The July 31st non-waiver trading deadline came and went for the New York Yankees, and all they had to show for it was the now-injured infielder/outfielder, Dustin Ackley, for a pair of minor leaguers. That was when the Bronx Bombers still had a sizable lead on the current first place team, the Toronto Blue Jays, who came back on the Texas Rangers last night to overtake the Yankees, and regain control of the AL East. The Yankees? Ivan Nova gave up five first-inning runs and they were never in the game, losing 15-1 to the AL West leaders, the Houston Astros.
Add in the recent knee injury (heard that one before?) to former staff ace, CC Sabathia, and the Yankees are reeling with five-plus weeks remaining in the regular season. Brendan Kuty of NJ.com wrote a couple of days ago that Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman seems comfortable keeping the current roster as is, and doesn’t expect to make any waiver deadline deals as the end of the month approaches. This is where Cashman and Co. need to change direction. While it’s admirable that New York didn’t part with any top minor league talent to acquire the likes of Cole Hamels, Scott Kazmir, etc., the Yankees are now working from a position of need. The answer? San Diego Padres’ right-hander James Shields.
There, I said it. The elephant in the room is now out in the open. Shields, who currently sits at 9-5, with a 3.74 ERA isn’t the ace the Padres thought they were signing when they handed him a four-year deal with a fifth-year option, totaling $75 million dollars before either a $16 million dollar option kicks in during year five, or a $2 million dollar buyout. So why on earth would the Yankees take on that kind of salary? The math is simple: the starting rotation is battered and worn out, having lost Michael Pineda (who can return this week from the disabled list after a forearm injury), and Sabathia (who says he’ll go to the bullpen if necessary.) One thing about Shields, he’s a workhorse. A second thing, he’s a veteran of the AL East wars from his time in Tampa with the Rays.
Shields was placed on waivers by the Padres, and nobody dared to put in a claim because of the money owed. San Diego and GM A.J. Preller would be more than happy to unload that deal, one in which Shields will start making $21 mil per as early as next season. While Shields isn’t an ace by any means, he could be the rotation difference between the Yankees finding their footing, and seizing control of the AL East in the season’s final month, and having to play in a Wild Card game, one that if they lose, will send them packing for the season. The Yankees would owe Shields, if acquired before the deadline, a prorated amount of $10 mil this season, and a guaranteed $61 mil over the next three. If Shields has gone over the cliff by then, a $2 mil buyout ends the deal. It can’t be any worse than the $50-plus mil still owing to Sabathia, who has the worst ERA among all qualified starting pitchers in the big leagues. The Yankees aren’t giving up elite minor league talent to get a deal done, and there are no elite, Luis Severino-type arms waiting on the farm to help rescue the team at this point.
The math is simple: pay for Shields now and in the future, keep your prospects, and have a legit chance to win the division now, or stand pat, and watch a successful season go down the drain because Cashman sat on his hands and did nothing.