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Mets' Marcus Stroman Trade Escalates Yankees' Desperation for Season-Saving Ace

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterJuly 29, 2019

Where do the Yankees go now that Marcus Stroman is off the board?
Where do the Yankees go now that Marcus Stroman is off the board?Mark Blinch/Getty Images

It's no secret how desperately the New York Yankees need an ace starting pitcher. But all of a sudden, a guy who had been one of their best options is off the table.

To the surprise of many, it was the other New York club that pulled off a blockbuster for Toronto Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman on Sunday. As first reported by Jon Morosi of MLB.com, the right-hander is going to the Mets:

MLB @MLB

Mets reportedly acquire RHP Marcus Stroman from Blue Jays, source tells @jonmorosi. https://t.co/KrEGOUogbn https://t.co/4sZn8imK1d

The Mets' trade for Stroman, who's fresh off earning his first career All-Star nod, isn't surprising because it came out of left field. Emanating primarily from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, there had been rumblings that the Mets had him on their radar.

The issue is how this is such an odd match between team and player. The Mets are five games under .500 and six games off the pace for the National League's second wild-card spot. And in this case, they're a team with a poor infield defense that's acquired an extreme ground-ball pitcher.

All the same, it's hard to frown on this deal from the Mets' perspective.

The pitchers they gave up (left-hander Anthony Kay and right-hander Simeon Woods Richardson) are only their No. 4 and No. 6 prospects for Baseball America. Plus, the fact that Stroman is controlled through 2020 means they now have options with what to do next. For instance, they can more easily justify a trade of flame-throwing righty Noah Syndergaard.

Meanwhile in The Bronx, all the Yankees can do is wonder what the heck just happened.

James Paxton is but one of many underachievers in the Yankees rotation.
James Paxton is but one of many underachievers in the Yankees rotation.Mike Stobe/Getty Images

In case anyone needs to be caught up, these are dark times for the Yankees starting rotation.

Beginning with James Paxton's seven-run (although only three were earned) dud against the Colorado Rockies on July 21, Yankees starters went into Sunday night's tilt against the Boston Red Sox with a 16.62 ERA over their last seven outings. With this, their ERA for the season ballooned from a respectable 4.14 to a not-at-all respectable 4.77.

What's more, the Yankees rotation is now down a man after veteran southpaw CC Sabathia landed on the injured list with right knee inflammation. While two-time All-Star Luis Severino is on the comeback trail from shoulder injuries, indications are that he'll be used in relief when he returns in September.

One bright side, of course, is that the Yankees are still in first place in the American League East at 66-38. Another is that general manager Brian Cashman has been hard at work on the eve of the July 31 trade deadline.

"I am fully engaged with every team except the Boston Red Sox," he told reporters, including Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, on Friday.

Out of all the solutions to the Yankees' current rotation woes, perhaps none was as obvious as Stroman. The man himself is a New York native who hasn't kept his fondness for the Yankees much of a secret. To boot, the Blue Jays' rebuild and Stroman's lack of no-trade protection made him eminently available.

The Yankees had been in contact with Toronto about Stroman, according to Morosi. But per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, they may have been turned off by the Blue Jays' asking price:

Jon Heyman @JonHeyman

Jays had asked Yankees for Deivi Garcia in Stroman talks. Yanks never seriously considered that.

In fairness to the Yankees, Deivi Garcia is no ordinary prospect. The 20-year-old righty has risen fast through the minors this season on a rate of 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings. In the process, he's also established himself as the club's No. 1 prospect for Baseball America.

And yet, this isn't a team that's only beginning to open its contention window. Nor is it a small-market club that depends on cheap homegrown talent to survive.

These are the Yankees we're talking about. They're the richest, most powerful team in Major League Baseball, and their time is very much now. Especially if it means upgrading their starting rotation, not a single prospect in their system should be off limits as they pursue their first AL East title since 2012 and their first World Series championship since 2009.

If they'd applied this attitude to their pursuit of Stroman, he might be theirs right now. Since he's not, now the question becomes how they might make up for missing out on him.

Noah Syndergaard, perhaps?
Noah Syndergaard, perhaps?Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Just among the No. 1-types, the Yankees' options still include Syndergaard, Trevor Bauer, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke, Mike Minor, Matthew Boyd and Luis Castillo.

However, the Yankees might be kidding themselves if they think they can lure Syndergaard from the Mets. Although the two clubs line up well as trading partners, Hoch offered these words of warning, "It is believed that the Mets have no interest in helping the Yankees, no matter the return."

Bauer and Bumgarner, meanwhile, may not be "available" in the truest sense of the word.

Unless somebody overwhelms them with an offer, the Cleveland Indians can't justify trading Bauer while they're only two games out of first in the AL Central. Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants aren't sitting as pretty in the National League West, but they've been hot enough in recent weeks to dream of a wild-card berth.

Even if the Giants wanted to trade Bumgarner to the Yankees, he could use his no-trade clause to nix a deal. Greinke and Minor also have no-trade lists that include the Yankees. The latter sounds willing to use his. For his part, it would seem to be in the former's character to demand more money on top of the $70 million he's owed across 2020 and 2021 to approve a deal.

As for Boyd, George A. King III of the New York Post reported that the Detroit Tigers want a package headlined by two-time All-Star infielder Gleyber Torres. If that's their idea of a fair return for a breakout 28-year-old under their control through 2022, one can only imagine what the Cincinnati Reds want for Castillo. He's a 26-year-old All-Star who's under their control through 2023.

Otherwise, that's pretty much it for the No. 1s on the trade market. If the Yankees were to go for, say, a Robbie Ray, a Zack Wheeler, a Lance Lynn or a Tanner Roark, they'd be settling for less than what they need.

The Yankees' preference is surely to get a good deal on the kind of ace that could stabilize their rotation for the stretch run and October. But that ship may have sailed. What aces are left have as much or more trade value than Stroman. And no thanks to their current rotation, the Yankees aren't sitting on a ton of leverage.

All this is to say that they're in a bind, all right. Somehow, some way, they're going to have to get out of it.

                      

Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.

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