Even with the type of offseason that the New York Yankees had, in which they prioritized upgrades to their starting pitching rotation, it looks as though the injury bug may be pushed them to the trade market already.
According to a New York Post report, the Yankees have inquired with their in-state rivals, the New York Mets, on a potential deal that would involve sending southpaw starter Steven Matz across town to the Bronx. While any deal between the two teams that play each year in the ‘Subway Series’ would be a very interesting twist on the very young 2020 MLB season, it would also be a slight signal about how each team feels about their current roster makeup.
For the Yankees, even with the type of minor-league depth that they have in their rotation, adding Matz to their team would officially cement their chances at being the team to beat in the American League, even with how the injury bug continues to rear its ugly head for the Pinstripes.
Any sort of trade package would take away from the stout minor-league system that the Yankees have assembled, and a likely piece in that deal would most certainly be outfielder Clint Frazier, who continues to find himself on the outside looking in, in terms of securing a 25-man roster slot. While more than Frazier would be needed, for the team to at least have that type of piece to build around in any potential deal is very important, as it would help mitigate any sort of a large loss that they could incur with any trade deal.
With rotation stud Luis Severino out for the rest of the season with Tomm surgery needed, the team is in dire need of another starter to help fill the void. And with lefty James Paxton fighting through elbow issues, Gerrit Cole may be asked to carry much more of the load than originally imagined.
Masahiro Tanaka is still a solid middle-rotation arm for manager Aaron Boone to roll out every fifth day, but his contributions may not lend themselves to become the Robin to the Batman that is Cole. Strapped of cash and in need of shoring up a part of their roster that has taken a very quick nose dive, the Yankees are not in a very enviable position.
On the Mets side of this, any sort of deal that would move Matz, which would come at a very interesting time of the season, would show their confidence in free-agent signee Michael Wacha, who is trying to earn a rotational spot after spending most of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals. Wacha was more of an under-the-radar acquisition this offseason, which helped the Mets keep a contract for Wacha low (one year, $3 million).
Any sort of help that Wacha could provide to the Mets is not on the same level as what Matz could, so the Yankees would be getting the better of the deal, at least on paper, unless they were to throw a boatload of prospects the way of the Mets, which is highly unlikely.
Talks at this point in the season should be considered exploratory at most, especially with it not being super close to cutdown time for big-league rosters. As Spring Training progresses on and the players who are fighting for roster spots are ironed out, the Yankees may be smarter to wait until then and acquire at least a stop-gap option for pennies on the dollar, instead of shelling out now for a player that still has time to get injured (hopefully not, but with the luck that the Yankees have been having this offseason, anything is on the table).
Of the teams that control this deal, the Mets hold the bargaining chips, especially with how desperate the Yankees probably will become as their outlook on their rotation grows less and less confident as the calendar changes. Matz is a solid player to add that would immediately help address their injury concerns, yet it would also make them pay a pretty penny just to bring him over into pinstripes.
Besides the inclusion of Frazier, the Yankees would most likely need to include 1-2 more prospects, depending on how highly they are ranked. With their perceived unwillingness to give up too many big pieces, especially after how hard they worked to get their farm system to the level that it is currently on, a deal may be hard to find, especially with how difficult the Yankees can be in terms of trade negotiations.
April 10, 2018, marks the last time that these two teams agreed upon a trade, and while that deal amounted to practically nothing for both sides. The Yankees received Kendall Coleman, who was released three months after the deal, and the Mets received L.J. Mazzilli, who was released the following March.
A deal that would include Matz would obviously rank a bit higher on the scale of importance, regardless of what time during the season it would occur. And while the actuality of any trade involving these two teams with Matz as the centerpiece remains very unlikely, the fact that they are even having the conversation is intriguing enough.
While the rotation that already needs to try to replace the production of Zack Wheeler is desperately counting on Matz to help in that regard, the loss of Matz would not necessarily be the biggest hurt that could happen. If the return package of prospects could be counted on, at least one of them, right away in 2020, in a high amount, then they may be the team that would win this deal.
In no way, shape or form should the Mets just give away Matz to the Yankees or any other team, but we have seen in the past (see the Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz blockbuster deal) that they are willing to step out onto a limb and make a move that no one saw coming.