The New York Yankees struck first on the MLB trade market by acquiring Andrew Benintendi for three prospects on Wednesday night.
That should be the first of a few moves made by the Yankees to be in the best position possible to win the World Series.
Luis Castillo and Frankie Montas should be the next targets on the Yankees' radar as they gear up to challenge the Houston Astros in what could be a showdown in the ALCS.
The Seattle Mariners are one of the few teams in the AL that will try to disrupt the Yankees-Astros dominance, Seattle could make an upgrade to its rotation by acquiring one of the two best arms available on the trade market.
ESPN's Jeff Passan reported that the Mariners and Yankees have been two of the teams in hot pursuit of Castillo and Montas along with the St. Louis Cardinals. Toronto, Minnesota and San Diego were also mentioned as teams looking for pitching upgrades.
Jon Heyman of the New York Post confirmed that the Yankees "are in on" Castillo and Montas as they make starting pitching a priority before the trade deadline.
The pair of right-handed pitchers will likely be dealt before August 2, but where they land is hard to figure out because so many playoff contenders need upgrades in their starting rotations.
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees got one need covered when they finalized a deal for Andrew Benintendi on Wednesday night.
The Yankees needed a left-handed outfield bat to make up for Joey Gallo's shortcomings and they did not give up any major prospects in the process.
Now the Yankees should turn their focus to acquiring either Castillo or Montas to add to their rotation of Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Jordan Montgomery and Jameson Taillon. Domingo German has been the fifth starter in the rotation recently because Luis Severino went on the injured list.
Either Castillo or Montas would be the No. 2 or No. 3 guy in the Yankees rotation, if they were to arrive by August 2. A trade would give the Yankees two ace-caliber pitchers and allow Cortes to potentially be the third guy in a playoff rotation.
Montgomery has had some strong outings, but he was shelled by the New York Mets on Tuesday night. Taillon has been solid, but he will be a free agent in 2023 and could move on from the American League East side.
Castillo and Montas will not become free agents until 2024. They come with a season-and-a-half of control and that will drive up the price for both hurlers on the trade market.
The Yankees need to acquire either right-hander to match up with the Houston Astros in a potential ALCS. Houston has six quality starting pitchers and Lance McCullers Jr. is on his way back from the injured list.
Houston barely has enough room to fit all of its starters in the rotation, while the Yankees are struggling to find some quality beneath Cole and Cortes.
Despite some recent struggles, the Yankees have the third-best team ERA, but that could drop a bit with star reliever Michael King on the injured list with a fractured elbow.
New York has five players on MLB.com's Top 100 prospects, and there is a good chance at least one of them will be headed to Cincinnati or Oakland in the coming days.
Shortstop Oswald Peraza might be the Yankees' best prospect to include in trade talks because he is almost major-league ready and the Yankees have other shortstop prospects developing in their system.
The Reds or Athletics could demand a major-league ready player to slot into their lineups right away to continue their rebuilding processes.
The Yankees need to make some type of move to acquire a starting pitcher, and while the price tag may be Peraza and two or three other players, the move would be worth it to solidify a rotation with Houston and the World Series on their minds.
Seattle should go for it on the trade market.
The Mariners enter Thursday in the second wild-card position in the American League. They are a half-game behind the Toronto Blue Jays.
Seattle is 10 games back of the Astros and they likely will not catch the AL West leader in August and September, but that will not matter to the team's front office.
The franchise's first playoff berth since 2001 is in sight and a trade for either Castillo or Montas would further accelerate that process.
Seattle's trade chips are not as gaudy as the Yankees because its three Top 100 prospects are all at the Single-A level.
The Mariners might have to part ways with one of their major-league position players to entice the Reds or Athletics to make a deal. Seattle has some wiggle room there since Mitch Haniger is working his way back from the injured list and Kyle Lewis recently returned.
Seattle needs top-end pitchers to have a chance to not only make the playoffs but win a few games in the postseason.
Robbie Ray is seventh in the majors in strikeouts, but he is only one of two pitchers in the top 10 strikeouts with 100 hits conceded. The left-hander has given up 52 earned runs and 20 home runs this season.
Ray could return to form in the postseason with a few high strikeout games, but even if that is the case, the Mariners do not have any experience behind him to get through a playoff series.
Marco Gonzales is a solid third or fourth rotation guy on a playoff team, but he does not have overpowering stuff, as Ray can have at his peak. Chris Flexen and Logan Gilbert have performed well and they would compete with Gonzales for the No. 3 spot in a playoff rotation if Seattle makes a trade.
The Mariners may have a harder time trading for Montas because he plays in the same division. They have nine games left against the Athletics, but at the right price, the A's could be willing to send Montas to Washington and run the risk of facing him in the regular season.
Montas carries familiarity within the Mariners organization since they have seen him pitch so often in the AL West. The Oakland right-hander gave up two earned runs in eight innings over his last two starts. Those appearances came after a brief injury hiatus.
Castillo has been the more dominant pitcher lately. The Reds starter struck out eight batters in three straight starts and lasted seven innings in each of his last four appearances.
Seattle should aim to land Castillo above Montas because of how consistent the Reds hurler has been over the last month. Montas would be a terrific consolation prize to shore up the team's rotation as it makes the playoff push.
The Mariners need a rotation upgrade to fend off Toronto, Tampa Bay and Cleveland in the wild-card race, and the acquisition of either Castillo or Montas would be a statement of intent not just for 2022, but for the next year as well.