Let’s be honest: The Texas Rangers aren’t going to the playoffs. At 20-32, their chances of playing meaningful baseball in October are extremely thin, meaning they’ll likely be sellers as the Major League Baseball trade deadline approaches. The most notable player poised to be included in trade rumors and speculation is lefty Cole Hamels, and if Texas is willing to wheel and deal, the New York Yankees should look to acquire Hamels.
The Yankees currently own the second-best record in baseball (31-15) which initially makes acquiring a premier starter or player such as Hamels sound silly. But manager Aaron Boone‘s starting rotation has been inconsistent outside of righty Luis Severino — who is arguably one of the five best starters in baseball. Righties Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray have been difficult to rely on. Tanaka currently owns a 4.95 ERA and hasn’t pitched seven innings in any of his 10 starts this season. He’s getting hit hard early in games, is on track to surrender a career-high in walks, and is not overpowering anyone on the hill. The same goes for Gray, but to a worse extent.
Besides his stellar outing in Kansas City last Sunday where he surrendered just one run in eight innings, Gray has been one of the worst starting pitchers in MLB. The righty owns an abysmal 5.48 ERA and 1.63 WHIP, and is a major area of concern for the Yankees. He’s surrendered 25 walks, recorded just 37 strikeouts, and has gotten through five innings in just four of his nine starts this season; Gray hasn’t been what the Yankees acquired him to be at last year’s trade deadline.
While he owns a respectable 3.55 ERA, lefty C.C. Sabathia isn’t pitching deep into games, and Boone has shown that he’s not going to overwork the 37-year-old. Lefty Jordan Montgomery is on the disabled list wth an elbow flexor strain, and young righty Domingo German has struggled to keep runners off base.
Now, is the Yankees’ rotation a dumpster fire or an atrocious grouping? No, having the 12th-best ERA in the game (3.88) is not bad, but their starting staff, as currently constructed, will not be able to get the Yankees through the postseason. Look around the American League. The Houston Astros have, by far, the best starting rotation in the game (Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers), while the Boston Red Sox (Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price) and Cleveland Indians (Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger, Trevor Bauer) have proven commodities in their rotation. At the moment, the Yankees have a Cy Young Award caliber righty, a lefty who Boone doesn’t allow to pitch deep into games, two underachieving righties, and uncertainly in the backend of their rotation; they need more, and Hamels can be the spark they need.The @Yankees need a potent starting pitcher come October, and Texas @Rangers lefty Cole Hamels fits the boot.Click To Tweet
This season, Hamels has pitched well and bounced back from a mediocre 2017 campaign. Currently owning a 3.38 ERA and recording 64 strikeouts in 10 outings, the lefty has returned to being a top-of-the-rotation force. He’s also shown the ability to pitch in the postseason in years past (Hamels owns a career 3.48 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 16 postseason starts). He’s been able to answer the call in the big game and is one of the best lefties of the current decade.
Now, is Hamels on the level of a Verlander, Max Scherzer, or, when healthy, Clayton Kershaw at this stage of his career? No, but the 34-year-old can still be a reliable number one/two starter on a winning team, and he projects to be the best arm available at this year’s trade deadline.
There is a hurdle in a potential Hamels pursuit for the Yankees. The lefty has a 21-team no-trade clause in his contract (which pays him $22.5 million this season and $20 million in 2019) which includes the Yankees.
However, earlier this week, Hamels gave off the indication that he’d be willing to consider waiving his no-trade clause to join a World Series contender such as the Yankees, which Kevin Kernan of the New York Post noted “It’s kind of the nature of what happens,’’ he said. “You get traded once and you understand the possibilities are there. … The Yankees have a tremendous team. I feel like I have a lot left and I’ve been able to add more pitches and I haven’t had a serious injury.’’
The Yankees have one of, if not the most intriguing farm system and young talent in baseball. The Rangers would love to get their hands on infielders’ Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, but based on the way they’ve been playing this season in the big leagues (Torres is hitting .323 to go along who eight home runs and 22 RBIs and Andujar is hitting .288 while showcasing his cannon of an arm at third base), Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman likely won’t even consider a deal that involves either one.
On the other hand, outfielder Clint Frazier has been sent up and down from the big leagues to Triple-A, and the Yankees continue to devalue Frazier by not giving him a consistent role in their organization. But the talent is there with Frazier. He hits for power and fields his position well, but based on the overwhelming amount of depth the Yankees have in their outfield, he’s expendable. Perhaps the Rangers ask for a return centered around Frazier and German — hoping he develops into a reliable starter.
Justus Sheffield is probably the player the Rangers would prioritize in trade talks with the Yankees. In eight combined starts in Double and Triple-A, the lefty has recorded a 2.01 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings pitched. Sheffield has good control of his fastball, and his slider is beginning to come into its own. The Yankees may look to bring him up from the minor leagues based on their rotation’s shaky performance so far this season, but if the Rangers want to move Hamels, that could change their mindset. Perhaps Texas looks to formulate a deal around Sheffield and first baseman Tyler Austin based on the Yankees’ insistence in trying to make Greg Bird their permanent starter at the position?
The Rangers depleted their farm system to acquire Hamels two years ago meaning they’re not going to trade him away for a box of donuts and a gift card to Arby’s just so another team can get what they’re looking for. Will Texas get back a haul as large as the one they dished out two years ago? Highly unlikely, but Hamels is the best arm on the trade market for the time being, and the Yankees know they need a potent starter. If they want to win bad enough, they’ll give up a top prospect and other pieces to get a deal done.
Having a deep and talented farm system is great for any team. But the future is now for the Yankees. Their core has come into its own, they’re one of the five best teams in the game, and have little to no starting spots for the taking going forward. What’s the point of having a deep farm system, if you’re not going to use it accordingly? Part of doing so is making the big trade when the time comes.
The Yankees’ lineup is one of the best in the game. With Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius, and Torres, among others, present, the Yankees pose a threat to whoever they face in the postseason. Their bullpen could use some reinforcements, but management can surely find reliable backend relievers on the trade market; you can’t say the same for a top-flight lefty.
The Yankees want to win the World Series; they have the pieces to make a move, and you can’t win without reliable starting pitching. The Rangers are likely going to sell, and Hamels will be the wanted commodity; a trade makes sense for both teams.