Vicenarian Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has been known for brilliant moves throughout his tenure as the team builder of the premier franchise in sports, especially in the past three years. Acquiring the burgeoning Gleyber Torres for literally nothing, purchasing defensive juggernaut Gio Urshela from the Blue Jays last August, trading dispensable relievers for the Herculean Luke Voit to perhaps finally resolve the team’s perennial futility at first base, and so forth.
What about other blasts from the past? Who could forget the David Justice trade, perhaps the greatest deadline maneuver of Cashman’s career? Or A-Rod, who, despite his blatant transgressions on and off the diamond, was no doubt a major success in pinstripes in the grand scheme of things? Nick Swisher? The list goes on.
But, for all of the great transactions that the veteran Cashman has made, a black mark appears on one position in particular: starting pitching.
Especially with even more precariousness surrounding Luis Severino, this team must do something it has not done in a long time: get a true ace pitcher in his prime. The last time Cashman did that, one could argue, was 20 years ago, when he traded away fan-favorite David Wells, along with Homer Bush and Graeme Lloyd.
Cashman had a chance to get incumbent Red Sox ace southpaw Chris Sale, until Boston swooped in and got him. Yes, the Red Sox traded their top prospect at the time, Yoan Moncada, but it culminated in a 108-win season and a World Series title.
The Yankees also directly succumbed to a non-move two Octobers ago, when Justin Verlander went 2-0 against the Yankees in the ALCS with a 0.56 ERA. The Astros traded three prospects who were listed in their top 11 at the time, and what happened? They won the World Series. Noticing a pattern yet?
The century-long rivals of the Yankees won their fourth championship in fourteen years last year, and the Astros finally won their first World Series, both teams having done so despite gambling with prized prospects. The idea that a Marcus Stroman (whose numbers at Yankee Stadium are nauseating, and whether he has the wherewithal to perform in October), a Matthew Boyd or a Mike Minor can give this team a defining edge seems ill-conceived.
Then, there’s Madison Bumgarner. Yes, he is not having his best season, although his 2.40 ERA in his last three starts is encouraging. A lot of folks in the industry feel his best days are behind him, but pundits and fans said the same thing about Justin Verlander prior to his trade, when his numbers with the Tigers in 2017 (3.82 ERA, 4.07 FIP) were hardly gaudy. Bumgarner is a rental, yes; and yes, the Yankees’ brass has been openly averse about rental pitchers this year. But with CC Sabathia, Brett Gardner and Austin Romine (the latter being less of a possibility of being gone) nearing the end of their time in pinstripes, and with Didi Gregorius in search of a deal soon, coupled with Dellin Betances’s future up in the air, that represents a $36 million opening for the Yankees to sign Bumgarner should they trade for him.
Of course, the perfect target is Mr. Maxwell M. Scherzer. Brian Cashman has stated that he wants a pitcher with multiple years of control, and Scherzer’s contract does not expire until after 2021. Yes, the Nationals are currently the top wild card team in the National League right now, but they are simply not good enough to get past the Dodgers, as no team in the Senior Circuit is. Getting Scherzer would warrant a hefty price, yes; one that would almost certainly include Estevan Florial, Clint Frazier and Deivi Garcia, or a package that would include one of them. But if Brian Cashman wants to put his team over the top, redeem the team after last year’s ALDS fiasco, and solidify his legacy as a top executive in the game, then this move must be made.
The past two World Series champions gave up a lot to build championship-winning teams. The Yankees still have a deep farm system ripe with talent, not to mention that they just signed the top international prospect, who has drawn comparisons to Mike Trout. Your move, Brian Cashman.