Early reporting on the Yankees’ trade deadline needs and plans

The Yankees this year have the luxury of approaching the trade deadline with an eye on what will help them win in October, not what will get them there. 

As such, people around the team point to a need for a right-handed power reliever to supplement closer Clay Holmes at the back end of the bullpen, and a lefty to get out top left-handed batters.

It is too soon to say how the Yankees will augment their infield corners. That will depend on whether Anthony Rizzo and/or D.J. LeMahieu show signs of life in the coming weeks.

Holmes has been highly effective, pitching to a 1.27 ERA and saving 18 games. But as a sinkerballer, he pitches to contact. Ideally, manager Aaron Boone would also have a swing-and-miss guy for high-leverage spots in October, especially in the middle of innings with runners on base.

It’s not out of the question that Cy Young candidate Luis Gil will serve in that role in the postseason. While the Yankees have not placed an innings limit on Gil in his return from Tommy John surgery, they will watch him closely to protect his health. Perhaps the timing will line up for Gil to offer limited but high-leverage innings in the playoffs.

That possibility should not prevent the Yankees from pursuing a righty reliever at the deadline. The moonshot is Oakland flamethrower Mason Miller. The Yankees would love Miller and his 104 mph fastball (duh; who wouldn’t), but consider me skeptical that they would trade a massive prospect haul for his five-plus years of control. Relievers don’t usually fetch the type of price that Oakland would be within its rights to demand.

The Yankees’ pro scouts and analysts have excelled at delivering to pitching coach Matt Blake lower-profile relievers, like Holmes, with significant upside. It’s easier to imagine them targeting a few pitchers who are not top-of-mind for fans and reporters.

May 20, 2024; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Clay Holmes (35) hands the ball to manager Aaron Boone (17) after being taken out of the game against the Seattle Mariners during the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium.

It would be interesting to see what Blake and company would do with Jorge Lopez, recently released by the Mets for a glove-throwing incident. Lopez has a high-90s sinker and is known as a good person who can become emotional. The Yankees have a strong clubhouse culture that could help him thrive. Boone and captain Aaron Judge know how to absorb all types of personalities.

That’s just my thought, though; as of Sunday, the Yanks had not expressed interest in Lopez.

As for lefties: With no disrespect intended to Victor Gonzalez and Caleb Ferguson, evaluators tend to slot those pitchers as the second lefty in an ideal bullpen. Neither has quite replaced what the Yankees had in recent seasons with Wandy Peralta.

It’s too early in the era of expanded playoffs to identify many sellers, but a few lefties who might become available are St. LouisJohn King and JoJo Romero, San Francisco’s Taylor Rogers and Tampa Bay’s Garrett Cleavinger. Miami’s Tanner Scott and Colorado’s Jalen Beeks are others expected to be dealt.

At this stage, though, it’s more about identifying the types of players the Yankees and other buyers will target rather than zeroing in on specific names.

In the infield, the Yankees could still go for two different types. If they determine that LeMahieu or Rizzo can yet contribute, they can look for a versatile utilityman who can supplement both. The MetsJeff McNeil is a good example, but it’s hard to see the Yankees targeting him specifically (folks all over the league see McNeil’s bombastic reactions to disappointing at-bats, and he isn’t currently offering production anyway).

If Rizzo, who was benched on Sunday’s series finale against the Dodgers, does not improve, the Yanks will be faced with a more dramatic decision. Would they actually cut the accomplished veteran and pursue an everyday first baseman like Pete Alonso?

It’s too early to say. At this stage, the need for two specific types of relievers has come into clearer focus.