The New York Yankees are usually active when the MLB trade deadline approaches, and they have been involved in their share of rumors this season. While the team is looking to improve and ensure that they make the playoffs for the first time since 2012, July 31 could come and go without New York making a significant deal.
Johnny Cueto has been the biggest name linked to the Yankees, and the team recently scouted one of his starts. New York could use an upgrade in their rotation, though circumstances could prevent a deal from getting done.
Cueto would automatically become the team’s best pitcher. As good as Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda have been at times, they haven’t been as consistently dominant as the Cincinnati Reds’ right-hander. Cueto’s 2.79 ERA gives him a sub-3.00 ERA for the fifth consecutive season.
The Yankees have the pieces to make a deal work, and they don’t exactly have an “untouchable” prospect who they’d refuse to trade. Gary Sanchez is highly regarded, and ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the team would listen to offers for the Triple-A catcher.
New York’s catchers at the Major-League level make Sanchez somewhat expendable. They signed Brian McCann to a five-year contract last season, and the veteran has performed well in 2015, hitting 15 home runs with 58 RBI. Backup catcher John Ryan Murphy has secured himself a spot with the team, leaving little room for Sanchez in the near future.
But New York might not be willing to part with what it would take to acquire Cueto. It cost the Houston Astros two of their elite prospects for them to acquire Scott Kazmir from the Oakland Athletics. Both Cueto and Kazmir are having strong seasons in a contract year, so they might demand a similar return. Because the Yankees don’t have a very deep farm system, giving up two of their best minor league players might not be worth it.
Even if the Reds are eager to trade Cueto because he’s likely to sign elsewhere in the offseason, they wouldn’t have to accept a subpar offer from New York. A number of teams are interested in Cueto, and they should be able to find a favorable package by the deadline.
Because of the way they’ve played since the All-Star break, the Yankees might not feel that they necessarily need to make a trade. New York has won eight of their last 10 games, separating themselves from a mediocre AL East. Going 53-41, the Yankees lead the second-place Toronto Blue Jays by seven games in the loss column.
Starting pitcher Mike Leake might be a better fit for New York. The Reds have put him on the market, and he wouldn't cost the Yankees as much to acquire. Leake has a 3.78 ERA in 20 starts this season, and has been hot this month, posting a 1.61 ERA in July.