In Friday’s post I hypothesized that the Yankees will land neither C.J. Wilson nor Yu Darvish this offseason. The Yankees are likely to pass on both players because they represent high cost, with little guaranteed reward. Wilson is a good but not great pitcher who risks locking the Yankees into another A.J. Burnett type deal while Darvish has Daisuke Matsuzaka potential. Given that either player would cost the Yankees about $100 million it makes a lot of sense for Brian Cashman to spend his money more wisely.
Given that the Yankees need pitching, if they are not going to be major players for the highest profile free-agent pitchers on the market then the team will have to plug holes either internally, from the scrap heap, or via trade. Internal candidates are for another post while scrap heap projects are difficult to project. Trade speculation, on the other hand, is the currency of the baseball blogger during the winter. Most trade speculation posts focus on players the Yankees will target. Instead, I thought I’d break down the current trade value of the Yankee players, going from those with the worst trade value to those with the most trade value.
Here’s the logic of this list. First, it is not meant to be an exhaustive list of everyone on the Yankees. Instead it is limited to the highest profile members of the organization. Second, placement on this list is based purely in terms of trade value, not playing value. That means that CC Sabathia doesn’t rate highly on the list even though he’s the best pitcher on the Yankees and one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. As good as CC is, he is hard to trade because few teams can afford to pay his salary, even if they wanted him. Third, it ignores no-trade clauses, because paying attention to them would make this less fun to write. Finally, this isn’t actually a list in reverse order. Instead, I’ve grouped players into tiers because trade value differs from trading partner to trading partner. With that cleared up, here’s the tiers.
Tier 7: Untradeable
With the exception of A.J. Burnett, there are a lot of good players on that list, but age and salary matter. Alex Rodriguez is still a productive baseball player, but he is also the least tradeable player in the game. He’s super-costly, declining and old. The same can be said for Derek and, to a lesser extent, Tex. A.J. and Soriano, meanwhile, are just grotesquely over paid. No team wants to clean that mess up, not unless the Yankees agree to eat a lot of salary. If the Yankees make a big trade this winter it won’t involve any of these players.
Tier 6: Extra Catchers
Cervelli only has trade value because he makes the league minimum and can suit up at Catcher. He can’t hit. He can’t field. He can’t throw runners out. He can, however, meet a need teams are likely to have, so he’s got that going for him. Romine has future potential, but most scouts predict that his ceiling is as a weak hitting back stop. Until he puts up some offense against real pitching he’ll serve at best as part of a larger trade.
Tier 5: Good, but expensive
If money wasn’t a factor, a year of CC or a year of Mo would generate incredible interest on the trade market. But money does matter for just about every other team in baseball and no one gets paid more to start or relieve than CC and Mo respectively. Obviously neither of these guys is getting dealt under any circumstances, but if the totally unthinkable were to happen so much money and value would have to change hands on both sides that a deal is virtually impossible.
Tier 4: Brian Cashman may get calls about these guys
These players are actually tradeable, and could produce some decent returns. Swisher has been mentioned frequently this offseason as a possible trade piece, but that actually doesn’t make sense for the Yankees. If the Yankees were concerned about being unable to resign him once he becomes a free agent then perhaps it would make sense to part ways with Swisher in a deal, but right now Nick represents above average power and on-base percentage for below average cost. He could get something back in a trade, but why would the Yankees trade him?
The rest of the guys in this tier are tradeable for different reasons. Russell Martin plays a critical position well for not a lot of money (I’m assuming the Yankees keep him). Brett Gardner is excellent at what he does, and cheap. David Robertson is phenomenal, but as a middle reliever his overall trade value is limited. Hughes and Noesi have potential, but it is as of yet unproven. While none of these guys will land the Yankees a big arm, any one of them would be a solid component of a good trade.
Tier 3: The rotation of the future
Ivan Nova’s trade value has never been higher. He always projected as nothing more than a back of the rotation starter until 2011, when he ended the season as the Yankees’ number two starter. He has no history of meaningful injury. He has improved each of the last two seasons. He handled pressure situations decently at a young age. Nova plus the right pieces could land the Yankees a young, proven, arm if the team on the other side needed to cut salary, for example, or meet additional roster needs.
Banuelos and Betances fall into the exact same category as Nova. They currently have less trade value than he does because they’ve yet to do much at the big league level. If either one of them is called upon to give the Yankees quality innings in 2012, and deliver, then they would leap frog Ivan into a higher tier because they project to have more upside.
Tier 2: No one thinks these guys are available
The Yankees’ best two hitters are both young. They play premium positions on defense. Either of them can breathe offensive life into a team that needs it. They make affordable salaries in 2012. For all of those reasons the Yankees would be crazy to trade either of these guys, but if Brian Cashman wanted to
lose his job trade one of them it would be as part of a block buster deal.
Tier 1: You know who
One could argue that no player has more trade value in all of baseball than Jesus. He’s been heralded as one of the game’s best offensive prospects for several seasons now. The Yankees dangled him in front of the Blue Jays for Roy Halladay in 2009. In 2010 they almost got Cliff Lee for Montero. Those deals almost happened based on potential. Montero’s strong showing this past September has jacked his value up higher than ever before. Until he can get it done for a full season he remains a prospect, but now Montero has some impressive swings at the big league level to entice opposing general managers even more.
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