Yankees Can Prove New Era Has Arrived with Levelheaded Deadline

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistJuly 28, 2015

Getty Images

There was a time when the New York Yankees were in on almost every deal—at the trade deadline, in the offseason, whenever. Even if they didn't land a particular player, they were hanging around the margins with their wallet and farm system open. 

These days, the buzzword in the Bronx is "restraint." And that's a good thing.

Oh, sure, New York has been linked to high-profile trade targets as the July 31 non-waiver cutoff looms. 

According to the New York Post's George A. King III, the Yankees scouted ace Johnny Cueto and "had limited discussions with the Cincinnati Reds in which Ivan Nova's name surfaced."

Still, King added, "the talks didn't go very far," and Cueto ultimately landed on the Kansas City Royals.

All of a sudden, that's the Yankee paradigm: kick the tires but don't squeeze the trigger, to mix ham-fisted metaphors.

General manager Brian Cashman said there's a "strong possibility" the Yankees will stand pat at the trade deadline.
General manager Brian Cashman said there's a "strong possibility" the Yankees will stand pat at the trade deadline.Lynne Sladky/Associated Press
Video Play Button
Videos you might like

This newfound pragmatism was on display last July, when the Yankees made a slew of moves—bringing in third baseman Chase Headley and right-hander Brandon McCarthy, among others—but ducked a headline-grabbing, farm system-depleting megadeal.

And that, if anyone recalls, was in Derek Jeter's final season, when the pressure was on general manager Brian Cashman to make a playoff push for The Captain's swan song.

Over the winter, likewise, the Yankees held back, letting the big free-agent fish ink deals elsewhere and opting, generally, to roll with what they had.

So far, so good. Warts and all, New York sits atop the American League East entering play Tuesday, seven games up on the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles.

With the Bronx Bombers' first postseason appearance since 2012 in sight, is this the moment they uncoil and swing for the fences? Probably not.

"There is a strong possibility that there might not be anything that makes sense for us," Cashman told ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand.

There's wiggle room in that sentence. Most GMs play it close to the vest this time of year, denying that any trades are brewing and then, suddenly, engineering a trade.

The Yankees are still the Yankees, after all, owners of baseball's second-highest payroll, the perennial big bullies.

And while they're nominal favorites in the mediocre, wide-open AL East, they have question marks in the rotation and at second base.

Even the offense—which ranks second in MLB in runs scored—is leaning on an aging veteran core that figures to need rest and re-enforcement down the stretch. 

Plus, the Jays fired a bold shot Monday, acquiring All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies to augment an already-loaded lineup. If Toronto also adds pitching, it could emerge as the new division favorites.

Alex Rodriguez anchors an aging offensive core that may need rest and re-enforcement down the stretch.
Alex Rodriguez anchors an aging offensive core that may need rest and re-enforcement down the stretch.Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press/Associated Press

The Yankees, however, have begun to take the long view, prioritizing the future over the present. And it's paying dividends, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post noted in June:

The Yankees' farm system is improving — and that is not coming from any hype machine within pinstriped walls. I talked to six scouts who cover the system, and each confirmed there is a leap forward.

The least enthused said the Yankees at least have a pipeline now to promote useful players to the majors, and the most impressed offered, "Their system is a lot better. Dramatically better. They have come a long way in the last year."

Does it make sense to decimate that rebuilt farm for a rental ace or a hired bat, one that may or may not push New York deep into October? The trade deadline, after all, is littered with the corpses of clubs that went all in and faded out, including the Oakland A's in 2014.

The deep-pocketed Yankees should heed the lesson of the small-market Athletics, who shipped out top prospects and big league talent for pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester and then lost to the Kansas City Royals in the Wild Card Game.

That's not to say the same fate will befall the Yankees if they go hard and get, say, Cole Hamels. The Philadelphia Phillies left-hander is signed through 2018, and New York has at least "inquired about [his] availability," per MLB.com's Bryan Hoch.

The Yankees have inquired about Phillies ace Cole Hamels, but are unwilling to part with top prospects.
The Yankees have inquired about Phillies ace Cole Hamels, but are unwilling to part with top prospects.Matt Marton/Associated Press

Yet, Hoch adds, the Yankees "are unwilling to part with several of the organization's top prospects," including right-hander Luis Severino, outfielder Aaron Judge, shortstop Jorge Mateo and first baseman Greg Bird.

That's New York's top four minor league chips, per Baseball America, which sounds an awful lot like "no blockbusters in the offing."

There was a time when New York was in on every deal. But the times, to quote a certain Greenwich Village-dwelling poet, are a-changing. 

All statistics current as of July 27 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.