On Thursday, the Yankees missed out on their chance to sign lefty starter Dallas Keuchel. As the old song goes, you can’t always get what you want, but…you might get what you need. That’ll be the case for the Yankees, right? I’m not so sure, given that what we as fans wanted and what the Yankees as a team need are one in the same.
It appears the Yankees passed on Keuchel, who was available for only money, over…money. A very small amount of money. $1-2 million, according to that tweet, given that Keuchel signed with the Braves for $13M. I cannot stress enough how frustrating this is, especially because the Yankees’ negotiation tactic was essentially take it or leave it. In saving money as they did this offseason by not signing Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Patrick Corbin, or Keuchel, the Yankees have once again forgone their biggest advantage in today’s baseball landscape: their financial clout. And what did they get for it? Literally and figuratively nothing. There’s still a rotation hole to be filled and there are two paths to doing so.
The first is to wait for the cavalry of Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery. That plan is just plain bad, as talented as those two are. There’s really no need to explain anymore as to why waiting on injured pitchers is bad strategy.
The second is to make a trade. Already, some trade candidates–or the idea of them–have emerged: mainly Marcus Stroman, Madison Bumgarner, and (pipe dream) Max Scherzer. Those pitchers are all very talented and any team would and should want them. But when it will cost prospects to get them when you could’ve had an (almost) equal alternative for money makes the idea less attractive and the pill harder to swallow. There’s a touch of irony here because the Yankees seemed to want to avoid a bidding war by standing so firm in their demand for Keuchel. Do they think there won’t be other contenders vying for those pitchers? Do they think there won’t be a prospect bidding war for pitchers as valuable and well-regarded as Stroman, Bumgarner, and Scherzer? I would prefer they hold firm on prospect cost than on financial cost, but to think they’ll ‘scape the brawl of a bidding war just because it’s not financial seems…naive. To compound the matter, the Yankees’ most attractive trade chip is Clint Frazier, an outfielder.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the Yankees’ three best outfielders have all missed major time on the IL at least once in the last two seasons. Considering the other non-Frazier outfielder is a mid-30’s player who may be gone after this year, trading your best piece of future outfield depth seems unwise when there was an alternative that, if taken, would have/could have avoided that necessity. Some may argue that the Yankees are good about knowing which prospects to trade and which not to trade, but how many of those that they don’t miss have had stretches like what Frazier is having now?
As an aside, it’s very telling that the Yankee-related media was so quick to vilify Clint Frazier last week yet won’t move a foot to seek a foe in the Yankees for not improving the team in the easiest possible way.
Dallas Keuchel isn’t going to be the 2015 version of himself again and I understand that. Players who don’t have a traditional spring may struggle to adapt and I understand that. Keuchel may fall flat on his face with the Braves and could’ve done so with the Yankees and I understand that. But that risk is one worth taking, certainly more so than trading a useful piece for today and tomorrow when the targets in question could work out poorly, too.
With how they acted in the offseason, this move is hardly surprising. But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. There was a clear opportunity for the Yankees to get a valuable piece for the second half via their biggest advantage and they passed. This is still a good team without Keuchel, but it would be better with him and without the extra $2M that the Braves put in.