Yankees pitchers are ‘in a good spot’ as trade deadline looms
It’s different for pitchers.
That sentence applies to approximately 2.3 million issues, situations and scenarios that arise in the baseball world. For the purpose of today’s conversation, however, let’s use it to discuss the trade deadline.
Brian Cashman has stated publicly he wants more pitching, be it starting, relief or both, and that has sparked questions, especially since the Yankees’ rotation has pitched very well as of late: If the Yankees acquire a Trevor Bauer, Matthew Boyd, Madison Bumgarner, Marcus Stroman or someone else, who gets jettisoned?
The micro answer is that no one fully loses his job. The macro answer is, don’t worry about it. The pitchers themselves don’t.
“I don’t know that we really take a whole lot of time to concern ourselves with it,” J.A. Happ said Tuesday, before the Yankees continued their series with the Rays at Yankee Stadium. “We’re busy enough trying to sort of make sure we’ve got our program set.”’
“I know they’re always looking to get better,” James Paxton said of his superiors. “This is New York. They want to be the best.
“We want to win. They’re going to do whatever they have to do that they think is going to get that done.”’
When the Yankees and other teams do what they have to do to boost their position-playing corps, the transactions produce hard consequences. Edwin Encarnacion came aboard via a trade with the Mariners, and Clint Frazier headed to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
No one will head to the minors if Cashman succeeds (which he very likely will) at landing arms reinforcements. A few obvious, palatable options exist, assuming everyone remains healthy and productive: The Yankees could expand to a six-man starting rotation. They could turn Domingo German, who is on an innings limit, into a bullpen weapon. Or they could use the injured list as comp time to rest CC Sabathia’s right knee, James Paxton’s left knee, Masahiro Tanaka’s right elbow or any other joint that could benefit from a breather.
The postseason is a different animal. Only so many can start a game. Yet that potential reality can’t dictate the Yankees’ current strategy.
“You never know how the game is going to play out with injuries, or the way people start getting used can change,” Happ said. “There’s a lot of variables. So we certainly understand that.”
A generation ago, another high-performing Yankees team negotiated with the Mariners as they contemplated acquiring Randy Johnson in his walk year, 1998, which also happened to be Cashman’s first year in the general manager’s seat. The Yankees exhibited faith in their quintet of David Cone, Orlando Hernandez, Hideki Irabu, Andy Pettitte and David Wells by passing on Johnson and everyone else, too. It worked quite well, that team capturing the title.
Nevertheless, such thinking has gone the way of other 1998 relics like dial-up internet service and Blockbuster Video. With starting pitchers going shorter than ever, with teams regarding the IL as a roster-manipulation device as much as a way to heal the hurting, you simply don’t pass on good pitching. Even if Luis Severino makes it back from his season-long right shoulder and lat woes to contribute by the postseason — far from a sure thing — don’t plan on the Yankees lamenting an abundance of options.
Hence you won’t see these guys sweat.
“I think that’s a good question for the management,” Paxton said in response to a trouble-stirring columnist (OK, it was me) who asked whether he thought the team had enough pitching as is. “I don’t really know. I think we’ve done a great job lately.”
The proper mindset for the current Yankees pitchers, Happ agreed, should be confidence but not defiance.
“If it happens, we’ll welcome anybody,” the veteran lefty said. “And if it doesn’t, we’ll keep going, because we feel like we’re in a good spot either way.”
Besides, Happ added, “I’ve never seen anybody have any say in it, any ways. So they’re going to do what they want to do regardless. We try to focus on ourselves.”
As it must be, especially for pitchers.
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