Saturday, March 18, 2023

To Trade or Not to Trade...


Gleyber Torres (Photo Credit: Sporting News)

Warning: MLB Roster Decisions Ahead…

Next week stands as the last complete week without “real” Major League Baseball games. With Opening Day only twelve days away, the upcoming week is sure to include many behind-closed-door meetings between General Manager Brian Cashman and his team. Time for newly hired executive consultants Brian Sabean and Omar Minaya to earn their paychecks. 

As the Yankees face the difficult decision (difficult for them, not us) to either add Anthony Volpe to the 40-man roster and bring him to New York for Opening Day or send him to Eastern Pennsylvania for slightly more seasoning, other MLB front offices are analyzing needs in preparation for determining the best twenty-six men for their respective rosters. It should create an opportunity for potential trade acquisitions as teams look to enhance rosters before the one-hundred-sixty-two-game schedule starts.


Anthony Volpe (Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post)

Injuries can change a team’s priorities in a hurry. The Los Angeles Dodgers were viewed as a complete team when Spring Training started and then they lose infielder Gavin Lux for the season, and the team screams the need for another infielder. It has prompted the subsequent Isiah Kiner-Falefa to the Dodgers rumors, which of course could just be a fictional proposal created by the Yankees’ fanbase. The New York Mets, despite all of Steve Cohen’s money, find themselves scrambling for a new closer after losing star Edwin Diaz was lost for the season. Diaz, celebrating Puerto Rico’s victory over the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, tore the patellar tendon tear in his right knee. He underwent surgery which has an expected timeline of about eight months according to Mets general manager Billy Eppler. I do not think the Yankees and Mets match up for any potential trades, but teams are assessing their volatile, ever-changing needs and preparing to pull the trigger for potential final improvements before the start of the long summer run.    

The Yankees’ weaknesses are the same as they have been since last October. Left field, pitching, and a surplus of infielders, especially if Anthony Volpe makes the big-league roster. Having too many players is always a nice problem, but it must be addressed. I like Gleyber Torres and I am not particularly anxious to see him depart via trade, but I recognize he would bring the most in return. My fear is the Yankees trade Torres, and then Oswald Peraza and/or Volpe prove they are not quite ready for the Show. I like the thought of Peraza and Volpe as the long-term shortstop/second base solution. At some point, you must rip the band-aid off. I like Volpe better at second base than third, so if you are not moving Torres to third, which I do not believe the Yankees would do, it makes so much sense to move Torres for pitching. 

The starting rotation concerns me. Carlos Rodón’s season will be delayed. Although he is expected back in late April or early May (looking to be the latter based on recent reports), his injury history says there is cause for concern. While I try not to read too much into Spring stats, Luis Severino’s slow start is troubling. Hopefully, once the regular season starts, he is the bulldog of old, but watching him get hit hard this Spring has not been fun. I was pleased with Clarke Schmidt’s dominating performance the other day (he threw five perfect innings against the Pirates, striking out seven batters). But…it was just a Spring Training game. He still must prove it in the regular season. I will never be a big fan of Domingo German, so I find it hard to hold trust in his ability. He might be a good opener, but he weakens during the course of games as batting orders get second and third looks at his pitches. Nestor Cortes, Jr may be healthy but his hamstring pull at the start of camp shows how quickly one can go down.

When the Yankees signed Rodón, everyone loved talking about how dominating the starting staff could be. Then the injury bug hit, first taking down Frankie Montas. While I think Rodón will be okay, the line of first defense…the starting rotation depth…is troubling. Jhony Brito looms as the first call-up if an additional starter is needed. Yet, he has never pitched in the Majors so he has yet to go through the adjustment period when one makes it at the game’s highest level. Deivi Garcia has had a good Spring but after two disappointing years in the Minors, his Spring does not alleviate the risks or concerns. Non-roster invitee Tanner Tully made a nice impression before his minor league reassignment. The organization’s top pitching prospects seem too far away to help. Drew Thorpe is in the low Minors, and Will Warren has only pitched one game this Spring. There is potential in the depth but no proven Major League experience.

Jhony Brito (Photo Credit: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

With the uncertain starting pitching depth, a trade for an experienced starter seems likely. Maybe I am letting my dislike of German seep in, but I would add a starter, assuming one can be had, and move German to long relief, which was his intended role before Montas went down. No doubt Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes is the Brian Reynolds of pitching for Yankee fans.  Burnes would look awesome in Pinstripes, but I think a trade for him is as likely as winning Powerball. It seems more likely the Yankees would trade for a pitcher like Chris Flexen of the Seattle Mariners.

If I had my choice of infielders to move, Josh Donaldson would head the list. Unfortunately, his age, contract, and declining bat skills make him difficult to move. It would cost good young prospects who would have to be added as an enticement and the Yankees would have to pay part of his contract. Isiah Kiner-Falefa makes the most sense. Although his days as the Yankees’ starting shortstop are over…thankfully…he has value as a utility player. The Dodgers have shown you can never have too many utility players. IKF’s ability to play multiple positions adds to his appeal for other teams. The Volpe decision weighs heavily into whether IKF or Gleyber Torres is moved. If Volpe starts the year in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, it seems more probable IKF goes. If Volpe makes the team’s Opening Day roster as the second baseman, Torres, sadly, would be the one who gets the tap on the shoulder. I just do not really see the Yankees moving Volpe or Torres to third base. I would cut Donaldson in a heartbeat to do it, eating his contract, but I do not think the Yankees would. 

Lastly, the albatross…left field. Aaron Hicks is a Yankee. My God, let it end. I am ready for the end of his Yankees career. Let him go elsewhere to see if he can stay healthy and have a resurgent career. Willie Calhoun and Rafael Ortega are not great options, and Estevan Florial cannot hit Major League pitching.  I am still riding the Jurickson Profar or bust train. Whether it is Profar or someone else who is not currently with the team, the Yankees need a good one-year option in left. Next Spring, there will be legitimate discussions about Jasson Dominguez taking over plus Spencer Jones will continue to make more noise. As much as I disliked the stopgap idea for shortstop last year, it makes total sense for left field.

We have been talking about these positions all Winter. Hope is in the air that we finally see some resolution during the upcoming week. It would be a tremendous day to wake up to find out the Yankees have parted ways with a few of the above names like Hicks and IKF. I see next week as the ‘add bodies’ week, the following week as the final roster tweaking (moving the bodies around) in preparation for the March 30th opener at Yankee Stadium.

Misters Sabean and Minaya, you are on the clock.

As always, Go Yankees!