It’s looking like not even the New York Yankees can outrun losing forever, and that raises a question.

What would it look like if they decided to make the best of a bad situation?

It’s already easy to imagine the Yankees will have to cut their losses by becoming sellers on the summer trade market. They’re following a return to the postseason in 2015 with a 13-19 start to 2016, putting them in last place in the American League East. 

General manager Brian Cashman has already put his foot down. As he told David Waldstein of the New York Times, he’ll be forced to “look for alternatives” if his team doesn’t “self-correct.” 

But waiting on this Yankees team to self-correct could be a wait with no end. With poor performances on offenseon defense and on the mound to blame, their slow start can’t be chalked up to bad luck. Lo and behold, neither Baseball Prospectus nor FanGraphs projects them to make a comeback.

In other words, this is not a drill. After 23 straight years of winning, the Yankees finally appear ticketed for a losing season.

By traditional Yankees standards, this is an outrage. They’re not supposed to lose, darn it. And when losing is happening, it’s nothing that abiding by the legacy of George Steinbrenner can’t fix.

But by today’s Yankees standards, it’s not the worst thing in the world. Even in saying the team can’t ever rebuild, team president Randy Levine sort of admitted that the team is trying to rebuild.

“What has to be noticed here, unlike very few teams, what we’ve done, is we can’t rebuild here,” Levine said in December, via Kevin Kernan of the New York Post. “That’s not what we’re about. We’re trying to win every year, and we’re trying to get younger and transition.”

The Yankees have indeed made an effort to get younger, bringing in Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius and Nathan Eovaldi (all 26), as well as Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka (both 27), in recent seasons. Club boss Hal Steinbrenner has also committed to rebuilding the club’s farm system. And after spending exactly $0 in free agency over the winter, the Yankees sure seem interested in saving money for the future.

If the Yankees really wanted to further these efforts by selling ahead of (and even after) the July 31 trade deadline, they could start by dealing a few valuable trade chips.

Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, who are among baseball’s nastiest relievers, headline that list. And in light of recent developments, Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggests Eovaldi and Pineda also have considerable value:

Cashman would need to open up extra phone lines if he were to put these guys on the block. Just about every team could use a Miller or a Betances, especially since neither would be a rental. And despite their inconsistencies, Pineda and Eovaldi are two talented young pitchers who are controlled through 2017.

But don’t count on it. There’s a line between selling and tanking, and the Yankees would surely steer clear of the latter. They’ll want to have a shot at winning in 2017 and beyond, so they’ll keep Miller, Betances, Pineda and Eovaldi alongside Tanaka, Castro, Gregorius and Luis Severino no matter what.

The Yankees would surely prefer to move some of their well-paid geezers, including Alex Rodriguez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Chase Headley, Brian McCann and Brett Gardner (all 32 with the exception of the 40-year-old Rodriguez). But in all likelihood, that’s not happening, either.

The Yankees are stuck with A-Rod for a variety of obvious reasons. A painfully slow start has killed Headley’s trade value. There could be interest in Ellsbury, but Jim Bowden of is right in thinking the Yankees could only move him in a bad contract swap. And though many teams could use offense at catcher, McCann’s home/road splits could scare suitors just as much as his contract.

That just leaves Gardner. His contract doesn’t have a no-trade clause, and it gets cheaper beyond 2016. He’s also showing he can still hit, posting a .773 OPS in 30 games. And though these are arguably reasons for the Yankees to keep him, he’s a 32-year-old who’s probably running out of good years. If they can save some money and bring back some talent by moving him, they should.

After Gardner, the Yankees’ list of trade chips is narrowed down to three free-agents-to-be: Aroldis Chapman, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran.

Chapman would be an easy sell. The flame-throwing lefty has been baseball’s most valuable reliever since 2012, and he’s already served his punishment for an alleged domestic violence incident. If the Red Sox could turn Miller into Eduardo Rodriguez a couple of years ago, the Yankees might do even better in a Chapman trade.

Teixeira and Beltran would be harder sells. They’re off to slow starts offensively, and both are old and expensive. Teixeira is 36 and owed $23.15 million. Beltran is 39 and owed $15 million. To boot, Teixeira has a full no-trade clause, and Beltran also has some no-trade protection.

For markets for Teixeira and/or Beltran to develop, they would have to be willing to move, and the Yankees would likely have to be willing to eat some money. And even then, they would probably have to be happy with accepting merely low-level talent.

In all, any selling the Yankees do is likely to be more of a small campfire than a raging, everything-must-go fire sale. Chapman is one piece they could move for a significant haul. Otherwise, they may be content with flipping Gardner, Teixeira and/or Beltran for financial flexibility and whatever young talent they can get back.

However, don’t think that even a small sale couldn’t have a big impact in the long run.

Any money the Yankees save this summer will only help the team make it rain in future free-agent markets, including the loaded class of 2018-19. Likewise, even a small injection of talent could help a farm system that Baseball America ranked No. 17 at the beginning of the year. 

With Beltran out of the way, the Yankees could promote Aaron Judge and have him play out the string in right field. They could move McCann to first base and do the same with Gary Sanchez behind the plate. They could also move Headley to first base and see what Rob Refsnyder can do at third.

If the Yankees could have it their way, they’d shake off their early struggles and get back to doing what pinstriped teams usually do best. But if this season does indeed knock them down a few pegs, that could prove to be a good thing in the long run.


Stats courtesy of and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked. No-trade clause information courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

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