Sep 4, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner (11) triples to deep left allowing two runners to score during the fourth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Yankees Roster Options Post-Winter Meetings

By now, New York Yankees fans everywhere are well aware of the lack of moves made by general manager Brian Cashman during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, Florida this past week. While several rumors circulated for both starting pitching and the void at second base, the trade targets remain with their current team, and the free agents are signing elsewhere.

Reading through the multitude of social networks, fans are beginning to have a grim outlook for the 2014 season despite the signings of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran. Yankees fans are screaming for pitching–both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen. Combine that with unconfirmed reports late Friday night that the Rakuten Golden Eagles are not going to post pitching phenom Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees could indeed be in trouble.

While Brian Cashman has stated he may go the route of the 2011 Yankees, and fill the remaining roster holes with low cost players, there are still some options he can look at that make sense for the Yankees. Let’s take a look at a few of the options.

  • Trade Brett Gardner, JR Murphy, and Rafael De Paula to the Chicago Cubs for Jeff Samardzija and Darwin Barney: Gardner has one season remaining on his contract, Murphy provides a solid up and coming catching prospect, and De Paula could be one of the best young arms in all of the minor leagues. The Cubs have soured on the lack of development with Barney’s bat, but his glove is as smooth as it gets. Samardzija would give the Yankees their much-needed power arm. The Cubs have tried to extend Samardzija unsuccessfully, and by all accounts, the Yankees are going to let Gardner walk away at the end of this next season. If this deal were to be made, Alfonso Soriano would remain in left field as the everyday starter, and the Yankees could then fortify the lineup by signing free agent Kendrys Morales.
  • Sign free agent Brian Roberts and create a straight platoon with Kelly JohnsonIt is not rocket science to understand how many games Roberts has missed over the past few seasons–more than 400 to be exact, but the Yankees would not sign Roberts to be an everyday player. He is still in his mid-30s, and if put in the right situation, most likely could remain healthy with regular days off as well as being highly productive. During his prime, Roberts was a doubles machine, along with the ability to switch-hit and steal bases. If the Yankees could squeeze 80-90 games worth of production, it also allows for recent signing Kelly Johnson to be as successful as possible in a straight platoon situation.
  • Trade Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova, Gary Sanchez and Jose Campos for Brandon Phillips, Homer Bailey and cash: Admit it, the Yankees missed the boat on Omar Infante, but it might have been a smart move not handing out a 4-year deal to a mid-tier second baseman. With that said, Brian Cashman now has to get creative, and could also be feeling the pressure to make a deal that works. Earlier this past week, the Yankees turned down a straight Gardner for Phillips deal, believing Phillips’ declining slash lines at the plate over the past two seasons is more than they want to deal with given how much money he is still owed. This is where the creativity comes into play. Nobody is questioning Phillips ability to drive in runs (18 home runs, 100 RBI in ’13), nor his defensive ability (another Gold Glove in ’13), so if the Reds were willing to offset some of the cash owed, this deal makes sense. Of course on the Yankees part, they are forfeiting the jewel of their minor league system in catcher Gary Sanchez. While he is still raw as a defensive catcher, his bat is legit. Gardner as mentioned before, is a free agent, and the Reds would also want young arms in return for handing over their workhorse in Bailey. Ivan Nova is still valuable, and pair him with up and coming power arm Jose Campos, and each team gets what they want and need.
  • Trade Ichiro Suzuki and Manny Banuelos for Jonathan Papelbon and cash: The Yankees need an established closer, and the Philadelphia Phillies are tired of Papelbon’s act. While it may be unpopular to bring what some people have termed a “clubhouse cancer” and a player with a questionable attitude to the Bronx, when Papelbon is motivated, he is still one of the elite closers in all of baseball. He saved 29 games and posted a 2.92 ERA for a team that won 73 games in 2013. That is almost 40 percent of the teams wins, Papelbon closed out. Wouldn’t it make for great theater to see Papelbon in the Yankees’ road grays, slamming the door on his former team in Fenway Park? It could be a match made in heaven. As for Ichiro, his time as a starting outfielder in the Bronx has come to an end. He can still remain a useful player, as he hit .321 against lefties last season, his $6.5 million contract and the fact he’s in the last year of his deal would be appealing to Ruben Amaro. To get the Phillies to eat some of Papelbon’s contract, the Yankees will have to sweeten the deal. Enter Banuelos. He was once the prized pitching prospect in the farm system, but injuries derailed his fast track to the big leagues. Coming back from Tommy John surgery, he is still considered a talented piece to add in any trade, and the Phillies have to like the idea of getting a young, controllable power arm to rid themselves of Papelbon, even if they have to eat a third of the remaining contract.

If the Yankees were to make the deal with the Cubs, the signing of Kendrys Morales to be the everyday DH and part-time relief for Mark Teixeira at first base would be paramount. They would be giving up talent, but receiving vital pieces in return with Barney and Samardzija. The signing of Brian Roberts would allow the Yankees some roster flexibility, as Johnson could shift back and forth between second and third base, sharing time with Roberts at second, and perhaps Mark Reynolds at third. If the Yankees were to make the big deal with the Reds, the Yankees would get just as good of a defensive second baseman as Robinson Cano, and a guy that can drive in runs in Phillips, while receiving some financial relief. They would also receive the arm they need, and even though they would be giving up Nova and two prime minor league chips, Bailey immediately makes the rotation better with C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda.

The Yankees may have struck out at the Winter Meetings, but the Hot Stove season and opportunities to make this team a title contender remains. As Brian Cashman heads into the final year of his contract, he has to go “all-in” to ensure his tenure in the Bronx continues after 2014.

Tags: Brett Gardner Hot Stove New York Yankees Trades

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