As the calendar turns to July, the Trade Deadline at the end of the month has loomed large for the struggling Yankees (41-39), who seem to be in need of reinforcements, particularly in the starting rotation and the outfield. Managing general partner/co-chairperson Hal Steinbrenner made that much clear when he spoke with reporters via Zoom on Thursday morning and discussed whether additions to the roster would need to be made in order for the fourth-place Yanks to have a chance to contend this season.
“[General manager Brian Cashman] is doing that right now as we speak. We do that every July, every June here as the [July 30] Trade Deadline approaches,” Steinbrenner said. “And if we feel we need another piece that’s gonna take us over the top -- that we’re not quite good enough -- then we’re going to look seriously at that, as will I.”
The Yanks took the first step in that effort Thursday afternoon, acquiring speedy outfielder Tim Locastro from the D-backs in exchange for Double-A pitcher Keegan Curtis.
Locastro's calling card is his running ability. Statcast measures his average sprint speed this season at 30.7 feet per second -- well above the elite 30.0 feet-per-second mark, with the MLB average at 27.0 -- and entering play Thursday, he was tied for second among all Major League players with the Nationals’ Trea Turner. Locastro was 26-for-26 in stolen-base attempts entering this season, although he is 5-for-8 so far in 2021.
But perhaps most importantly for the Yankees, Locastro has experience at all three outfield positions, spending the majority of his time this year in center (27 games, 20 starts). His career Outs Above Average, per Statcast, is plus-five.
Locastro is a clear replacement for injured center fielder Aaron Hicks, who underwent season-ending surgery on his left wrist at the end of May. Steinbrenner called the loss of Hicks “huge,” and without him, the Yankees have rotated four players in the outfield -- excluding spot starts from reserve infielder Wade.
Locastro, a right-handed batter who will turn 29 on July 14, is a New York native. He was born in Syracuse, attended high school in Auburn and went on to play at Ithaca College. He has spent parts of five seasons in the Majors with the Dodgers and D-backs, slashing .234/.339/.324 with four home runs in 480 plate appearances. Locastro's career hit-by-pitch rate of 7.5 percent is the highest all time for a player with that many trips to the plate.
Curtis was selected by the Yankees in the 22nd round of the 2018 MLB Draft. The right-hander had been playing this year at Double-A Somerset, posting a 3.94 ERA over 12 relief appearances while racking up 27 strikeouts in 16 innings.
But Steinbrenner also expressed confidence in the work his longtime partner Cashman has done at the helm of the front office and how thorough the organization will be when making decisions of this magnitude -- particularly in a season that manager Aaron Boone admitted was “on the line” earlier this week.
“Brian and I have been doing this a lot of years together. He’s extremely intelligent. ... We communicate very well,” Steinbrenner said. “There’s not much that happens without him running it by me first; he knows that’s the way I want it. I think he’s done a good job.
“I can’t imagine another organization that goes through these processes in a more comprehensive way than we do. And that means talking to everybody, that means examining the pros and cons to any potential trade, any potential signing. It’s just comprehensive, and that’s the way it needs to be. And that’s the way it will remain.”