MLB insider Jeff Passan's Guardians trade tidbit should get Yankees thinking

If one Guardians star is available, where does it stop?
Tampa Bay Rays v Cleveland Guardians
Tampa Bay Rays v Cleveland Guardians / Jason Miller/GettyImages

The New York Yankees' collective ear should always perk up when a rumor emerges about a small-market team trying to inexplicably sell a cheap All-Star.

For one thing, they should probably go ahead and inquire about that cheap All-Star. But, more importantly, if one player who has no business finding his way into trade rumors is perceived to be available, what does that say about the rest of the roster?

On Friday, ESPN's Jeff Passan dropped his Winter Meetings primer, which detailed the latest on the Shohei Ohtani pursuit (the Boston Red Sox are apparently out, damn), the Yoshinobu Yamamoto chase (everyone's in, buckle up), and the Emmanuel Clase conversation. Wait, sorry, the WHAT?!

According to Passan, the Cleveland Guardians are open to dealing their back-to-back All-Star closer. Sure, there's variance year-over-year among closers, and sure, Clase allowed 25 more hits last season in the same number of innings he threw in 2022. His luck receded. He missed fewer bats. His barrel percentage increased from a minuscule 2.2 to 5%. Those are significant statistics.

But ... his price is hardly increasing. He costs $2.5 million this season, $4.5 million next season, $6 million in 2026, and could be further locked down with $10 million team options in 2027 and '28. The Guardians won't pay those. The Yankees might. But why now? And, if a Clase trade is being explored, is anything tied down in Cleveland? Could the Yankees potentially expand a trade to include contact wizard Steven Kwan, whose star declined slightly last season as his OPS dipped perilously close to .700 (.710). Might he enjoy the short porch? What would he cost in conjunction with a Juan Soto acquisition?

Yankees Trade Rumors: Emmanuel Clase (and ... Steven Kwan?)

Trading assets for Kwan sounds vastly preferable to paying Cody Bellinger, and I don't apologize for typing those words. Here. I'll even type them again. Trading assets for Kwan sounds vastly preferable to paying Cody Bellinger.

Look, there's no indication this is on the table. But if the Guardians are trying to trade from their wealth of pitching by dangling a top-five reliever in the AL, then they probably either want offense desperately or are terrified by the red freak flags Clase was beginning to fly last season. If they want offense, are they satisfied with Kwan's dinks and dunks, or would they rather import power? Spencer Jones? Everson Pereira? A big swing like Roderick Arias?

If Clase's on the table, so is everything else, as far as we're concerned.