It’s not just the New York Yankees sinking themselves in molasses as 2022 comes to a close. The trade market right now is dead as a doornail. Frozen. Stuck. It is an ex-market.
According to MLB insider Ken Rosenthal’s latest notes column, no trades were expected to be consummated before the new year, and even Seattle Mariners wizard Jerry Dipoto is having no luck getting things ignited.
That’s bad news for the Boston Red Sox, a team that has vowed to make a massively impactful addition on the market. It’s also brutal for the Yankees, who’ve yet to fulfill Brian Cashman’s pledge to import a left fielder to start the 2023 season, and are running out of options in free agency.
Michael Brantley reportedly entertained the Blue Jays and Rays before heading back to Houston. Andrew Benintendi received the five years he sought from the Chicago White Sox. Michael Conforto hasn’t been connected to New York in any capacity.
That leaves the trade market, where the Twins are dangling Max Kepler, the Diamondbacks have five center fielders (who could play left), and Bryan Reynolds sits on a thousand-foot-high golden pedestal, even after demanding to be dealt.
The Diamondbacks remain the best match for the Yankees, but on Friday, Arizona took a sledgehammer to Rosenthal’s prediction, dealing Daulton Varsho to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Arizona also still has Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy on the market, and both have been connected to the Yankees in recent weeks. One wonders, though, if selling high on Varsho to receive top catching prospect Gabriel Moreno halts all further dealings.
The Yankees have been “in” and needy long before Rosenthal laid out Arizona’s demands on Monday, but his column only further highlighted the fit:
"And finally, the Diamondbacks are seeking a right-handed hitting infielder in trade discussions involving their left-handed hitting center fielders. They also have been in the mix for a free agent who would fit their desired profile, Brandon Drury."
Right-handed hitting infielder, you say? The Yankees can provide options there.
Yankees-Diamondbacks trade package (featuring Gleyber Torres, Alek Thomas)
Ironically, Aaron Hicks’ replacement could be … Hicks from 2016. Thomas is a former tippy-top outfield prospect who struggled in his first taste of MLB action, albeit a small sample size under 100 at-bats. He made Futures Game appearances in both 2019 and 2021, and entered the 2022 season ranked No. 32 on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list, as well as No. 40 on MLB Pipeline’s.
While it’s difficult to envision Hicks in the same light, don’t forget his pedigree; he was Baseball America’s No. 1 Minnesota Twins prospect in both 2009 and 2010, and Keith Law called him the game’s No. 10 prospect in his ESPN rankings for 2011. The Twins gave Hicks more time to reach his nadir before trading him after 2015, whereas the Diamondbacks seem poised to have less patience in ushering Thomas out the door for Corbin Carroll, but the profiles aren’t terribly different.
A Varsho package would’ve cost the Yankees the most, and there would have been no way to get out of headlining it with Oswald Peraza, considering Moreno is a top-tier prospect. Despite Varsho’s shaky hard-hit metrics, he still drilled 27 home runs and provides next-level defense. He will be an excellent addition to the Jays. Dammit. Stings only slightly less than if he’d gone to the Astros, as was rumored earlier in the offseason.
Thomas is more attainable, but only slightly; despite the Yankees’ likely preference to include Torres, Peraza would also be in this swap (why would Arizona acquiesce to an arbitration-eligible veteran if they didn’t have to?). Maybe it’s just Peraza and Thorpe for Thomas — still a hefty price to pay.
McCarthy is the least valuable, with a reputation for sterling defense and speed, but without the same theoretical ceiling as Thomas and Varsho. He reads more as a fourth-outfield burner who’d probably split time with (gulp) Hicks in the Bronx. Is that worth trading away Gleyber Torres and a top-20 prospect, while potentially goading the D-Backs into including a reliever (Joe Mantiply?).
There are multiple theoretical matches between these two teams, but somehow, there isn’t a perfectly satisfying one. Any of the trio of trades would feel like a band-aid being ripped off, and wouldn’t satiate the risk-averse among us.