Yankees Offseason Trade Target: Lance McCullers
With the Houston Astros reportedly interested in Yankees veterans Brian McCann and Brett Gardner, can New York pry loose long-time trade target Lance McCullers?
When the New York Yankees were shopping Andrew Miller last winter, Jon Heyman then with CBS Sports reported that one of the players they coveted in return for their closer was Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers.
The Yankees and Astros are again discussing trade possibilities this offseason, this time centered around catcher Brian McCann and possibly left fielder Brett Gardner as well. With the front office still searching for a young, controllable starting pitcher to solidify the long-term outlook of their rotation, could they once again try to land McCullers?
The 23-year-old righty made just 14 starts for the Astros this season but was still very effective when on the mound, pitching to a 3.22 ERA and 3.00 FIP in 81 IP. He struck out 30.1% of opposing batters while walking 12.5%.
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McCullers’ excellent performance this year was sandwiched by a pair of lengthy DL stints. He began the season on the disabled list with shoulder soreness and didn’t make his first big league start until May 13. After three healthy months, McCullers left his August 2nd start with an elbow injury that sidelined him for the rest of 2016.
Selected as a high school arm in the first round (41st overall) of the 2012 June amateur draft, McCullers was a two-time Baseball America Top 100 prospect during his climb up the minor league ladder, although durability issues hurt his stock.
If the Yankees are willing to eat a good chunk of McCann’s contract and package him with Gardner, I think that at least gets you into the ballpark of a quality young arm like McCullers, especially since the youngster has really yet to establish himself over a full MLB season. McCullers has yet to make more than 22 starts or pitch more than 126 innings at any level as a professional.
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If New York throws in a useful bullpen arm or spare part like Rob Refsnyder, would that be enough to get a deal done? With the team’s interest last winter, I’m sure McCullers’ name will come up in trade talks in the coming weeks, although a more dependable arm with a lower ceiling like Joseph Musgrove could also make sense.