Before the All-Star break, the New York Yankees had been on a path toward a hard sell-off despite ownership's contention a few weeks back that they would not quit on the season. Monday, the Yankees traded free agent to be Aroldis Chapman because the deal presented them was too hard to ignore.
However, at four games over .500 and four games back of the second wild card slot, previously all but certain trade candidate Carlos Beltran might stay put in the Bronx. What are the ramifications of holding the 39-year-old, who will also be a free agent at season's end?
Primarily, the Yankees would miss the opportunity to retrieve prospects for Beltran. It remains unknown exactly what level prospects Beltran could bring back to the Yankees, but when an organization's mindset is to sell assets because it feels they are out of the playoff picture, deals have to be made. The Yankees are currently straddling that fence.
If Beltran stays, it will make it difficult for the Yankees to get their No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Aaron Judge, up to the Bronx for an extended look. There are other moves available to the Yankees to get some at-bats for Judge (or one of their other minor league outfielders) this season, but moving Beltran is the best path to do it. Providing Judge et al some at-bats at the major league level this season would have certain benefits to determine if they are ready to take over right field next season.
Ah yes, next season. That's another potential dilemma for the Yankees if they decide to keep Beltran for the home stretch.
The Yankees would certainly tag Beltran with a qualifying offer, which will be somewhere in the one-year, $17 million range. We've seen players accept the QO and Beltran loves New York, so it is simple to see the chance he might accept such a deal.
In and of itself, this is not a big problem for the Yankees. Beltran has been the team's best hitter all season; since May 2015 for that matter. Further, there is little evidence that Beltran won't be able to do much of the same at the plate in 2017.
The problem is Judge's progression is delayed because the Yankees have Alex Rodriguez clogging up a roster spot, meaning less time for Beltran to be the designated hitter. In fact, the Yankees might want Brian McCann to get some time at DH next season so catcher-in-waiting Gary Sanchez can get more reps behind the plate. The Yankees would be happy to have Beltran, but likely only as a DH seeing that his time in right field seems to be numbered.
The Yankees could solve this problem by buying out the final season of Rodriguez's contract, but at $21 million, this is no small ask of ownership. The team could leave Rodriguez to rot on the bench as well, but that is an awful baseball decision, which they are currently employing.
There is also a small chance that Beltran does not accept the QO if an American League team takes a two-year chance on him to be their DH for $25 million for example. With baseball contracts guaranteed, Beltran probably would not pass up this windfall. In this circumstance, the Yankees would receive a compensatory pick in the 2017 draft. Having a second first-round pick, might be the equivalent to whomever Beltran might return to the Yankees from the trade market.
The Yankees put themselves in this predicament by going 9-17 early on, and 43-31 since. There was a plenty of good and bad baseball mixed into the first 100 games of the season. One constant was Carlos Beltran's offensive production. He has the ability to carry this club with some help from the rest of the club. That assistance might finally be coming along, as the starting pitching has been fabulous of late, and the end-game bullpen is still strong.
The American League is devoid of a dominant team, so it would be hard to fault the Yankees for keeping Beltran to see what happens over the final 62 games of the season. However, if the recent stretch is a mirage, the Yankees need to be cognizant of the present-day ramifications as well as those of next season.