Youth Parade Leaves Yankees with Roster Crunch Dilemma

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Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Trade Assets

Trading Brett Gardner makes sense, but we’ve been saying that for multiple offseasons now. There was a time when his $52 million extension for 2015-19 was considered team-friendly by market standards. Unfortunately, 2016 sapped nearly all the power from his bat and his 16 steals to date have unveiled a concerning decline in his running game.

Defensive metrics have been kinder to Gardner this year. He owns a 2.3 UZR compared to a -2.7 calculation in 2015. A major factor in this upward trend is that Gardner has played only 11 innings in center field this year, whereas he spent 322 frames there in ’15. For the record, Gardner’s highest UZR reading was 26.7 in 2011.

Gardner’s defense unofficially saved two victories this season. Both plays were game-enders and came with bases full of Blue Jays — the first was a leaping snow-cone catch at the wall to stop the Jays’ comeback in New York, the other a spectacular sliding grab in foul territory in Toronto. Gardner’s defense, although fleeting, is easily his most marketable facet.

The historical emergence of Gary Sánchez makes Brian McCann expendable. The Yankees currently have three catchers — Sanchez, McCann and Austin Romine — and it’s hard to imagine them all sticking around for 2017 given the crowded roster.

McCann is an attractive piece to Atlanta with the grand opening of SunTrust Park coming next year. The Braves are a rebuilding team that needs to fill seats. It’s unknown, however, if McCann would be willing to waive his no-trade to return for a 10th and 11th season with his former team.

General managers Brian Cashman and John Coppolella shared dialogue about McCann at the trade deadline. Although a deal was never imminent, discussions are expected to resume this offseason. The Braves will also search the free-agent market for a catching solution, so McCann might become nothing more than their Plan B, C or D.

Next: Yanks Go Yard 2016 Minor League Season Awards

Yankees fans should mainly expect a flurry of low-level moves this offseason to reconstruct the team. There are a lot of moving pieces to be dealt with in this transition, so it’s still possible that names like Gardner or McCann could be in the mix. The core of the Yankees should remain intact, but I anticipate the peripherals having a dramatic turnaround.