Zach Britton will try on his Yankees pinstripes on Thursday, a result of the many conversations between Brian Cashman and Orioles counterpart Dan Duquette. The veteran executives discussed much more in the weeks prior to the consummation of this deal on Tuesday night between American League East rivals, including a "what if?" Manny Machado blockbuster.
While that deal never materialized, the Yankees' serious interest in Machado offered Baltimore ample opportunity to peruse New York's farm system. Though Machado wound up in Dodgers blue rather than in The Bronx, Cashman said that the Yanks' involvement in that sweepstakes helped set the table for Britton's power sinker to upgrade the Bombers' bullpen.
"[The Orioles] made a strategic decision that they were going to address the Manny Machado trade option first, and then after that, they made a strategic decision to singularly deal with Zach Britton," Cashman said. "Without question, [because of] many of my conversations that I had with Dan Duquette … we were in a much better position to hit the ground running because they had a chance to assess our franchise from top to bottom."
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Baltimore landed Minor League pitchers Dillon Tate, Cody Carroll and Josh Rogers in the swap. The pivot from Machado to Britton was reminiscent of Cashman's maneuvers last July, when the Yankees tried to acquire Jose Quintana from the White Sox, then circled back for a deal that brought Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle and Player Page for David Robertson to New York.
Cashman's ongoing dialogue with Duquette, more than the interest in Britton being shown by the Astros and Red Sox, fueled the Yankees' desire to strike a deal. Boston responded swiftly on Wednesday morning, acquiring former Yanks right-hander Nathan Eovaldi from the Rays. Cashman said that he believes there will be more movement to come as next Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline nears.
"I think there are enough quality players in this marketplace that playoff-contending teams are going to do something to reinforce themselves and make themselves better," Cashman said. "You've got to recognize that. You've got to laser-focus on what you're comfortable doing and who you're trying to acquire. If you're able to do so, great, under the circumstances that you're able to live with. But our opponents are going to do something also. You understand it and keep plowing forward regardless."
Britton should help shorten games with an even more formidable bullpen, as well as provide a buffer if closer Albertin Chapman's left knee tendinitis resurfaces. Cashman said that Chapman's injury did not factor into his urgency to acquire Britton, and that he remains interested in supplementing the rotation.
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The Yankees have been linked to Chris Archer of the Rays, Michael Fulmer of the Tigers and J.A. Happ of the Blue Jays, among other starters. Thus far, the asking prices for those pitchers have remained too high for the Yanks' liking. Should the Yankees be unable to supplement from outside the organization, Cashman mentioned Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loaisiga, Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams as alternatives.
"We're going to continue to evaluate," Cashman said. "We'd certainly love to add to the rotation, but at the same time, we're evaluating the available players in the marketplace. … We have some alternatives with a strong 'pen. That's something that we're analyzing with the price tags that are being thrown our way on starting pitching options. It's good that we reinforced the 'pen, and it makes a strong fallback position for us."
Cashman said that he is "not optimistic" that the Yankees can supplement their catching depth, with Gary Sanchez expected to be sidelined until at least late August or early September after aggravating his right groin strain. Cashman said that the Yanks are "comfortable" going forward with Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka while they wait for Sanchez's return.
"We'll certainly look at all those aspects, but seeing how other clubs have had to deal with that over the course of this season as well, I already recognize it's a very thin position," Cashman said. "It's not easy to solve if there are issues there. … Thankfully, what Gary has is a solvable health issue. It's just a timing one. We'll just have to wait on it. Hopefully we'll be in a better position when he returns."