Deivi Garcia? Goodbye. Miguel Andujar? See ya. Gio Urshela? Good luck. Clint Frazier? So long. Any young, major-league ready Yankee not named Gleyber Torres? Take care. If it means acquiring Nolan Arenado, it doesn’t matter which prospect goes. It might not be good for baseball that Arenado signed an eight-year, $260 million extension with the Rockies not even a year ago (Feb. 26, 2019) and they’re already trying to get out from under the contract, but it’s good for the Yankees.
A trade for Arenado makes all the sense in the world for the Yankees since they are already close to exceeding the third luxury-tax threshold in their quest to reach the World Series in more than a decade. Yes, they are already the World Series favorite with Urshela at third base coming off the only above-average offensive season of his career and with Andujar returning from season-ending shoulder surgery. But they would be adding the best all-around third baseman in the game in Arenado, for essentially only money, which incase you forgot because the Yankees sometimes forget, is the organization’s greatest resource. Any player or prospect the Yankees would have to add would either be blocked for playing time by the trade, no longer part of the team’s plans anyway, far enough away from the majors to know if they will actually reach the majors or they would be Garcia. And for as excited as I am to see Garcia either in the rotation or in the bullpen, if it means getting Arenado then I’m more than fine with seeing Garcia in the Rockies’ rotation or bullpen.
In Arenado, the Yankees would be getting a career .295/.351/.546 hitter who averages 40 doubles, 36 home runs and 115 RBIs a year, and a defensive third baseman who has never not won the Gold Glove during his seven years in the majors. If you thought Urshela was a breath of fresh air from Andujar with his fielding, Arenado makes Urshela look like Andujar. (Maybe that was a little mean.) Arenado might have inferior career numbers away from Coors Field though it’s hard to find a Rockies hitter who hasn’t experienced similar issues. There was a fear DJ LeMahieu would sink in the American League and away from Coors, and he went out and had a career year playing half his games in Yankee Stadium, finishing fourth for the AL MVP.
As for the Opening Day lineup with Arenado in it, please only keep reading if you have access to a cold shower in the next few minutes:
1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Nolan Arenado, 3B
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
5. Gleyber Torres, SS
6. Gary Sanchez, C
7. Mike Tauchman, LF
8. Luke Voit, 1B
9. Brett Gardner, CF
(Yes, Aaron Boone would bat Voit behind Tauchman to break up the lefties, so he could have some sort of input on the lineup.)
That lineup features a 23-year-old superstar coming off a 38-home run, .871 OPS season batting fifth. It has the best power-hitting hitting catcher who hit 34 home runs in only 106 games last year batting sixth. It has last season’s Opening Day 3-hitter who had a .901 OPS through June 29 before suffering a season-crushing abdomen injury batting eighth. It has Boone’s choice to bat third in the postseason batting ninth. Yes, the last one was a joke, but in reality, anything Gardner gives you, and I mean anything, is a bonus in this order. And whenever Aaron Hicks returns (don’t count on an early return from his surgery rehab timeline), the lineup will be even deeper, which seems impossible. Sure, it’s right-handed heavy, but it’s going to be that way whether Arenado is in it or Urshela or Andujar, so it might as well be with the perennial MVP candidate, All-Star and Silver Slugger.
I can’t help but think the Yankees aren’t done this offseason. Signing Gerrit Cole and re-signing Gardner can’t be all they are going to do to improve, even if signing Cole was the equivalent of signing two front-end starters since it takes him away from their biggest competition in the Astros. I do believe Cole is enough to get the Yankees back to the World Series, but enough has never been enough for the Yankees. Having David Cone and Andy Pettitte didn’t stop them from trading for Roger Clemens, and getting Clemens didn’t stop them from signing Mike Mussina. When they had Pettitte, Clemens and Mussina, it didn’t stop them from bringing David Wells back. A lineup with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano wasn’t enough to prevent them from acquiring Bobby Abreu. Signing CC Sabathia didn’t keep them from also signing A.J. Burnett and then Mark Teixeira, and none of those signings kept them from offering Cliff Lee the most money a couple offseasons later. Two months after the Baby Bombers went to Game 7 of the ALCS and Aaron Judge finished second for AL MVP as a right fielder, they still went out and acquired the NL MVP in Giancarlo Stanton who also plays right field. The Yankees have (nearly) always used their embarrassment of riches in their favor. Have two aces? Go get another one. Have too many bats for not enough lineup spots? Teach one of them to play first base. Have a 6-foot-7, 25-year-old, MVP-candidate right fielder? Trade for a 6-foot-6, 28-year-old, MVP-winning right fielder.
This October will be 11 years since the Yankees last reached the World Series, let alone won it. Their core is entering their prime just as the Red Sox are holding an Everything Must Go! sale, the Rays’ ceiling still isn’t enough, the Blue Jays are a few years away and the Orioles are … well, they’re the Orioles. The division is the Yankees once again and it’s their’s for the foreseeable future. The regular season has become the formality it was from 1995 through 2012, serving as a six-month rehearsal to win 11 games in October. October still might be a crapshoot where nothing is guaranteed and the only thing you can do is put the best possible roster together and hope to get a few timely hits and big outs, but a trade for Arenado would add a few percentage points in the Yankees’ favor before they roll.
When a player like Arenado is made available, you don’t let him go somewhere else. And when a player like Arenado is made available and you’re the odds-on favorite to win the World Series in the middle of a championship window in the middle of a championship drought, you make sure he doesn’t go anywhere else.
The Yankees have the pieces and finances to have a Number 28 batting third and playing third for them on Opening Day as they go for Number 28. Enough isn’t enough.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!