The Yankees have the deepest farm system in baseball. John Sickels identified 82 (!) Yankee prospects. Josh Norris of Baseball America ranked the Yankee farm system top-3 in baseball, with an argument for the #1 spot, and that a number of players beyond the top-30 would make the top-10 list for some teams. This is after losing a number of big-time prospects to the Sonny Gray and Robertson/Kahnle trades, plus some lower guys in advance of the Rule V draft. I try and follow the Yankee farm system pretty closely, but top-15 arms are appearing on these prospect lists that I’ve never heard of before.
However, Brian Cashman has a (good) problem: he doesn’t need the deepest farm system in baseball. The Yankees roster is loaded with top, young talent under team control for some time. The team is already running into a bad 40-man roster situation, which will get worse. For example, I’ve hypothesized on the podcast that the reason Chance Adams wasn’t called up to the majors last summer was that the Yankees didn’t need to protect him in this year’s Rule V draft. The Yankee bullpen is so stacked that guys like Domingo German an Ben Heller were mostly wasted at Triple-A last year, despite excellent performances. Baseball has structured its roster system to put a cap on the number of good advanced players an organization can hold on to. And on top of it all, the Yankees have the money to acquire top talent in free agency if their farm system fails to produce at a position.
The solution to Cashman’s problem? Trade your excess capacity. He can swing trades while still holding on to Gleyber Torres, Estevan Florial, and all of our recent call-ups. Right away, the Yankees could use upgrades at starting pitcher (versus CC Sabathia), designated hitter, backup catcher, and left-handed relief. Even if the Yankees take a loss in an absolute sense on some of these trades (buying at more than the market price), the Yankees have the excess capacity to still end up better off.
And here’s the beautiful thing: the Yankees are more constrained by money right now than they are by trading chips. Pre-free agency players acquired by trade are cheaper than worse free agents purchased on the free market. Any money saved frees up further excess capacity to fill other holes in free agency. Put differently, trading away a bunch of prospects to acquire a cheap DH and starting pitcher makes it more likely the Yankees can sign Manny Machado.
So get trading, Cashman!
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