For a team in such an enviable position—first in the division, best record in the American League, on track to surpass 100 wins—the Yankees’ front office still entered deadline season with obvious work to do before Aug. 2. They needed a left-handed hitter. They also could use a starter and one more reliever, too.
And now they’ve taken care of all of it.
After crossing off the lefty hitter by getting Andrew Benintendi from the Royals on Wednesday, they made a much bigger splash on Monday, striking a deal with the A’s for starter Frankie Montas and reliever Lou Trivino. Montas represents the best starter available now that Luis Castillo is off the market with the Mariners. Trivino, meanwhile, offers more upside than you might expect given his 6.47 ERA. (More on that later.) The asking price was four young players—pitchers Ken Waldichuk, JP Sears and Luis Medina, and second baseman Cooper Bowman—who offer real promise but, other than Waldichuk, do not represent any of the club’s top minor leaguers.
In other words, New York filled all its needs while holding onto all its best position player prospects.
The motivation for the Yankees here was straightforward: It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a team in possession of a playoff spot must be in want of more pitching depth. Their staff enjoyed good health for much of this year. But a few injuries have cropped up recently—starter Luis Severino is out with shoulder tightness and reliever Michael King will miss the rest of the season after fracturing his elbow—and the team had its worst month yet in July. It was only wise to seek reinforcements, and in a market that’s not exactly flush with pitching talent, Montas and Trivino are a pairing that made sense to grab.
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In getting Montas, the Yankees have picked up the best rotation boost available. (By a fairly considerable margin: Castillo and Montas led the starters’ market, followed by Tyler Mahle of the Reds, but there’s a rather pronounced gap between them and everyone else available.) The 29-year-old Montas is under team control through the end of next season. His 2021 looked like a breakthrough: It was the first time that he pitched more than 100 innings in a season, after dealing with a variety of injuries earlier in his career, and he finished as a down-ballot Cy Young candidate with a 3.37 ERA (122 ERA+). He’s kept that kind of performance going so far this year. A big part of that has been sticking with a change he made to his pitch mix last season: He’s stopped depending so much on his sinker, previously his most frequent pitch, and has begun to use his four-seamer and splitter more. Though he missed two starts last month with a shoulder issue, Montas managed to avoid the IL, and he currently has a 3.18 ERA (118 ERA+). He’ll slot in near the top of the Yankees’ rotation—behind Gerrit Cole—and should be a considerable help down the stretch.
The 30-year-old Trivino, on the other hand, has scuffled through much of this year. (See: that 6.47 ERA.) But it’s not hard to guess at what the Yankees found appealing here. Even as he’s struggled this season, he’s still posted a career-high strikeout percentage (28.7%) and career-low walk percentage (8.9%), while introducing a new slider that has been quite effective. He’s also had unusually bad luck with batted balls—Trivino’s .451 BABIP is higher than any reliever in baseball—in a way that does not look particularly sustainable. Under the Yankees’ coaching staff, Trivino seems like a decent bet to turn things around, and he has two additional seasons under team control after this one. And it helps that he wasn’t the only bullpen addition the Yankees made on Monday: They picked up some further depth in righthander Scott Effross from the Cubs.
As for the A’s? They’re simply continuing the sell-off they began this winter. There was never any doubt they would trade Montas. (If anything, it was only a bit surprising that they moved him now, rather than four months ago alongside Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt, Matt Olson and Sean Manaea.) There wasn’t much of a question about Trivino, either. And the return they picked up here looks very similar to what they chased in those other trades this winter—pitchers who are fairly close to playing in the majors. The big name here is 24-year-old Waldichuk, a lefty in Triple A who was No. 5 in the Yankees’ system per MLB Pipeline and No. 3 per FanGraphs. There’s a bit more of a discrepancy with the prospect rankings for Medina, 23. Pipeline ranked him New York’s 10th-best prospect, while FanGraphs had him fourth. He has an electric arm, but he struggles a bit with his command and could end up as a late-inning reliever instead of the rotation. Sears, 26, has already made his big-league debut. It’s fair to wonder if the A’s could have gotten a splashier return either by making this deal in spring training or by being willing to consider talent that isn’t quite so close to the majors. But they have an obvious focus here—pitchers who can make an impact soon—and they certainly kept with that.
And for the Yankees, there’s an obvious focus here, too: the World Series. They got one step closer on Monday.
More MLB Trade Deadline Coverage:
• Making Sense of the Puzzling Josh Hader Trade
• Everything You Need to Know Before the MLB Trade Deadline
• Juan Soto Trade Deadline Predictions
• The Weirdest Baseball Trades Ever
• With Luis Castillo Trade, Mariners Are Aiming for October Run