Yesterday, I dug into Brian Cashman for waiting too long to make a move and looking desperate at the trade deadline, but August might actually be this team’s best bet to find the right player. Yes, the team has added Alfonso Soriano and Curtis Granderson over the last two weeks, and may possibly add Alex Rodriguez on Monday, but they still lack a respectable catcher and a right-handed first baseman. The trade deadline might be over, but August opens up an interesting time of year where selling teams can start shedding money.
Baseball only has one previous season under its belts since the new CBA, but after watching the flurry of moves in August of last year, July may no longer be the trade season. The introduction of the new CBA and a second wild card has dramatically altered the non-waiver trade deadline, and now the previous two July 31st’s have been extraordinarily quiet. With two months of baseball remaining and tight playoff races, there are many more buyers than sellers in late July. Likewise, the change in rules for draft pick compensation means that teams trading for talented soon-to-be free agents won’t get compensated by issuing a qualifying offer in the Fall. There’s much less incentive to sell on July 31st, so obviously there is much less being offered, but what about August?
MLB Trade Rumors posted their annual summary of August trades yesterday, and for anyone that is confused or doesn’t understand how trades work this month, I highly recommend this quick read. Basically, a team must put their players through revocable waivers before being traded. If they clear waivers, the player can be traded anywhere. If they’re claimed by one team, they can be traded to only that team, or given up and the salary dumped on the claimer. If they’re claimed by multiple teams, priority goes to the team with the worst record in the same division. If a team decides they don’t want to trade away their player, they simply remove their player from the waiver wire.
So why is this a good time for the Yankees to strike? On July 31st, the Yankees obviously had a number of needs that other teams identified. Cashman complained, although he was extremely active, he couldn’t find the right partner. Chances are, teams were engaging Cashman due to his obvious desperation for offense, but asked for far too much knowing the thin market. Now that there is a process to trade players, teams that wish to deal do not have the leverage of finding competitive offers. For instance, if the Yankees were to win the claim on Alex Rios, Vice President Kenny Williams or GM Rick Hahn would have to deal exclusively with Cashman or Rios won’t be traded.
With the Yankees still in a playoff hunt, and with the 4th worst record in the AL East, the team is actually in good shape to win some waiver claims. Though it’s unlikely they’ll win claims from anyone highly sought after in the National League, the Yankees and Royals are probably the best bets to win waiver claims in the American League. Both teams enter August as possible buyers, and both teams have low .500 records.
But despite the perception of the team now being frugal, the Yankees should theoretically have money to spend. Unlike the Royals, the Yankees lost a majority of their costly starters to injury. I’m not sure if and how much insurance is covered for guys like Curtis Granderson, Kevin Youkilis, or Alex Rodriguez, but we do have confirmation that the team has around $19 million covered for Mark Teixeira‘s lost season. Even if Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano were picked up on this $19 million, the team should have around $6 million left, plus whatever they get back from insurance on the other players.
So with plenty of money to spend and a good waiver claim spot, the Yankees could be looking at a number of players that were unavailable in July. It might take some time for teams to realize that they’re sellers, but the Mariners’ Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez, or Kendrys Morales could easily reach the Yankees. Justin Morneau and Paul Konerko should have no problem slipping to them as well, but there are always surprises too. Last year, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez not only slipped, but they fell all the way to the National League Dodgers. If indeed Alex Rodriguez is suspended, the Yankees could be looking at a ton of payroll that they could add for this year and beyond, and with a thin free agent market, the Dodgers have proved that the sky is the limit when you have wheelbarrows full of cash in August.