“The Empire Slate” is a weekly look at betting angles and trends involving New York sports.
What do you get for the team that has everything?
As the Aug. 2 non-waiver trade deadline approaches, that’s the question Brian Cashman and the rest of the New York Yankees front office will have to consider. Do they follow the Dodgers’ model and add premium talent and dollars before the deadline despite the fact that they’re currently doing laps around the rest of the league? Is it worth it in what could prove to be a sellers’ market with a fairly weak crop of trade candidates?
Or do they stand pat and risk allowing the rest of the league to catch up through additions of their own?
Or do they find a point between the two extremes by making a strategic move or two without significantly denting a middle-of-the-road farm system they’re going to need?
Why they could use outfield help
Wednesday night gave a pretty good indication of what the Yanks might be in the market to acquire. They started Matt Carpenter in right field against the Pirates.
Carpenter has been a strong acquisition for the Yanks, posting a 1.227 OPS in his first 22 games in pinstripes, but Carpenter is no outfielder, particularly not at age 36. Before this season, he hadn’t had to dust off his outfielder’s glove since 2014. He’s an iffy fielder wherever you put him, and his lack of speed could prove particularly glaring in the outfield.
But the Yankees — now +400 at nearly all mobile books to win the World Series, making them either the favorite or the co-favorite along with the Dodgers — are looking for more than what they’ve gotten from two underachieving outfielders. Aaron Hicks (96 Weighted Runs Created Plus) has been mediocre. Joey Gallo (82 wRC+) has been just plain awful.
The lack of production from those two would be more glaring if not for the fact that Aaron Judge has both emerged as the heavy AL MVP favorite (-110 at most books and -130 at DraftKings) and been able to play 42 games in center field, a remarkable feat for a player listed at 6-foot-7 and 282 pounds.
The trade candidate most frequently linked to the Yanks is Royals outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who may be the best hitter traded at the deadline. He’s batting .316 and won a Gold Glove last season, and the Royals, who are 20 games under .500, don’t have much use for him considering he’ll be eligible for free agency after this season.
KC #Royals OF Andrew Benintendi's trade value continues to rise:
Benintendi, who's hitting .316, has seven multi-hit games in his last nine starts, and in the other two games, he still reached base twice.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 7, 2022
But early reports indicate Benintendi will be seriously courted by several teams, and he could cost the Yankees one of their top prospects and then some. It hardly seems prudent to part with a promising young player like catcher Austin Wells for two months’ worth of a player who, in some respects, doesn’t fit the Yankees’ way of playing. Benintendi has minimal power and a relatively low walk rate.
Other teams could benefit more from trades
While the Yankees could pivot and add to another part of the team — who couldn’t use an extra reliever? — there isn’t an obvious upgrade just about anywhere on their roster. That could make other teams better values if you’re shopping for World Series futures plays at midseason.
The Dodgers, for example, could radically improve their team simply by adding a better closer than Craig Kimbrel, who has a 4.61 ERA and has blown two of his last three save chances. Would sliding Benintendi into left field have a similar impact on the Yanks’ chances? Maybe, but it’s also denying a high-upside hitter like Gallo the chance to iron out his swing or timing issues and become a productive second-half player.
The murkiness of the Yankees’ trade-deadline approach should offer a note of caution to the gambler who has profited off of their remarkable first half.
Mets mending fast
It would be practically impossible for any team to improve itself before the trade deadline as much as the Mets figure to bump their chances this month, and that’s without even picking up the phone to call another general manager.
Max Scherzer was dominant Tuesday in his first start since missing six weeks with a hamstring injury, striking out 11 Reds over six shutout innings. Jacob deGrom is working his way toward making his season debut after having his first half torpedoed by an injury to his right collarbone. He just struck out five of the six batters he faced while flashing a 100 mph fastball in his first rehab outing at Port Saint Lucie. He figures to be back in a couple of weeks if there are no complications.
The Mets remain the fourth choice at most books to win the World Series, with the best price among the New York operators +750 at FanDuel.
The question the Mets face before the deadline is similar to what the Yanks are debating internally. While their division lead has shrunk from 10.5 games to 2.5 games in a little over a month, that’s a little deceptive. With three NL wild card spots available, the Mets are practically a lock to make the postseason. They currently hold an eight-game lead over the team just outside the wild card picture, the St. Louis Cardinals.
The dawn of the 12-playoff team format will certainly affect the trade deadline as teams ask themselves whether it’s worth sacrificing prospects for a first-round bye.
The guess here is that the Mets will be a bit more aggressive than the Yanks in trade talks with an emphasis on acquiring power. They rank 11th in the majors in slugging and could find their lineup a bit challenged once they reach the postseason.
Rangers get draft capital for backup goalie
With the NHL Draft scheduled to commence Thursday night, it’s a good time to note that New York bettors still can’t legally gamble on it. New York law bans wagers on events not contested in the arena, including draft positioning and player awards.
Don’t expect that to change before 2023, as the New York legislature doesn’t meet again until January.
Still, the Rangers are looking to build on a trip to the Eastern Conference finals by continuing the rebuild they started a few years ago, so this draft is a big one for the organization. The blueshirts made a little draft-day noise early Thursday by trading backup goalkeeper Alexander Georgiev to the Colorado Avalanche for third-round and fifth-round picks this draft and a third-round selection in 2023.
It seems like the sportsbooks aren’t really buying the Rangers as Stanley Cup contenders despite their final-four run in 2022. Each of the New York books that offers Stanley Cup futures has installed the Rangers at +2000, with 10 other teams having shorter odds.
Photo: Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY