The Yankees need to think about next year. That does not mean surrendering now. Not then, despite all that went wrong this season, did they start just four games out of the second AL wildcard on Tuesday. Not when seven road games against the Red Sox and Rays, which begin Thursday, can change their course.
But the 57 percent of the season played cannot be ruled out. The Yankees ended this period more likely to miss the record season than to do so. If they reach the playoffs, their most likely entry will be the second wild card, ensuring only a sudden death game on the road.
Thus, reality must trump optimism. Those seven games in Boston and Tampa Bay could also go horribly wrong. Thus, they should consider more than 2021 between now and July 30th. Can they add players who help the present but are starting to address what is wrong to make the near future better?
Each challenger follows this strategy. Clubs with controllable players thus place high prices on them, which is why the majority of traded players – like Joc Pederson, who recently went from the Cubs to the Braves – tend to be in their passing years. The players most likely to be traded are free agents, such as the Cubs ‘Kris Bryant and the Marlins’ Starling Marte.
Nevertheless, I would recommend two players that I think the Yankees should try to get who would be under team control beyond 2021 because I think they would improve the team both now and later with their left bat and athletics. But I also use these players as symbols of the direction that the Yankees should be heading:
The Yankees have already asked the twins about Kepler. In fact, Minnesota is a natural place to shop because the twins have such an abundance of friendly hitters. I’ve also heard the Yankees talk about a bunch of these leftists – imagine Luis Arraez, Alex Kirilloff and switch-hitter Jorge Polanco. The Yankees also asked about midfielder Byron Buxton and shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
Minnesota’s focus is on expanding Buxton over the long term, as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported. It is a difficult needle to thread. When Buxton plays, he is among the majors’ best two-way players. But he rarely plays. He’s a much better version of another Twins’ first-round pick, Aaron Hicks. However, as talented as Buxton is (and he is talented), if Minnesota does not fail to expand him and he enters the market, the Yankees should avoid the potential addition of another injury-prone Hicks type.
The twins are also asked about ace Jose Berrios. Like Buxton, he could be a free agent after next year. But Minnesota, MLB’s most disappointing team, will try to win in 2022, so it will consider trading Berrios and Buxton, but wants to make sure to maximize offers for walk-year players like Simmons, Nelson Cruz and Michael Pineda.
Kepler is hardly on a cumbersome contract. Including his 2024 option, there are three years of $ 25.25 million left after this season. So why would the twins consider dealing with him? Because in Arraez, Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach, the left bats to play corner outfield cheaply, can acquire the necessary pitching in return and can reuse Kepler’s dollars for other needs.
Why should the Yankees buy him, especially in the middle of a down season (Kepler hit .207 when the game began Tuesday)? Because he’s 28 and the belief is that he’s more of a 36-homer and .855 OPS player in 2019 than the 2021 version. Because he’s left-leaning and athletic enough to play midfield until a better Yankees idea comes along.
The Royals have been disappointing this year, though not to the extent of the twins. They thought they could be at least 0.500. Instead, they are one last club. Part of the reason for this is that Mondesi has been on the injury list three times, once with a hamstring injury and twice (including at the moment) with a slant. Like Minnesota, Kansas City wants to win as much as possible next year. So why would it consider moving Mondesi?
The Royals learned this year that Nicky Lopez can handle shortstops, and their best prospect, Bobby Witt Jr., is a shortstop promoted to Triple-A to begin the second half. Mondesi can thus be used as a chip to correct other areas.
Mondesi does not fit into the Yankees matrix because he does not draw walks. But one of the 2021 yankees’ problems is how one-dimensional and sleepy they are. Just having Greg Allen and Ryan LaMarre, for example, run the bases aggressively on Sunday against Boston was different and energetic.
Mondesi can really run and is a switchhitter with untapped power potential. He turns 26 next week and cannot be a free agent until after the 2023 season. He has just had a career of 89 OPS-plus. Didi Gregroius was 88 when the Yankees made an upward shortstop play.
There is a 10-triple, 20-homer, 30-steal, defensive gem level in Mondesi that could allow the Yankees to move Gleyber Torres to second place (I think part of Torres’ frame problems this year stem from take on full-time shortstop burden) and DJ LeMahieu to first. It’s a much better defensive team.
Like the twins, the Royals have concentrated on moving vintages, even though left-hander Danny Duffy went to IL on Tuesday with a flexor load that hurts that goal.
Kansas City is not forced to trade Mondesi, which is approx. 10-14 days from the return from IL. However, the Yankees should force the team’s hands on players who upgrade them now and really start to change the dynamics of a redundant list.