By Lenn Robbins
A fascinating dynamic has emerged recently in baseball: There are 30 franchises that begin the season chasing the World Series. Two of them – the Yankees and Red Sox – spend the entire calendar year chasing each other.
The Red Sox blinked first in the Great Chase, acquiring pitcher Andrew Cashner from the Baltimore Orioles for minor leaguers Elio Prado and Noelberth Romero on Saturday. Neither are considered elite prospects but that’s never stopped either franchise in their Desperate Franchises drama to outdo the other.
With World Series hero Nathan Eovaldi about to come off the injured list and work out of the bullpen, Cashner will become the Sox’s fifth starter. The 32-year-old veteran righty knows exactly what he’s walking into.
“It’s such a rich history with baseball there,’’ Cashner told reporters. “David Ortiz has been one of my favorite players growing up. They’re still the champions from last year. It’ll be fun to help them get to where they want to go.”
Where the Red Sox want to go is ahead or around the Yankees. The Bombers pushed their lead over Boston to nine and one-half games and six over Tampa Bay Rays with a 4-2 win over the Blue Jays.
It was a win-win for the Yankees. They got a first-hand look at Marcus Stroman, one of the starters Yankees reportedly are eyeing to bolster their rotation. Stroman turned in a quality start, allowing three earned runs in six innings with seven strikeouts and three walks.
It was an important start for Stroman and the Yankees. He last pitched on June 29th when he suffered a pectoral cramp. There’s no place for damaged goods in a pennant race so a healthy Stroman remains a top option.
The question, of course, is what are the Yankees willing to part with in a trade for Stroman, Madison Bumgarner, Trevor Bauer or Zach Wheeler? There’s a neon LED sign flashing, ‘Be Careful What You Wish For.’
The Red Sox basically gutted their farm system by trading prospects for the likes of Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz. This has been GM Dave Dombrowski’s M.O. He gutted Detroit’s farm system in exchange for the Tigers winning two pennants and four consecutive AL Central titles.
The Sox now have just one prospect in MLB.com’s Top 100.
Cashner was a smart move. He’s 9-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 17 starts for the Orioles, but he’s pitched great ball of late, posting a 1.41 ERA in June. He didn’t cost Boston much, not that they have much to offer.
The Yankees have built one of baseball’s best farm systems. There are prospects they can offer, but again, at what cost? And let’s remember that not every established player can pitch in New York. We offer Sonny Grey and People’s Exhibit A.
The Yankees potentially have some reinforcements on the way. Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters on Sunday that Luis Severino and Dellin Betances are ready to begin throwing programs after lengthy shutdowns. No timeline has been set for their returns but both are expected to throw on Monday.
The addition of those two would significantly bolster the starting rotation and bullpen. But with the July 31 trade deadline staring the Yankees and Red Sox in the face, don’t expect the Bombers to stand pat.
The Red Sox have made the first move. The Yankees will make the bigger one. Why? Because the Red Sox won the World Series last season, which means the Yankees mandate is to win it this year.
Not convinced? Consider this: On the day the Sox acquired Cashner, the Yankees reportedly were scouting Mets starter Noah Syndegaard in Miami.