New York Yankees' J.A. Happ delivers a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals, Sunday, July 29, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

[Opinion] Yankees Had One of the Best Deadlines in Baseball

The New York Yankees made a handful of moves before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and they did all of this without giving up any of the top prospects, which is incredible to think about considering whom they went after.

Brian Cashman and company could have easily just released the hounds and traded for Manny Machado and Chris Archer (both were linked to the Yankees at some point before they were each traded elsewhere). However, thinking about the team’s future, Cashman decided otherwise.

However, the Yankees were still able to make a handful of meaningful trades to add to their big league roster. Cashman went after arguably the best reliever on the trade market in Zach Britton and dealt three players to the division rival Baltimore Orioles who may not have had roles in the Yankees future— Cody Carroll, who just got promoted by the Orioles, Josh Rogers, and Dillon Tate. All three would have had to be exposed in the Rule 5 draft if they were not placed on the 40-man roster before the Winter Meetings.

New York Yankees’ Zach Britton delivers a pitch during the eighth inning of the team’s baseball game against the Kansas City Royals on Thursday, July 26, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Baltimore got a solid return for Britton — a guy that had a sub-0.60 ERA two years ago and only has a few months left on his contract. The Yankees could afford to make these moves. They’re not going to miss the guys they gave up for him.

There are a plethora of other players in the minor-league system that warrant a place on the 40-man roster before the annual Rule 5 draft in December. Those guys stayed in the organization in what seemed like the theme of this deadline for Cashman.

Still, Cashman went out and acquired a guy that would fortify their bullpen. Making four guys in the Yankees bullpen that could close games (including the team’s closer Aroldis Chapman, and right-handed set-up men David Robertson and Dellin Betances).

A few days later, “Hug Watch” was back on in the Yankees organization. The Yankees announced a deal that many felt was destined to happen, as they received J.A. Happ from the Toronto Blue Jays, striking another deal with an American League East rival. Happ went to New York in return for two major-league ready players — Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney.

New York Yankees’ Miguel Andujar (41) hits a three-run home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles Tuesday, July 31, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Drury lost his starting job at third base with the Yankees when he went on the disabled list with severe migraines. The legend of Miguel Andujar began after that. When Drury was healthy enough to return from the disabled list, he was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Even with his Triple-A All-Star numbers in Moosic, Drury did not factor into the Yankees’ plans on the big league squad. That made him expendable.

McKinney made his big league debut earlier this season, before going down with a shoulder injury (which coincidentally occurred in Toronto). He never really had a shot of making a difference in New York with an outfield consisting of Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner, along with the obvious regulars Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Even if one of those guys went down, Clint Frazier was the next guy up. Like Drury, McKinney was expendable, and McKinney probably would not be on the 40-man roster this offseason.

Happ was often labeled as the best available rental starter on the trade market ahead of the deadline. The Yankees were not willing to trade their top prospects for a guy like Chris Archer, who has not shown that he would be better than a number three starter in the Yankees rotation. They certainly were not going to get Jacob deGrom.

New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom could have been a force to reckon with in the top of the Yankees pitching rotation if the Yankees were able to trade for him. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

All the Yankees had to do was give up guys who did not have spots on their major-league roster. Again, nothing lost for Cashman.

Then started the numerous deals to clear even more 40-man roster spots, and to obtain international signing bonus money. First came the expendable relievers on the Yankees’ 40-man roster — Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos. Shreve had fallen out of favor in New York and had been made expendable with the addition of left-hander Zach Britton. Gallegos was a frequent rider of the Scranton Shuttle this season, being that he was a member of the 40-man roster and had options to spare. He had sub-par results as a reliever in his time in the big leagues and was only average at Triple-A for the RailRiders.  Both were traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for minor-league first baseman Luke Voit and international signing bonus money.

The Yankees got more international signing bonus money the next day when they traded minor-league reliever Caleb Frare, who had a 0.62 ERA in 31 games out of the bullpen with Double-A Trenton, to the Chicago White Sox. The Yankees favored another lefty reliever in their organization — Stephen Tarpley, a guy with a 1.83 between Double-A and Triple-A — over guys like Shreve and Frare, so those guys were expendable. Plus, Tarpley has to be put on the 40-man roster this winter to save him from likely being lost in the Rule 5 draft.

New York Yankees relief pitcher Lance Lynn delivers against the Baltimore Orioles during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

The day before the trade deadline, the Yankees traded Tyler Austin, who could not find regular at-bats at the major league level, and minor-league right-hander Luis Rijo to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Lance Lynn.

Lynn, who had struggled early on in 2018, had been performing well heading into the trade and can serve either as a starting pitcher or a multi-inning reliever. After a solid debut for the Yankees the other day, coming in after Sonny Gray struggled, Yankees manager Aaron Boone announced that Lynn is replacing Gray in the rotation. That makes this trade even bigger.

The emergence of A.J. Cole made another guy in the Yankees bullpen expendable — Adam Warren, who was in the final year of a $3.3 million contract with the organization.

What did Cashman do with him? He traded him to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for, you guessed it, more international signing bonus money. Even with his solid numbers on the year, Warren had not been that great in the past couple weeks, and Cole had broken onto the scene as a reliable multi-inning reliever for the Yankees. Also, Cole has a history of starting, so he could do that if the Yankees were in dire, dire need.

The acquisition of Lynn was to initially have him come out of the bullpen since his stuff would play up with him getting ground ball after ground ball. Cashman chose Lynn and Cole over Warren, plus Lynn would make a better starter if the Yankees needed him, and with the downfall of Sonny Gray, they do need the veteran.

Cashman did not just turn all of these guys that they traded for international signing bonus into just money values. They announced three international signings the other day — Cuban 16-year-old right-handed pitcher Osiel Rodriguez (top international amateur pitcher, per Baseball America) and 16-year-old shortstop Alexander Vargas (No. 8 overall international amateur prospects, per MLB.com), along with Venezuelan 16-year-old Jose Chambuco.  All of them acquired with the bonus money they got during the deadline.

The Yankees’ top prospect lists everywhere are primarily made up of young, international teenagers at the top — guys like Estevan Florial, Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo Acevedo, Albert Abreu and Luis Medina. Cashman is just adding to the crop of international talent.

These guys they managed to sign would not be possible without the money they acquired for guys that likely would be removed from the 40-man roster this winter. Cashman essentially swapped the fringe 40-man roster guys out for teenage prospects, an impact reliever, a middle-of-the-rotation veteran starter, a serviceable starter/possible long man and depth at the first base spot.

Cashman still made the team better, without sacrificing their best prospects. Though they might not be World Series contenders, they will be in the years to come. It might not be the sexiest deadline in the world, but Cashman did the best thing that he possibly could.

Yankees fans everywhere are used to the organization going all-in as they did during the George Steinbrenner era. However, this is now Brian Cashman’s team, and he’s smarter than that. He still wants to win championships, but he also wants to build for the future. Cashman did just that in July.