Category: Yankee Trade Targets Page 2 of 3

Would Steven Matz Be A Yankees Rotation Upgrade?

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On Monday afternoon, the NY Post’s Mike Puma and Ken Davidoff reported preliminary trade talks between the Yankees and Mets for starter Steven Matz. The never ending 2019 injury bug has hit the Yankees’ rotation this spring. The young pitching prospects are performing well in camp so far. Despite this, it doesn’t hurt to seek veteran upgrades if options arise. The keyword here is upgrade.

Matz is a big time source of frustration for Mets fans. The local kid from Long Island possesses top end talent. A few years ago, Matz was the third pitcher in a fearsome trio in the Mets rotation including Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. Things have not worked out well for Matz. He has suffered injuries and experienced inconsistencies in performance yet the talent and high ceiling still remain. A quick look at his numbers suggests entertaining the thought of acquiring Matz is a wasteful exercise. There may be underlying data hinting at why the Yankees inquired. While acknowledging how hard it is for the Yankees and Mets to make a deal, let’s examine if Matz is a trade target worth pursuing.

Performance

Looking under the hood of Matz’s standard statistics reveals a pretty mixed bag. Matz has a four-pitch arsenal that he likes to mix up. He primarily throws a sinker, which is his fastball of choice, but he will go to his changeup, slider and curve a fair amount of the time. He throws the sinker over 50% of the time. The offspeed offerings are pretty evenly spread out with his changeup sitting around 20%.

Matz’s sinker is a pretty fascinating pitch. In 2019, it averaged a velocity of 93.3mph, which is above the league average of 91.1mph. That is a good thing. On the flip side, his spin rate on the pitch sits around 2100rpms, which is below the league average. In a vacuum, the below average spin rate works well for a sinker. This may not be the case with Matz though.

The sinker goes against conventional wisdom mainly because of where he locates the pitch. We normally think down in the zone with sinkers. Matz uses his in the opposite manner. Here is a chart to illustrate his sinker location:

This is pretty atypical for a sinker heavy pitcher. This could very well reflect the Mets pitching philosophy. Matthew Trueblood over at Baseball Prospectus discussed Noah Syndergaard using his sinker in a similar way. Matz loves to pound his sinker up in the zone. One possible explanation for this is the desire to play up the above average velocity on the pitch. It is much more difficult for a hitter to get on top of a hard fastball up in the zone and Matz exploits this. Here is the pitch to Juan Soto:

And here is the fastball to a dangerous righty hitter in Anthony Rendon:

An effective high fastball is an important weapon for two reasons. One, it minimizes the opportunity a hitter has to drive the ball in the air. This is a problem Matz has that we will get to soon. Two, it is a great set up for Matz’s most effective secondary pitch in 2019.

The Changeup

The change worked really well for Matz last season. He averaged 84.3MPH on the pitch, which was slightly above average. His 2300RPM was well above average. As mentioned earlier, the changeup was his second most frequently used pitch last year and with good reason. It was easily the pitch with the highest movement in his arsenal. Here is a graph comparing the horizontal movement of his pitches against the average. The changeup is the green line:

The changeup had 16.8 inches of break. That was 22% higher than the average. That is a good amount of movement going from one side of the plate to the other. It doesn’t stop there. The changeup also has a really good drop as well. Here is a graph detailing the vertical movement of his pitches against the average. Again, the changeup is the green line:

This is a really good pitch. It has a ton of movement and plays really well with the high fastball. He has a pretty strong command of the pitch as well. He is able to keep it down in the zone in on righties and away from lefties as this graph shows:

When you combine really effective movement with good command you force swings like this from our boy Starlin Castro:

Yeah, that works.

Why Isn’t He More Effective?

As we’ve seen, Matz has two strong pitches that at times keeps hitters off balance. But a quick glance at his numbers reveals he hasn’t been able to put it all together over the course of a season. One reason for this is an inconsistent third pitch to complement the fastball and change. If the fastball command isn’t there or hitters lay off that pitch, he has to rely on his secondary pitches more. Both his curveball and slider sit below average in spin rate. The slider, in particular, is a below average pitch. The lack of effective movement results in the two pitches sitting in the strike zone close to or more than 50% of the time. Overall, he’s thrown 50.6% of his pitches in the zone, above the league average. This leads to one of Matz’s biggest issues.

Steven gives up a ton of hard hit balls. Batters have swung and missed on only 23% of his pitches. This is well below average. Last season, he allowed the highest hard hit rate of his career at 38.5%. He allowed 9% of his balls in play to be barrels. The league average is 7%. To make matters worse, he is a flyball pitcher. All of this leads to a career high 27 home runs allowed in 160 innings last season. That is creeping towards J.A. Happ territory. It is possible that Matz throwing his sinker so much takes away from the slider and curveball.

