While Hal Steinbrenner has every intention of staying below the $197-million luxury-tax threshold for this year, both he and his staff also were smart enough to save the Yankees enough room under that cap for the necessary in-season improvements, such as another starting pitcher.
Steinbrenner agreed Wednesday that the rotation will be the Yankees’ biggest trade target in the weeks leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, as long as they can stomach the prices in term of young talent. The money shouldn’t be an issue, as the Yankees currently sit at roughly $166.1 million (according to cotscontracts.com).
“Clearly starting pitching is always a concern,” Steinbrenner said Wednesday during a break in the MLB owners meetings in Manhattan. “You can’t ever have enough of it. And now we’ve had a season-ending injury to [Jordan] Montgomery, [Domingo] German has stepped up and filled in nicely. Look, I think there’s definitely a need. It’s definitely one of the areas we’re going to be looking at.
“We’ve got some flexibility payroll-wise, so the question is what’s going to be available and what are the asks. We purposely left a decent amount of money just for this.”
As for the potential cost in prospects, Steinbrenner is wary of that as well. He’s been a champion for the Yankees’ stockpiling of minor-league talent in recent years, and Steinbrenner has again taken note of the youngsters’ impact this season, with Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar battling neck-and-neck for early Rookie of the Year consideration. Controllable, 20-something, budding stars are tough to use as trade chips, even with World Series goals.
“It depends what the asks are,” Steinbrenner said. “I love the young guys. Our fans love the young guys. I think it’s obvious to all of us, they’ve made a heck of an impact. To see Gleyber and Andujar and others right off the heels of Judge, and Sanchez, and Severino, it’s pretty amazing. I know fans are really enjoying watching them play and so am I.”
With the Yankees and Red Sox both on pace to win 100-plus games, one of the teams will be stuck in the do-or-die wild-card playoff, putting a ton of extra pressure on winning the AL East this year. That suggests the sooner the Yankees can upgrade the rotation, the better, but Steinbrenner knows that’s easier said than done.
“Theoretically, I guess that would be great,” Steinbrenner said. “You know as well as I do that the asks would be pretty high this early. Probably going to be high anyway. We’re going to look at anything that comes across our desk.”
As for the current roster, Steinbrenner was asked about the relatively slow start for Giancarlo Stanton, who is batting .240 with a .797 OPS, 15 home runs and 34 RBIs in 62 games. Stanton also is hitting just .200 in the Bronx, with a .663 OPS, and has been booed sporadically as the strikeouts continue to pile up.
Steinbrenner ultimately is the one who signed off on the December mega-trade for Stanton and consented to picking up $250 million through 2027. So far, Stanton hasn’t been performing up to his record salary, even though it hasn’t hurt the Yankees.
“I’m not worried about Stanton,” Steinbrenner said. “He’s had his ups and downs, but when he gets hot, he’ll carry a team. We’ve all seen that, and it will happen. His work ethic is great, his teammates like him. He’s going to be great.
“The National League MVP — it’s going to be hard to get me concerned, as long as he’s healthy. I’d always be concerned about anybody’s health. But he’s healthy, so that’s not a concern either. I’m good right now.”
Steinbrenner does have plenty to be happy about as far as his Yankees are concerned. He’s thrilled with new manager Aaron Boone — “Everything we could ask for,” Steinbrenner said — — and believes that the resumption of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is great for the sport itself.
“I would hope just about anybody in baseball would,” Steinbrenner said. “I think it’s a pretty good thing. Of course I’m biased, right?”