The Yankees genuinely like Clarke Schmidt as a prospect, but they also understand that increasing his trade value now can pay dividends later this season.
Clarke Schmidt’s pitching has been one of the biggest positive storylines coming out of Yankees camp within the last several days. There’s no reason to believe he isn’t turning heads inside the organization, but it’s also fair to wonder why the Yankees are being so effusive with their praise of the 24-year-old right-hander.
General manager Brian Cashman and his front office knew exactly what they were doing by sending Schmidt to the mound against a powerful lineup of regulars on Monday night. The goal wasn’t just to see what Schmidt might do against the likes of Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres. The plan was also to give the organization’s No. 2 prospect a chance to generate buzz with media that cover the team on a regular basis.
Everything went according to plan. Schmidt did his part by pitching two innings of scoreless ball with three strikeouts. A bloop single by Torres was the only real blemish on Schmidt’s pitching record for the evening. Predictably, media members have taken the story and ran wild with it.
Suddenly, the question of whether or not Schmidt can force his way into the team’s starting rotation this season is now being entertained far and wide. The odds of Schmidt doing enough to unseat one of the five veterans slotted to man Boone’s rotation in 2020 are incredibly small.
Schmidt would have to beat out Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, JA Happ, Jordan Montgomery, and Jonathan Loaisiga to work his way into a starting role. It’s easy to see why a pitcher with zero innings of major league experience is going to struggle to overcome those odds.
The most likely way Schmidt can help the Yankees in 2020 is to become a valuable trade chip. That doesn’t mean the team wants to deal him. It’s very possible Cashman and his front office see him as a meaningful part of the team’s future. Even if they do plan to keep Schmidt for the long haul, there’s no downside to increasing his trade value in the short-term.
That’s just the message the Yankees are carefully crafting at the moment. They are putting Schmidt into high-profile scenarios so he can generate “objective” media buzz. That’s just how prospects acquire the hype necessary to bring back established stars at the trade deadline. Any team looking to shed payroll this season may find New York as an interested buyer.
Fans of other franchises might frown on this tactic. Some would argue that Spring Training (in any form) should only be used to get players ready for the regular season. The Yankees see larger opportunities. If they can use the preseason to increase the potential trade value of a prospect like Schmidt they’re going to take advantage of that opportunity. Time will tell if it pays off for Cashman in a few months.