Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Yankees have too many outfielders, therefore...

The Yankees have too much depth in the outfield. Of course, having too much depth is not really a bad thing, because inevitably something's going to go wrong with one or more of those guys. There could be an injury or two, one or more prospects could fail, or that depth has to be used to fill holes at other positions through trades. And that leads me to this article.

What we have is the baseball version of this.

I'll break it down the easiest way I can, with bullet points (coincidentally it's an easy way to write, too)....
  • The chances of trading Jacoby Ellsbury are not good. While he's been effective this season, the people that run the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball are not stupid. They can see his below average output the previous two years. They can see that he's currently dealing with a concussion and neck sprain. And they sure as hell see that he's still owed around $80 million through 2020 (if you assume his team option for 2021 is bought out). Not impossible to trade, but not likely either.
  • Brett Gardner is having his best season with the bat, thanks to power output that's never been seen out of him before. His highest home run total for a season is 17 in 2014, and his total so far this season is already at 12. And therein lies the problem. Without that power he's just another good to great defensive outfielder with an average bat, which is not at all hard to come by in the league. So if you were running a team, would you make a trade for Gardy? Did you have to think about it? Even as a Yankees fan? Yeah... exactly.
  • Then we have Aaron Judge. I don't have to tell you that this guy is a future star, because he is a star. This is a guy the team should build around, not use as trade bait. And I don't think Brian Cashman and Company need me to tell them that.
  • Has Aaron Hicks finally reached the potential that so many have seen in him since he was drafted by the Twins in the 1st round of the 2008 Draft? Possibly. Am I going to keep asking questions and then answering them? Yep. Will other MLB teams offer the Yankees enough in a trade that it's worth dealing Hicks away? I seriously doubt it. Not that other teams wouldn't be interested in acquiring Aaron, I just think he's worth more to the Yankees being on their roster compared to what they would fetch in dealing him away.
  • Clint Frazier, Dustin Fowler, and Tyler Austin are in AAA and could be called upon by the Yankees at a moment's notice. Blake Rutherford is just a couple of years away from being ready for the big leagues. And Estevan Florial has been impressive down in Charleston. Simply put, the Yankees are not hurting for minor league outfield prospects.
Taking all of that information into account, I don't believe it's a question of "will the Yankees trade away an outfielder or two?" No, the question is "when will the Yankees trade away an outfielder or two?" And that will lead to the question "who will the Yankees trade away?" 

Unless the Yankees take a nosedive in the standings, which I don't see happening (for the record I can see them losing their grip on 1st place in the AL East, but they won't be "out of it" towards the end of July, either), the answer to the question of "when" is easy. 

The starting rotation needs help. While Luis Severino looks like a guy we can count on, I'm less than confident in the other four guys. CC Sabathia has been the second best starter since the beginning of May, and if the Yankees need him to start a postseason game I'm going to be concerned. Jordan Montgomery has done a good job, but I get the feeling every start of his could be the beginning of a downfall. Micheal Pineda has won eight games this year, but the question of which Mike will show up when he takes the mound is getting old. And although I still think Masahiro Tanaka will figure things out I'm still a little worried.

Now, it's true that the Yankees can call up highly touted prospect Chance Adams, and he could help stabilize the rotation. But I think the rotation could use more certainty than even the best prospect could provide. And speaking of Adams, even with the rotation's future up in the air, the organization still has a couple of other nice prospects in Albert Abreu and Justus Sheffield. 


So there it is... I see the Yankees trading away at least two of their outfield prospects for a starter. Big surprise hearing that from me? Huh? I've probably already wrote about trading for a starter dozens of times since the offseason started. But hear me out...

I can already hear some people yelling "what about third base?" 

Well, for starters, Gleyber Torres has been getting a lot of work at the hot corner, and people from both inside and outside the Yankees see him getting a call to the Majors sooner rather than later. The second reason I don't see a significant trade for a third baseman is the fact that the Yankee offense has been second best in the league (fWAR of 11, only trailing the Astros at 12.3), and well ahead of their biggest competitor in the AL East (the Red Sox have an fWAR of 7.4). Third, the Sox have a damn good rotation, which bests the Yankees starters in fWAR 9.5 to 8.2. 

So here's another question... where do the Yankees need to improve the most in order to compete for the division and beyond? The starting rotation.

That's not to say the Yanks can't improve in the bullpen. But with Aroldis Chapman returning to pair with Dellin Betances, along with a handful of right-handed relievers that can hold things down, their needs in the 'pen are not within the definition of "big".

Okay, so back to outfielders plus others for a starter. Here's the package I see being offered...

Brett Gardner - while the power may not seem legit, he certainly has value. 

Michael Pineda - if a team deals away a starter they're going to need somebody to throw those lost innings for them the rest of the season. At the same time, the acquiring team may not want this guy to cost them beyond this season. This guy is basically just a rental in order to eat innings.

Clint Frazier - with the way both Aarons have broken out, along with Dustin Fowler looking like a soon-to-be MLB player, Clint is expendable. Furthermore, he is somebody that would be a key piece in acquiring a young stud starter.

Justus Sheffield - With Pineda being a free agent after this season, the acquiring team may want somebody that could fill the rotation spot opened up by the trade for next year and beyond. But not just any old arm, an arm with high upside that is under team control for many years. That's where Sheffield fits. I suppose this could be Chance Adams, but I think the Yankees would rather keep the guy that could contribute to their postseason push right now.

I can also see one more piece being added to this package, and sadly it wouldn't be just a "toss in". This guy could be one of Jorge Mateo, Miguel Andujar, or Tyler Wade. Or possibly another pitcher such as Albert Abreu or Dillon Tate.

That's a pretty good package of players, isn't it? So what would the Yankees get in return? How about this man?


Gerrit Cole finished 4th in Cy Young voting a couple of years ago at the age of 24, and I believe his poor August and September last year are much more an anomaly than the norm (outside of those two months his ERA was 2.78). Even better is the fact that Cole isn't scheduled to be a free agent until after the 2020 season, keeping the team from having to spend big for another pitcher to fill the top of the rotation (and no free agent pitcher worth a damn comes cheap). Which would allow the team to sign Bryce Harper, joining Judge and Fowler, Hicks, or Ellsbury in the outfield.

By the way, as to why Pittsburgh would agree to this, the trade would free up room for them to trade away Andrew McCutchen (who they've been interested in trading away for a while now), leaving them with an outfield of Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Gardner, and Frazier. Not to mention that they'd have a future starting rotation that includes Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, and Justus Sheffield. 

That would give the Yankees a starting rotation next year of Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery, Chance Adams, along with re-signing one of  Masahiro Tanaka or CC Sabathia. This with an outfield of Aaron Judge, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Aaron Hicks, before they sign the aforementioned Bryce Harper after the season.

For the sake of being complete, the Yankees infield would include Greg Bird at first, Starlin Castro at second, Didi Gregorius at short, Gleyber Torres at third, and Gary Sanchez behind the plate.


Phew. This article was meant to be a small piece about the Yankees trading from their biggest area of strength, the outfield, and turned into something much larger. I don't know about you, but I think the end result is pretty darn interesting.

I wonder if this thing works.

2 comments:

  1. Great analysis, Bryan. I am in agreement with your takes. I am concerned as the farm system matures because you can only protect so many people on the 40-man roster when it comes time. We will lose some quality prospects through Rule 5. So, I think it is smart business to package from strength to improve areas of weakness.

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