The New York Yankees already made a big move before the MLB trade deadline, but there’s still room for improvement ahead of the upcoming pennant chase.
Like a thief in the night, the New York Yankees swept in Tuesday night and acquired Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the Chicago White Sox. The deal happened right under the noses of the rival Red Sox, who had long been linked to Frazier as the answer Boston’s third base woes, and who are also in need of bullpen help.
It was a shrewd move and put the Yankees in a great position to fight for the American League East title. After all, a move that makes the Yankees stronger while simultaneously keeping the Red Sox from addressing their two biggest needs is a win-win.
But New York isn’t done. According to Fangraphs, the Yankees rank 29th in the majors in Wins Above Replacement this year among first basemen. New York first basemen have hit .181/.269/.352 with 12 home runs, 30 RBI and a 34.7 percent strikeout rate, posting -1.2 fWAR in the process, which is 0.1 better than the Angels. While the moved third baseman Chase Headley from third base to first to clear way for Frazier, is Headley – a .260/.341/.370 hitter with four home runs and 37 RBI – really the answer? Especially with better, attainable options on the market?
The Yankees also need depth in the starting rotation after Michael Pineda was lost for the year to Tommy John surgery. Masahiro Tanaka has been largely disappointing, posting a 5.33 ERA in 19 starts, and though C.C. Sabathia has a better-than-expected 3.54 ERA in 15 starts, it difficult to trust the 36-year-old in a pennant chase.
Given the club’s two major needs, the most competitive division in baseball, and a well-stocked farm system capable of pulling off another blockbuster, we explore five options the Yankees should explore before the MLB trade deadline.
5. Trade for Alex Avila
Good hitting catchers are hard to find, which is a big reason why Alex Avila is one of the most highly sought after players on the trade market this season.
Avila, who returned to Detroit after a one-year walkabout with the Chicago White Sox, has hit .297/.421/.526 in 67 games with the Tigers this season. He has also hit 11 home runs, 11 doubles, driven in 29 runs and scored 28 while splitting time between catcher and first base, putting the 30-year-old on pace for his best season since he was an All-Star and finished 12th in the voting for the AL MVP in 2011.
Though Avila isn’t a strong defensive catcher, he has shown an improvement in more than the traditional offensive categories this season. But with Gary Sanchez doing most of the catching duties in New York, Avila would likely play first base primarily with the Yankees and back up behind the plate.
Avila ranks sixth in the big leagues in average exit velocity at a blistering 92.5 miles per hour. No player in baseball has hit a higher percentage of balls in play greater than 95 miles per hour (56.0 percent) in the first half. In other words, Avila’s turnaround isn’t related to luck. He’s hitting the ball harder than just about everyone else in baseball this year, meaning he can hold his own as a DH or first baseman. And, his 2.3 fWAR is second among all catchers this year.
Avila is also playing on a one-year contract, so any team that acquires him at the deadline won’t be on the hook for any potential decline. Simply, Avila is the perfect trade chip for the Tigers, who sit 43-51, 5.5 games out in the AL Central and six games back in the AL Wild Card race. It only complicates matters slightly that the club’s general manager is Al Avila – Alex’s father.