpons not wanting to be in the Yankees’ shadow are over. New Mets owner Steve Cohen is open to anything that will make his team better and, if that means trading Pham across town, he’ll do it. Pham is a rental and he’s having his best season in years. He wouldn’t solve the Yankees’ need for a lefty bat, though he is upgrade on the guys they’ve run out there in left field this season.
Rojas is having a poor year, poor enough that he lost his big league roster spot and the Diamondbacks demoted him to Triple-A last month. The 29-year-old left-handed hitter put up a .345 on-base percentage and a 107 OPS+ from 2021-22, however, plus he has plenty of experience at third base and in left field, two positions of need in the Bronx. The Yankees — or any team that thinks Rojas just needs a change of scenery to get back to his 2021-22 form — could pounce. It should be noted Rojas is currently on the Triple-A injured list with a back issue. If the injury lingers, it could affect his status at the deadline.
What about Ohtani?
Of course the Yankees will have interest in Ohtani should the Angels actually make him available. They pursued him when he first came over from Japan and they made a “serious offer” for him at last year’s trade deadline, according to the New York Post. There’s no reason to think the Yankees wouldn’t make another run at Ohtani this summer. The Yankees badly need the left-handed power bat and, with Giancarlo Stanton seeing more time in the outfield these last few weeks, there are DH at-bats available. And every team could use Ohtani in the rotation. Whether the Yankees have the pieces to win a bidding war is another matter. I would fully expect them to try and try hard to get Ohtani in the event he becomes available.
The Yankees have made shortstop Anthony Volpe off limits for more than two years now and there’s no reason to think that will change. Their best trade chips are prospects, most notably shortstop Oswald Peraza, outfielders Jasson Domínguez and Spencer Jones, and righties Chase Hampton and Will Warren. Some are more available than others, obviously. Peraza in particular has a lot of value as an above-average defensive shortstop with a strong offensive track record in Triple-A. Whichever team acquires him could bring him to the big leagues and put him at short the next day. Peraza is as close to MLB-ready as it gets.
Big-market teams and contenders run into a 40-man roster crunch each offseason and the Yankees, like several others, tend to trade the prospects they don’t anticipate having 40-man space to protect from the Rule 5 Draft over the winter. New York’s notable Rule 5 Draft eligible prospects this winter include righties Clayton Beeter and Juan Carela, slugging corner infielder Andrés Chaparro, and catcher Austin Wells, among others. The Yankees may try to move them ahead of others at the deadline.
The Yankees could also subtract from their MLB roster in a way that reinforces the team elsewhere. They could, for example, trade second baseman Gleyber Torres for an outfielder, then pair Peraza with Volpe in the middle infield. New York has more MLB-caliber relievers than roster spots. They could flip a bullpen arm for a position player. With so few sellers (and the teams that are sellers not having many attractive pieces), clubs may have to get creative. Maybe that means we’ll see more MLB player-for-MLB player trades at the deadline.