This is it. This is the roster the Yankees will carry as they pursue their first World Series title since 2009. The trade deadline came and went Wednesday afternoon, and the Yankees made no additions — no standout starting pitchers such as Madison Bumgarner or Trevor Bauer, or relief pitchers like Shane Greene or Ken Giles — to plug the holes in their leaky pitching staff.
While several teams made significant moves this week — none bigger than the Houston Astros’ addition of the star pitcher Zack Greinke just before the deadline on Wednesday — the Yankees made just one minor trade with the Colorado Rockies for a 20-year-old pitching prospect, Alfredo Garcia, in exchange for the Class AAA reliever Joe Harvey.
Although the Yankees, the American League East leaders, improved to 68-39 with Wednesday’s 7-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, their starting pitchers have long been their most glaring weakness. The rotation, which was part of the worst pitching week in franchise history last week, ranked 17th in baseball with a 4.77 earned run average entering Wednesday.
And if not the starting rotation, the Yankees were at least expected to bolster their bullpen, which is among the best in baseball but has shown a few cracks this summer, partly because of the rotation’s struggles.
Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman expressed some frustration, if not regret, on a conference call after the deadline had passed.
“I would say disappointed that I can’t add to what I already have, which I feel good and strong about,” he said.
So even though Yankees’ decision makers, including Cashman and the principal owner Hal Steinbrenner, had publicly stated their desire to add to their pitching staff, they were left pinning their fate largely to hope: that the current crop can improve; that injured pitchers Luis Severino, Dellin Betances and Jonathan Loaisiga return from their injuries; and that their farm system, headlined by the top pitching prospect Deivi Garcia, can help.
Cashman said the Yankees had talked to all 30 teams, except the rival Boston Red Sox, about possible trades. He said the team had weighed the payroll and medical issues of every possible addition, and weighed the cost in prospects it would take to acquire them.
Without specifying players, Cashman said that the Yankees simply didn’t think some would upgrade the team and that others who appeared available weren’t. The Yankees did not come close to making a trade.
“The best play was we did nothing,” he said. “And we did nothing for good reason because we felt that everything that was in front of me really was not obtainable based on the associated costs.
“And that’s with understanding as a buyer you have to step up and overpay. But these were prices that I felt were making things way out of reach and way out of line.”
In the weeks and days leading up to the trade deadline, the Yankees asked about a number of starting pitchers, including Marcus Stroman, Robbie Ray and Bauer, but the supply proved too limited and the asking prices too costly.
Outfielder Clint Frazier and the Yankees’ top prospects, Estevan Florial and Garcia, came up often in rivals’ requests. And the Yankees needed a clear upgrade: a front-line starting pitcher who could eat up a lot of innings and guide them through the playoffs.
The San Francisco Giants, in the thick of the National League wild-card race, traded some relief pitchers but not Bumgarner, one of the best postseason pitchers. The Cleveland Indians did trade Bauer despite being in the thick of the A.L. Central race, to the Cincinnati Reds in a blockbuster three-way trade with the San Diego Padres on Tuesday. But the return for Bauer was significant, including help for their lineup. And the Yankees ultimately weren’t too enthused by Ray.
The Mets, who turned into surprising deadline buyers, added Stroman, and held on to Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler, a pending free agent, to make a run at the playoffs after not receiving the offers they requested for their players. A Mets-Yankees deal was unlikely, though. The two teams have not made a significant trade since 2004, and the Mets believe the Yankees should pay an extra premium for their players.
“This deadline felt different,” Cashman said. “The reasons for that are hard to explain, other than the fact that I’d say most everything was out of reach based on my dialogues. But we stayed at it and tried to see if the prices were going to change.”
The Yankees remain a talented team. Although the Astros may have moved ahead in the eyes of World Series prognosticators, the Yankees have a large cushion in their division standings and have one of the best offenses and bullpens in the A.L.
The mere fact that Yankees have already weathered 24 different players spending time on the injured list this season — several of them stars and some of them with multiple trips there — is a credit to their investment in scouting, analytics, player development and some top free agents. (Though there was only bad news on that front as well: First baseman Luke Voit, who may need surgery for his sports hernia injury, and relief pitcher David Hale joined the I.L. on Wednesday.)
Still, the Yankees haven’t won a World Series title in a decade, and their pitching was a significant factor in their playoff exit last October. It was the motivation for sending a top prospect to Seattle for starter James Paxton, and spending $108 million on signing or re-signing starting pitchers C.C. Sabathia and J.A. Happ and relievers Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino. Masahiro Tanaka, Happ and Paxton have struggled; Sabathia is on the I.L for the third time this year with a chronic knee injury; and Severino hasn’t thrown a pitch this season. Nor has Betances, who could help a bullpen whose top four relief pitchers — Aroldis Chapman, Tommy Kahnle, Britton and Ottavino — are on pace to match or top their career highs in appearances in a season.
The Yankees hope their two injured former All-Stars, Severino and Betances, return soon, for the final push for the playoffs. They will know in October if standing pat was the right move.