Yankees could look at these 3 players to help them at the deadline

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at San Francisco Giants
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The New York Yankees look like the best team in baseball right now, and while they’ll slow down eventually and go through the normal ups and downs of a season, it’s an incredible roster. Pairing Aaron Judge and Juan Soto has worked out extremely well, with both of them playing at an MVP level, and the pitching staff has been better than anyone could have reasonably expected. With that being said, there are still ways this team can improve at the deadline, and they’re likely going to be aggressive to patch up holes where they can.

This team could go out and win the World Series as currently constructed, but the long grind of the regular season will require them to look at different places on the roster to emerge as the best team in the league truly.

Bolstering the Rotation With this Strikeout Machine

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox
Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

When the Detroit Tigers signed Jack Flaherty, the right-hander wasn’t expected to be the strikeout machine he’s become this season. The 28-year-old has a 3.46 ERA and 104 Pitching+ over 11 starts, as he’s one of the better pitchers in the American League and has helped anchor one of the better rotations in the league. It’s unclear whether the Tigers would sell at the deadline, but the division isn’t very open with the Twins, Guardians, and Royals battling it out for playoff positioning.

What’s most attractive about acquiring an arm like Jack Flaherty is the punchouts, with a 34% strikeout rate and the ability to vaporize opposing hitters with his funky arsenal. The four-seamer doesn’t grade out extremely well in Stuff+. Still, it has unique characteristics that allow it to be a plus offering, as it has roughly average vertical movement from a lower release height and doesn’t move much horizontally, creating somewhat of a cut-ride phenomenon.

The vertical ride and velocity won’t wow you, but the lower and wide release height creates a funky look for opposing hitters, and he pairs his great fastball with two excellent breaking pitches. His slider has a lot of movement at 85 MPH with a Whiff Rate of 42.6%. We could see Flaherty throw more sliders to right-handed batters as he’s been hit a little harder in those matchups and is very fastball-reliant there.

As for his curveball, it has a 42% Whiff Rate and an ungodly .174 wOBA allowed, with the steep vertical drop that plays beautifully off of his four-seamer. He does have a changeup and sinker but he rarely throws either pitch, and I wouldn’t expect him to bring the cutter back after throwing one for a good portion of the 2023 season. There are a ton of strikeouts, only gets barreled 4.3% of the time, and his ERA is nearly a run higher than his xERA (2.53).

With his deal expiring at the end of the season, the Tigers likely wouldn’t ask for a massive haul, but it would still require parting ways with some quality talent. A combination of Benjamin Cowles, Jared Serna, and Cade Smith could entice Detroit as it adds some upper-level infield depth to help bolster the Tigers’ lineup in a year or two alongside an arm that’s a bit further away with an interesting profile to work with.

Furthermore, if you think Jack Flaherty couldn’t stick in the rotation (which I heavily disagree with), he could provide some swing-and-miss in the bullpen. What would most likely transpire is that this could push a starter like Nestor Cortes to the bullpen in October where he can bring some much-needed lefty strikeout potential to that group.

Landing an On-Base Machine At First Base

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants
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The San Francisco Giants don’t look particularly great right now, and while LaMonte Wade Jr. is currently on the shelf with a hamstring injury, he is perfect for this lineup. A patient hitter with the batted ball data and defense to be an excellent lineup extender for the Yankees at first base, LaMonte Wade Jr. is one of the most underrated players in all of baseball. Wade only has two home runs and a .426 SLG%, but the power numbers should be better than this with a 10.4% Barrel Rate and 46.9% Hard-Hit%

Very quietly LaMonte Wade Jr. has a 168 wRC+ and .470 OBP, and he could give the Yankees the very best lineup in all of baseball. It’s not as if this is a bad hitter having a good start, he had a 122 wRC+ and 17 home runs last season as well. At 15.9%, he has the fourth-best walk rate among any hitter with at least 500 Plate Appearances dating back to 2022, and he also has +3 Defensive Runs Saved and +3 Outs Above Average at first base as well.

Wade is a hitter who doesn’t expand the zone, makes elite swing decisions, does damage on contact, and maintains elite launch angle distribution as well. Having him hit sixth for the Yankees would give this team everything they could want in their lineup, and he could help this team have an even more suffocating feel to their order:

  1. Anthony Volpe
  2. Juan Soto
  3. Aaron Judge
  4. Alex Verdugo
  5. Giancarlo Stanton
  6. LaMonte Wade Jr.
  7. Gleyber Torres
  8. Jose Trevino/Austin Wells
  9. DJ LeMahieu

This kind of lineup is the one that pitchers just have no chance to handle consistently, and it adds to the Yankees’ ability to both get on-base and work pitch counts. In the postseason when you’re playing a five-game or seven-game series, being able to knock out pitchers early can cause teams to re-use their relievers in a postseason series. There’s data out there that supports the adage that seeing a pitcher multiple times in a series makes them less effective.

In San Francisco, the Yankees absolutely blitzed Camilo Doval and while they failed to complete the comeback in April against Cleveland, they rallied against Emmanuel Clase as well. The Yankees have the second-best wOBA in baseball versus fastballs at or above 95 MPH (.332) and sixth in wOBA (.296) against offspeed and breaking pitches, which should bode well in the postseason.

LaMonte Wade Jr. adds to that element of hitting the kinds of pitches you expect to see when October rolls around, and he could give the Yankees a massive upgrade over Anthony Rizzo. The Giants would likely need win-now players, and I could see a swap of LaMonte Wade Jr. for Ben Rice as a deal both teams would make with the surplus of catchers for the Yankees and the proximity that Rice has to the big leagues.

READ MORE: Yankees could ‘upgrade’ infield at summer trade deadline

The Final Piece to the Yankees’ Bullpen?

MLB: Miami Marlins at New York Mets
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Nardi is someone I had a lot of interest in over the winter, and while the Miami Marlins hung onto him, he could be the final piece to the Yankees’ bullpen. The southpaw has a 5.48 ERA but all of the underlying metrics would suggest that he’s due for some serious positive regression as all of the underlying metrics are very good. His 2.34 FIP and 2.84 SIERA are very encouraging, especially since he has above-average damage suppression and elite strikeout numbers.

The Yankees need some left-handed help in their bullpen and they also need some controllable bullpen help with the upcoming free agency of Clay Holmes. It’s pretty easy to see why the Yankees would like Andrew Nardi; he brings strikeouts and a left-handed arm to a very right-handed bullpen that ranks near the bottom of the league in strikeout rate, which is most definitely not a good thing. His fastball-slider combination is great, and it anchors a strong arsenal.

Looking at how the Yankees would be able to structure their bullpen, they could have a game where they go to Andrew Nardi, Luke Weaver, and Clay Holmes for 3-4 innings and close out a game. What’s missing from this team isn’t their ability to hold down a lineup in the first five or six innings or the ninth inning, it’s the seventh and eighth inning where they’re usually most vulnerable.

Ian Hamilton and Tommy Kahnle are trending in the right direction and I do feel like they’re more than capable of coming through in high leverage, but the concerns are with the backend of that bullpen. Caleb Ferguson, Victor Gonzalez, and Dennis Santana have just not been good enough (Michael Tonkin has absolved himself), and by clearing out those non-competitive arms they can become even more dangerous.

Everson Pereira is a bat that makes sense for Miami since he has the power and defense they could be looking for in their outfield, but the infield is likely where they’d want some help. Maybe Caleb Durbin in a one-for-one swap is something that Miami entertains, but the Yankees love Durbin (and I do as well).

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