It is not often that teams sitting toward the bottom of the division could justify buying at the trade deadline, but that is not the case with the longtime rivals the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
Thanks to the expanded playoff format, both teams have a legitimate chance to reach the postseason, and as the Phillies showed last year once you’re in, anything is possible.
For the Yankees, who are sitting in fifth place in the American League East, the argument for buying goes something like this
First, the team is about to be as healthy as it has been all year. Free agent signing Carlos Rodon is off of the injured list and is rounding into form. Even more importantly, though, is Aaron Judge’s impending return from the IL.
While his toe injury was thought to sideline well into August and possibly for the rest of the season, the slugger has remained ahead of schedule and is set to give a much-needed boost to an offense whose struggles without him have been well documented.
Additionally, the team’s core is built to win now. The Yankees simply are not in a position to punt on this season and look to the future, as they have an enormous amount of money tied up into stars like Cole, Stanton, Judge, Rizzo and Rodon who are in the prime of their careers, and cannot afford to take future success for granted.
This team needs to push their chips in and try to win a championship before this window closes, and that means going all in at the deadline.
One potential trade target that has been connected to the Yankees is Jordan Hicks. Hicks has posted a solid 3.67 ERA through 40 appearances for the Cardinals, and would likely be a relatively inexpensive addition for the Yankees. Reliable bullpen arms are often moved at deadline time as teams try to increase their ability to lock down wins as the pressure of the playoff push mounts in August and September.
Jeimer Candelario is another name that has been linked to the Yankees, with the hope that the corner infielder could bring some life to the team’s listless offense. Like the Cardinals, the Nationals have struggled this season, and Candelario likely does not fit the organization’s timeline to compete, and they would be wise to get value for him before he hits free agency this offseason.
A third potential target for the Yankees that could be considered a “best case scenario” would be acquiring Cody Bellinger. The former MVP has been one of the best players in baseball this season, and with the Cubs on the fringe of the playoff picture they could certainly get quite the prospect haul for Bellinger.
For the Yankees, adding an above-average left-handed bat with the short porch in right would be a massive help to the offense, and Bellinger’s defensive prowess in the outfield would fill a massive need. Whether or not this deal gets done will likely come down to how aggressive the Yankees want to be at the deadline, and if they have the prospect capital to acquire Bellinger’s services.
The story for the Red Sox, who currently sit in fourth place in the American League East and just a game and a half out of the Wild Card, is a bit different.
Just a month ago the thought of Boston buying seemed ludicrous, but the team has gotten hot at the right time. They took care of business during a weak stretch in their schedule around the All-Star Break, and just made a major statement with a sweep of the World Series favorite Atlanta Braves.
The team is uniquely positioned in that they could both buy and sell simultaneously as they have veterans like Adam Duvall, James Paxton, and Chris Martin on expiring deals. Boston fans have been waiting for the next wave of young talent in Marcello Mayer, Nick York, and Cedanne Raphaela (all with an ETA of next season) to join Raphael Devers, Triston Casa, Brayan Bello, and Jarren Duran to create the core of the next World Series winner in Boston.
Just looking at this, one would think the team should sell off their impending free agents and gear up for a soon-to-be-open championship window.
However, the team’s recent success, coupled with the impending returns of Trevor Story, Chris Sale, Garrett Whitlock, and Tanner Houck, means they could very realistically compete this year.
The offense and bullpen have both been outstanding for Boston, and as patience runs thin with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, he may be inclined to try to get into the postseason this year without mortgaging the future.
This tightrope of taking advantage of current success while keeping an eye towards a very bright future is why many Sox fans are clamoring for a young, cost-controlled starter who could help both now or in the future, a la Dylan Cease.
The cost of such a player, though, may be too steep to justify the move, and reports indicate he’s off the market.
That said, Adam Duvall is an ideal trade candidate as there has been a log-jam in the outfield with Alex Verdugo, Durran, Masataka Yoshida, and Duvall all vying for at-bats. With Duvall the least likely to be a part of the team’s future, the Red Sox could trade the outfielder while still helping this season’s team.
Both the Minnesota Twins and Miami Marlins could be ideal trade candidates, as both have a surplus of starting pitching, which is by far the Red Sox biggest weakness, and are desperate for offense. A trade with either the Twins or the Marlins could help solidify both parties as legitimate playoff contenders.
As the deadline approaches, it will be incredibly exciting to see how these longtime rivals and perennial powerhouses view both their current roster and future potential. With fan bases that are accustomed to winning and legitimate justifications for making a splash at the deadline, don’t be surprised if both the Red Sox and Yankees are major players come August 1st.