Word spread that the New York Yankees traded reliever Andrew Miller to the Texas Rangers on Thursday morning. The deal proved to be nothing more than a false rumor, and it’s one that team ownership isn’t ready to let happen.
With almost two weeks left until the 2016 MLB trade deadline, the leaders of New York’s baseball operations, most notably general manager Brian Cashman, reportedly want to start trading the team’s top players. But Yankee management isn’t ready to give up on the season just yet, refusing to become sellers at this time.
"There's only two people in the tri-state area who think this team is still a contender," a source told ESPN.com’s Wallace Matthews. "(owner) Hal Steinbrenner and (team president) Randy Levine."
The Yankees find themselves as fringe contenders at best at the All-Star Break. With a 44-44 record, New York is the quintessential .500 team. Every time they go on a run, the Yankees come back with a losing streak, never going more than one game above .500. Sitting in fourth place in the AL East, the Yankees trail the first-place Baltimore Orioles by 7.5 games.
Because of the second wild-card spot, New York is in striking distance of the postseason. But even though they are just 5.5 games back, six teams stand in between the Yankees and a second straight playoff appearance.
According to ESPN, Cashman is willing to deal the likes of closer Aroldis Chapman, first baseman Mark Teixeira, outfielder Carlos Beltran, starting pitcher Ivan Nova and starter-turned-reliever Nathan Eovaldi. The first four players will be free agents this offseason, while Eovaldi is arbitration eligible.
Members of the organization also want to move Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann, but their lucrative contracts would make that a difficult task. There’s been speculation that the Yankees might explore dealing Miller, considering his trade value. But New York might be less willing to deal him since he is an All-Star and his contract runs through the 2018 season.
It might take two more weeks of mediocre baseball to convince ownership that New York isn’t a legitimate World Series contender.
"All the talk of buying or selling is speculation at this point,'' Levine said, via ESPN.com. "There's two weeks to go, and at that time we'll make a decision. You can't make any decisions until you have specific transactions in front of you.''
If the Yankees decide to sell, they might not have trouble finding buyers for their top players.
If the Yankees move either Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman, Indians are sleepers: Cleveland has motive, need, and prospects to make a deal.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 13, 2016
A former closer, Miller has been nearly unhittable out of the bullpen, striking out 69 batters in 39.1 innings, while posting a 1.37 ERA and a 0.71 WHIP. Chapman has 17 saves in 18 chances, posting 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.49 ERA.
Beltran has easily been the Yankees’ best hitter, leading the team in all three Triple Crown categories (.299, 19 HR, 56 RBI). He could be a key addition for a potential playoff team, not only because of his production this year, but because of his history as a postseason performer. In 52 career playoff games, Beltran has a 1.115 OPS, and his numbers (.332, 16 HR, 40 RBI) would put him on pace for 50 homers and 125 RBI over the course of a 162-game season.
However, The New York Post’s Joel Sherman reports that Beltran won’t be easy to move with plenty of outfielders available. His age and declining defense make him less appealing than players like Ryan Braun and Melvin Upton, who could be dealt.
As the Yankees get back to playing games, Steinbrenner and Levine might soon realize that it will be best to trade some of their veterans for younger talent. New York opens the second half of the season with 10 games against the Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles and San Francisco Giants, all of whom are in the playoffs.