Matz also has a long injury history. Here are his ailments since 2016:

  • Missed over a month with left shoulder tightness.
  • Missed over a month with left elbow inflammation.
  • Didn’t finish the 2017 season due to ulnar nerve irritation in left elbow.
  • Missed two weeks with a flexor pronator strain in left forearm.
  • Missed a week due to radial nerve discomfort.

This is frightening. It is pretty surprising that he didn’t end up getting Tommy John surgery. To his credit, outside of the radial nerve discomfort in May, Matz didn’t suffer an injury the rest of 2019. That may provide little solace to a Yankees fan base who is exhausted with new injury news coming out seemingly every day.

Is Matz Worth Pursuing?

From a sole talent perspective, the Yankees should look to acquire Steven Matz. The numbers don’t suggest this route, but the stuff does. There aren’t many lefties with this combination of velocity, aggressiveness, and talent on the major league level. The key is unlocking his third pitch. That would go a long way in mitigating the hard hit and strike zone issues he’s experiencing.

According to the available data, the curveball has more potential than the slider. Matt Blake may be able to unlock that pitch. It also doesn’t hurt to have a pitching savant like Gerrit Cole or a lefty with a good curveball like James Paxton on either side of you as well. The 2020 Yankees can take Matz to the next level. Their recent history of increasing spin and velocity for pitchers suggests they can improve Matz’s metrics. If they do that they may have a gem on their hands.

The flip side is the scary injury history. The Yankees are already without Luis Severino for the year. James Paxton is recovering from back surgery. The injuries to some of their position players also compromise the team’s ability to deal someone like Clint Frazier. It may not be wise to bring in another injury prone player who could realistically miss a month or more regardless of talent.

While the allure of unlocking Steven Matz is tempting, the potential IL stints are not. The Yankees have a nice group of young pitchers who can fill in the back end of the rotation until James Paxton and Domingo Germán return. A trade for Matz would also help the 2021 rotation, but how valuable is that if you can’t depend on his availability? Durability is every bit as important as pitching ability. Since that is a clear issue for Matz, it may be best to not tempt fate.

The Yankees Should Trade For Joc Pederson

Lost in the craziness of the Betts/Price trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers was the failed Joc Pederson trade to the Los Angeles Angels. According to reports, Angels owner Arte Moreno was unhappy with waiting on the Betts deal to complete. The Angels missed out on an opportunity to bring in an above-average lefty power bat to man right field. One person’s impatience can lead to another man’s chance at opportunity. That man should be Brian Cashman.

Joc Pederson would be a nice addition to the Yankees. I mentioned this in an earlier column, but it is worth repeating. The Yankees spent $324 million on Gerrit Cole. This is as strong an indication of the Yankees intentions as you can imagine. They want to win multiple titles. In order to accomplish this, the team should look to maximize each available roster spot with as many high quality players as possible. This is stating the obvious, but it is a pretty difficult strategy to execute. Pederson would be able to address multiple needs of the roster, but only filling up one slot. Let’s take a deeper dive.

A Productive Lefty Bat

The departure of Didi Gregorius and the injury to Aaron Hicks leaves Brett Gardner as the only lefty regular in the lineup. Fortunately, the team has two good bats in Mike Tauchman and Mike Ford, but there is a need for more. Joc Pederson would immediately slot in as the top lefty hitter in the lineup. In 2019, Pederson hit .249/.339/.538/.876 with 36 home runs in 450 at-bats. There is the obvious caveat of the juiced ball, but Pederson hit 26 and 25 homers as a 23 and 24-year-old in 2014 and 2015 respectively so power isn’t foreign to him.

Looking beyond the standard stats, we will see some encouraging trends for Pederson. We will start with his wOBA:

According to Fangraphs, wOBA combines all the different aspects of hitting into one metric, weighing each of them in proportion to their actual run value. It is a more accurate metric of a player’s contribution to scoring runs. As we can see from this graph, Pederson sits comfortably as an above average offensive contributor. He finished 2019 in the 69th percentile in this measurement. This captures Pederson’s diverse skillset in impacting the offensive side of the game. While his main contribution is power, he isn’t simply a slugger looking for that one pitch to drive out of the park. There is another trend resting under the hood that should excite Yankees fans.

Pederson’s strikeout rate sits below the league average over the last three years:

I didn’t expect to see this when researching Pederson’s data. I always thought Joc was a free swinger taking big hacks hunting for homers. That clearly isn’t the case. There was a jump in 2019, but that makes sense given the league-wide increase in strikeouts.

These metrics paint a pretty nice picture of Pederson’s overall ability as an offensive player. He creates runs in multiple ways and is improving as a disciplined hitter. Of course, his calling card remains his power.

