The Yankees and Twins, two American League powers, staged a memorable three-game battle in Minnesota this week. This round went to the Yankees, who took two of three in an offense-driven set that saw the Bombers live up to their name in outscoring the Twins 30-27.
While the Yankees are now a major league-best 66-35, they’re surely not thrilled with the way their somewhat maligned pitching staff performed against the high-powered Twins. Starters C.C. Sabathia, Domingo German and J.A. Happ were among Yankees hurlers who took beatings, which could intensify the club’s efforts to improve its rotation before the July 31 trade deadline. That remains general manager Brian Cashman’s primary focus, according to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com.
Over the past several weeks, the Yankees have been connected to just about every top starter potentially available – including the Indians’ Trevor Bauer, the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, and the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler.
Bauer is near the top of the Yankees’ wish list, per Hoch, who reports they “would love” to see Cleveland make him available. Indians general manager Mike Chernoff seemingly hasn’t closed the door on a Bauer trade, but parting with him would be an unexpected move from a Tribe team that has overcome a difficult start to climb into playoff position. The Indians are 59-42, two games up on the AL’s No. 1 wild-card spot and just two back of the Twins, thanks in part to Bauer. The 28-year-old has racked up a major league-high 152 1/3 innings of 3.49 ERA/4.19 FIP pitching with 10.58 K/9 against 3.49 BB/9.
Like Bauer, Bumgarner’s perhaps an indispensable piece to a team that has emerged as a playoff hopeful. Bumgarner looked like a surefire trade candidate all season until the red-hot Giants won 17 of 21 in recent weeks. They’re currently 52-51 and three back of a wild card. The future of Bumgarner, a Giants icon, looks much more up in the air as a result. Regardless, it doesn’t seem as if Bumgarner – who has the Yankees on his limited no-trade list – is New York’s preferred choice. “Yankees people are said to be less enthused with” Bumgarner than Bauer, Hoch writes.
Meanwhile, Hoch relays that the belief is the Mets are uninterested in dealing with the crosstown rival Yankees at all, no matter what they might offer for Syndergaard or Wheeler. That would be unfortunate for the Yankees, who may be the team with the most interest in Syndergaard and would reportedly be willing to trade their premier prospect, Deivi Garcia, for him. As a soon-to-be free agent who’s about to return from a multi-week absence stemming from a shoulder injury, Wheeler has far less trade value than Syndergaard. Andy Martino of SNY reported three weeks ago that the Mets were open to sending Wheeler – then healthy – to the Bronx, but that might not be the case after all.
Even if the Yankees don’t end up with Bauer, Bumgarner, Syndergaard or Wheeler, they do seem likely to strengthen their rotation this month. After Minnesota shredded its staff this week, New York’s starters rank a middling to worse 15th in ERA, 16th in fWAR and 21st in FIP. Nobody from the group has produced truly great numbers, either. Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and German have posted low-four ERAs with aligning peripherals, while Sabathia and Happ have performed like back-end options at best.
One would be remiss to ignore that the Yankees have gone without their ace – Luis Severino – all season because of shoulder and lat injuries. While the Yankees are hopeful the star righty will return in mid to late August, which could provide an enormous boost, it’s unknown whether Severino will be able to go full bore at any point this year. Cashman suggested two weeks ago that Severino could max out at 75 pitches or even work as a reliever. Severino’s ongoing absence has thrown a massive wrench in the Yankees’ plans this year, and it could have a big hand in the club landing an outside starter.