Trade rumors are hardly reliable. In fact, the truth about which teams are interested in acquiring which players is often the opposite of what the public hears. So, take with a grain of salt what the New York Yankees are supposedly saying about the San Francisco Giants as a potential trade partner this month.
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But it’s worth exploring because the Giants’ greatest need heading into the season’s stretch is in the bullpen. The Yankees, who are likely to be sellers during this Aug. 1 trade season, notably have some extraordinary relievers available: Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller.
Word is that the Yankees don’t think the Giants have the quality of prospects necessary to entice them into sending either Chapman or Miller to the Bay Area. If true, this stance is rather telling of why the Yankees, despite the most resources of any North American franchise, have struggled lately to compete, while the Giants have won three World Series trophies this decade—largely with players they have developed in their own minor league system.
Now, I’m not a general manager of a Major League baseball team. However, if I were, and my organization was struggling to develop young players, I would look at the teams that are successful in that area and
The Giants probably don’t have a Buster Posey or Madison Bumgarner in the farm system right now, but they have at least four prospects with significant Major League potential. Two of those are the Giants’ first-round picks from 2015.
Chris Shaw, a hulking left-handed first baseman, was recently promoted to Double-A, after ripping 22 doubles and 16 home runs in advanced Single-A. The 22-year-old batted .285 in 72 games for San Jose, and is now hitting .311 through 11 games with Richmond—in notoriously difficult-for-hitters Easter League. The Yankees have no legitimate prospects at first base, nor do they have left-handed power hitters coming up through their farm system—a shame, considering how short right field is at Yankee Stadium.
Shaw’s draft-classmate, pitcher Phil Bickford, excelled at Single-A Augusta earlier this year, when he struck out more than a batter per inning while holding a 2.70 ERA through 60 innings. Since being promoted to San Jose a couple weeks ago, Bickford has been even better. In three starts, he has posted a 1.59 ERA, while striking out 25 batters and allowing just 11 base runners in 17 innings. Besides Luis Severino, the Yankees have a few interesting pitching prospects, but none as talented Bickford.
They also don’t have anyone, again besides Severino, as talented as Tyler Beede. After a slow start to the season, Beede has dominated over the past couple months in Double-A, posting a 1.94 ERA in his last 10 starts.
The Giants’ best prospect, Christian Arroyo, doesn’t have a clear path to the Big Leagues, since he plays shortstop (home of Brandon Crawford) and third base (Matt Duffy’s domain, for now). Even if he were to move to second base (where Joe Panik is firmly entrenched), starting for the Giants wouldn’t be in his near future. So, Arroyo should be available and of great interest to potential trade partners.
If the Yankees don’t see value in the Giants’ prospects or recognize that the Giants’ winning ways have a lot to do with their talent evaluation and development—and thus it would behoove them to dip into San Francisco’s treasure trove, then they are welcome to continue in their cycle of overpaying aging veterans to compensate for their failures in talent development.
That, of course, is if the rumor is valid. It might not be, and the Yankees may indeed be open to trading with the Giants. But if I were to bet, I’d say there is truth to it. Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has done little in his 18 years on the job to suggest that talent development is his forte. Plus, he seems more likely to be drawn to the flashy four-star recruit with raw talent, rather than the understated prospect equipped with the more important (but harder to identify) intangibles and baseball acumen.
If the Yankees truly feel this way, the Giants will find a good fit or two elsewhere to help them chase a fourth title in seven years.