The Power Is Legit

Joc Pederson hits the ball very hard. In 2019, his average exit velocity of 90.9 mph sat in the 83rd percentile. His hard hit percentage of 43.5% sat in the 76th percentile. Over the course of his career, Pederson routinely sits in the higher rankings of any hard hit ball measurement.

There has also been a conscious effort to get the ball in the air with more consistency. Over the last two seasons, Pederson’s average launch angles of 15.4 and 15.3, in 2018 and 2019 respectively, are the highest of his career. As a result, Pederson experienced the highest fly ball rates of his career. Joc hitting the ball with consistent authority in the air leads to improved performances like this :

This is a player who knows his strengths and is developing ways to maximize them. Sure, the juiced ball factors in, but that does a disservice to the clear improvement Pederson is making as a power hitter. There is another aspect of Joc’s offensive profile that suggests increased productivity could be on the way.

Improved Control Of The Strike Zone

Oftentimes when we think of strike zone control balls and strikes immediately come to mind. Strike zone control also refers to the types of pitches batters swing at in the zone. Hitters could let mistakes go by while swinging at a pitch with great command. Pederson is being more aggressive with swings in the zone while maintaining an average zone contact rate. Here is a look at Pederson’s z-swing% or swing rate in the strike zone over his career:

This is important because it shows that Pederson is giving himself more chances to positively impact the baseball. Yes, he has an average contact rate in the zone, but increasing the usage of that swing increases the opportunity to do damage. There is one more aspect to this that will give a clearer understanding of Pederson’s production over the last year.

He is pulling the ball more now than at any other point in his career. According to statcast, Joc pulled the ball 46% of the time in 2019. Prior to last year, the closest Pederson came to that number was in 2016 with a 40.1% pull rate. He is hitting the ball in the air with authority to his pull side. This would work incredibly well in Yankee Stadium.

Defense and Platoon Issues

We won’t be confusing Joc Pederson with Lorenzo Cain or Victor Robles in the outfield. Spending his time in right field this past season, Pederson ended up with an Outs Above Average of 3. That ranks him 32nd amongst outfielders behind guys like Steven Duggar, Hunter Renfroe, and Brian Goodwin. Interestingly enough, he’s ranked ahead of players like Kevin Pillar and…Brett Gardner. Pederson is a solid defender who can competently man both corner outfield positions. The Yankees would be better served to have Mike Tauchman back up center while Hicks recovers from Tommy John surgery.

The platoon splits are a legitimate concern. He has a career OPS of .572 with a slugging percentage of .310 against left handed pitchers. He has nine home runs against lefties versus 114 against righties. While these numbers are alarming, there may be some important context to consider.

The Dodgers fully believe in positional flexibility, versatility, and matchups. They are looking to create as many advantages as possible. This includes a heavy reliance upon platoons. Remember, they didn’t want Cody Bellinger facing lefties early on in his career. Bellinger is a top 5 hitter in the entire sport. Pederson only has 336 at bats against lefties. He has 1696 at bats against righties. We don’t actually know if Pederson can hit lefties because he hasn’t been given a fair chance to do so. This could be another Didi Gregorius situation.

Is There A Chance It Happens?

There is always the possibility of Ninja Cash swooping in and acquiring a player who is trending upwards. There are a lot of things to like about Pederson. He hits the ball hard. 40 home runs is a real possibility. There is a need for some lineup balance despite many people downplaying its importance. He provides solid defense. The Yankees believe in load management so providing Aaron Boone with another quality piece to rotate amongst Stanton, Voit, Tauchman, and Andújar is aggressive and smart. There is real Curtis Granderson 2.0 potential as Matt mentioned on Twitter. The Dodgers are clearly willing to move him in the right deal.

It just doesn’t feel like the Yankees will make the move. They certainly have the prospect capital to do it, but the team appears to be content with their roster heading into spring training. The team is also firmly over the third luxury tax threshold at $258 million according to Cots. An argument could be made that once a team surpasses the third luxury tax threshold it makes sense to blow by it since the tax penalty is set. It is a nice theory, but teams don’t operate that way in this day and age.

A Pederson trade during spring training would virtually eliminate any opportunity for the team to address potential issues that may pop up between now and the trade deadline. There are positions that may need more attention as the season progresses so positions like back up middle infielder or bullpen may be worth the added splurge.

Joc Pederson is a good player and could be even better in a full time role. The move is tantalizing. It is one the Yankees should strongly consider if not now than some further point in the season.

Yankees Trade Target: Nolan Arenado

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Bobby did a nice job yesterday covering the Nolan Areando situation and how the Yankees could be a trade partner. Today, let’s dig deeper into Arenado’s qualifications and the Yankees’ interest.

