Thursday, November 12, 2015

Yankees strike another November trade, fueling rumor mill

The New York Yankees swung two deals in the matter of an hour Wednesday; the second season in a row the Yankees made a trade in early November. First, the club spun infielder Jose Pirela for 20-year-old starting pitcher Ronald Herrera from the San Diego Padres, and then moved catcher John Ryan Murphy to the Minnesota Twins for switch-hitting outfielder Aaron Hicks.

Trading Pirela opened a spot on the 40-man roster for the Yankees and netted the club a power arm for minor league depth. Moving Murphy was a bit of surprise with many, myself included, figuring Gary Sanchez was going to be packing his bags. However, the Yankees might view Sanchez more as a long-term solution than Murphy and Hicks fits the outfield quite nicely.

For now Hicks slots in as the fourth outfielder, one able to play strong defense from any of the three positions, behind Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Hicks owns a .808 OPS (261 PA) against left-handed pitching in his young career. The Yankees needed to address the fourth outfielder spot from the right side of the plate with the starters all lefties, or better offensively as a lefty in Beltran’s case.

As the ink was drying on the deal, there was immense speculation that the Yankees trade for Hicks meant Gardner undoubtedly had seen his last days in pinstripes (mind you, Gardner trade rumors were already in full tilt). The chatter escalated with Brian Cashman’s comment that the Yankees see the 26-year-old Hicks as a starter.


Gardner or Ellsbury?


Now, Hicks is a very good defender, but he has had a problem hitting right-handed pitching (.596 OPS in 667 plate appearances), which of course he would see most often as an everyday player. While Gardner could be traded, it might not necessarily be to open a spot for Hicks.

The Yankees could use some of the cash saved and move on a free-agent outfielder like Jason Heyward or Justin Upton in an effort to further decrease their average age for position players. Either Heyward or Upton would be an upgrade over Gardner, but would also cost close to twice as much per season. The same plan could be employed by trying to trade Ellsbury, but with close to $110 million and five seasons left on his deal that seems unlikely.

Don’tcha know?


Jacoby Ellsbury
Photo credit: Keith Allison via Flickr
While Ellsbury’s deal looks difficult to move, what about the notion brought forth by ESPN.com’s Andrew Marchand via this tweet wondering of the chance of an Ellsbury deal with the Seattle Mariners for Robinson Cano? Cano has eight years and $192 million left on his contract with the Mariners.

In my view, the Yankees would only do this if Seattle was tossing back in at least half the difference in value left on the pacts of Ellsbury and Cano (almost $83 million). The Yankees wanted nothing to do with paying Cano $24 million per season and I’d guess that has not changed. If the Yanks only had to pay Cano $140-150 million over the next eight seasons, then they might listen.

Further, it seems hard to believe that after only two seasons, the Mariners would abandon Cano, pay part of his salary AND try to compete in the AL West, not to mention they recently made a change in general manager. I cannot see this panning out now, but check back in a few seasons when the money decreases on both sides.


Left-handed starter for wish list?


Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News stated that Wei-Yin Chen was high on the Yankees starting pitcher wish list. Chen, a 30-year-old lefty, comes with draft compensation attached. The Yankees own the 22nd pick in the 2016 First-year Player Draft.

Chen pitched well for the Baltimore Orioles over the last fours seasons (46-32, 372. ERA) and is familiar with navigating the strong AL East lineups so the fit is there. The Yankees desire for a left-handed starter makes sense with only CC Sabathia among the potential rotation members who throw left-handed, and Yankee Stadium is built better for left-handed pitchers. Chen is seeking a five-year deal according to Feinsand.

Brett Anderson is another left-handed starter who is seeking a multiyear deal, and comes with a draft pick compensation attached. Anderson started 31 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015, the most he’s thrown since he managed 30 starts in 2009; his rookie campaign with the Oakland Athletics.

If the Yankees want a lefty starter from the free-agency barrel who is not tied down with a compensation pick they might want to look at Scott Kazmir who has reinvented himself over the last two seasons. Kazmir will likely come with a shorter term and lower cost, and just as much ability as Chen as far as I can see.

The Yankees could drop even lower in the pool and target J.A. Happ or Rich Hill, both of whom looked very good at the end of the 2015 season. Each would also come with immense risk -- albeit short-term -- due to the larger sampling of poor performance before their respective hot stretches last season.

We’re just a couple of weeks into the hot stove season and the Yankees are already stoking the fire. I suspect there will be plenty more to talk about over the next few months. If last winter and the early stages of this offseason are any indication, nothing is out of the question for the club going forward, especially if it means control of young players with upside.

Yankees logo courtesy of SportsLogos.net.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



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