Buy or sell? Here's are the Yankees' options as MLB trade deadline nears

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BOSTON – Assessing the Yankees’ Summer Sale of 2016, GM Brian Cashman called it “a strategic decision for the present and the future’’ at that time.

Approaching the fifth anniversary of that rare organizational pivot as trade deadline sellers, the Yankees have yet to achieve the aim of being the last team standing.

And here they are, bobbing around fourth place as the July 30 deadline nears and confronting whether to buy, sell, or do a little of both to improve their chances now and for 2022.

Yet, this will not be a rerun of the groundbreaking 2016 selloff.

2021 looks like 2016

On the morning of July 17, 2016, Joe Girardi’s Yankees were 44-46, in fourth place. They were 9.5 games back in the AL East, 5.5 games behind the second wild card.

On the morning of July 17, 2021, Aaron Boone’s Yankees were 46-44, in fourth place. They were nine games back in the AL East, 5.5 games behind the second wild card.

From there, Girardi’s 2016 club went on a run, winning four straight games against contending teams and eight of out 10 through July 26.

Boone’s 2021 club has rallied to win three straight games through July 20, despite a raft of key players on the injured or COVID lists.

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But here’s the difference

With a .500 record at the All-Star break, Cashman had already moved to sell mode, with the approval of owner Hal Steinbrenner.

And the 2016 Yankees had prime assets that had contenders lining up.

Closer Aroldis Chapman, an impending free agent, went to the Cubs on July 25 for a package led by prospect Gleyber Torres.

Setup man Andrew Miller, with two additional years of control, went to the Indians on July 31, for a package led by prospects Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield.

On the Aug. 1 deadline, Carlos Beltran went to the Rangers for three minor league pitchers and Ivan Nova went to the Pirates for two minor leaguers.

Today’s reality

Cashman is much more limited now in his options to sell.

First baseman Luke Voit (knee) is currently on the IL, for the second time this year, and has not approached being the player who led MLB in homers during an abbreviated 2020 season.

Injuries and/or inconsistency and poor performance have tanked the value of Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar and Deivi Garcia.

Young right-hander Clarke Schmidt has been rehabbing an elbow strain since spring training.

Veteran right-hander Corey Kluber (shoulder) won’t be ready until September, if then.

Brett Gardner is coming to the end of the line. Justin Wilson has had a miserable season.

Giancarlo Stanton? A no-trade clause and a ridiculous contract makes him immovable, at least right now.

Would you consider trading…

Chad Green is under team control through 2022: Does Jonathan Loaisiga’s presence make Green expendable in the right deal?

Gio Urshela is under team control through 2023: Do you sell high on an inexpensive player, opening third base (or second base) for Torres before taking a run at one of the prime shortstops in this year’s free-agent class?

Gary Sanchez is under team control through 2022: If they genuinely field offers for Sanchez, it’s more likely to happen this winter, and the haul would still have to be massive. So, the odds are against.

Aaron Judge is under team control through 2022: At age 30 next year and given his injury history, a long-term extension for Judge will be a tricky negotiation.

Also: Stanton’s contract and a possible long-term extension for Torres (under team control through 2024) create other financial obstacles.

A trade deadline strategy

Unless the Yankees are somehow able to shed payroll, any difference-making trade deadline acquisitions would require vaulting past the luxury tax threshold and parting with prime prospects.

Despite Steinbrenner’s expressed openness to consider adding payroll, is there a trade scenario that would move him across that well-protected barrier?

The Yanks have roughly $3 million of payroll space to add.

That’s not a lot of room to maneuver, and the Yanks can at least point toward adding at least one of their starters (Luis Severino) by late August and bolstering their bullpen with internal choices.

Is the appetite for a center fielder lessened by the presence of switch-hitting Greg Allen and lefty-hitting rookie Estevan Florial?

If they have one deal to upgrade, it should be with a lefty-hitting outfielder and the Rangers’ Joey Gallo fills that bill, though his control through 2022 and his wide demand will be costly in prospects.

But imagine that power swing at Yankee Stadium.

Pete Caldera is the Yankees beat writer for For unlimited access to all Yankees analysis, news, trades and more, please subscribe today and download our app.

Email: Twitter: @pcaldera