Background

Arenado, who turns 29 this April, hails from California. After an illustrious high school career, he committed to Arizona State University but did not wind up attending. Instead, the Rockies drafted him in the second round of the 2009 draft and signed him away from his committment.

By the numbers, Arenado had a pretty linear development path through the minors. He climbed the ladder gradually and made his big league debut in 2013. Two years later, Arenado established himself as Colorado’s best player and a bonafide superstar.

Ever since, Arenado has been a steady hand for a Rockies team that’s gone through ups and downs. The third baseman led the Rockies to back-to-back Wild Card spots in 2017 and 2018, but otherwise, the team has been mired near the bottom of the NL West.

Things were looking up for Colorado following 2018, a year that they won 91 games and toppled the Cubs in the Wild Card game before elimination against the Brewers in the Division Series. To keep the good vibes going, the Rockies locked up Arenado to a big extension last February, just a year before he was going to be a free agent.

Oh how things have changed in a year, though. The Rockies won 71 games and finished fourth in the division. Now, Arenado and Colorado’s GM Jeff Bridich are openly feuding and a trade seems inevitable.

Performance

Arenado is a lifetime .295/.351/.546 (125 DRC+, 120 wRC+) hitter. He’s got an impressive combination of contact (15.2 percent strikeout rate) and power (.251 ISO). He’s also an elite defender by all accounts, including the recently unveiled Outs Above Average.

Simply put, Arenado is one of the best all-around players in the game. His trophy case says as much:

  • Seven Gold Gloves (he’s won every year of his career)
  • Four Silver Sluggers
  • Five All-Star Games
  • Five Top-8 finishes in MVP voting

The third baseman has been remarkably consistent, too. Ever since he broke out in 2015, here are the lowest marks he’s had in a few different categories:

  • Games played: 155 (2019)
  • Plate appearances: 662 (2019)
  • Batting average: .287 (2015)
  • On-base percentage: .323 (2015) and no lower than .362 since 2016
  • Slugging percentage: .561 (2018)
  • Home runs: 37 (2017)
  • fWAR: 4.5 (2015)

Not only is that an incredible floor during his age 24 through 28 seasons, but it’s also an impressive display of durability.

Of course, everyone is going to ask if he can continue such performance outside of Coors Field. Do we need to re-litigate DJ LeMahieu’s transition all over again?

There’s no question that Arenado has been better at home (130 wRC+) than on the road (109 wRC+) during his career. However, there are a couple of seemingly anomalous seasons that bring down his road splits. Take a look:

YearRoad PARoad wRC+
201325768
201421799
2015331119
2016344116
2017350126
2018343104
2019327118

Clearly, his first two seasons in the league (before he broke out) bring down his lifetime mark. He’s an excellent hitter no matter where he plays.

Even before we saw LeMahieu blossom in pinstripes in 2019, there was a history of players leaving the Rockies to great success. I have no doubt that Arenado would have a smooth transition to any new team offensively.

Finally, let’s look at Arenado’s projected performance for 2020.

  • ZiPS: 646 PA, .298/.367/.567 (126 OPS+), 37 HR, 4.5 WAR
  • Steamer: 657 PA, .296/.371/.571 (124 wRC+), 40 HR, 4.9 WAR

It’s going to be a terrific season for the soon-to-be 29 year-old regardless of where he plays.

Injury History

Arenado has only gone on the disabled list once in his career. Moreover, it was a freak injury. In 2014, his sophomore season, he broke his finger sliding into second base in a game. He spent a little more than a month on the shelf, but has had no big issues otherwise.

Contract

As mentioned, Arenado signed a big extension before last season. The deal is through 2026, though he can opt-out after the 2021 season.

Arenado is due $70 million through 2021 and another $164 million thereafter should he stick around. If he opts out, it’ll be in advance of his age-31 season. Can he beat five years and $164 million at that time? I think so.

To complicate matters (for the Rockies if they really do want to trade him), the contract includes a no-trade clause. That takes away a lot of leverage from Colorado, similar to the Giancarlo Stanton situation a few years ago.

Does he make sense for the Yankees?

The Yankees don’t *need* a third baseman. But is Arenado better than the team’s internal options? As good and promising as Gio Urshela and Miguel Andújar are, neither hold a candle to Arenado.

Of course, Urshela and Andújar are far cheaper than Arenado. Urshela will earn $2.475 million and Andújar not too much more than the league minimum. The Yankees are already well-above the third tier of the luxury tax, so who knows how willing the team is to expand payroll any further.

What would a trade look like?

First, let’s look at what the Giancarlo Stanton trade cost the Yankees. Stanton was due $295 million over ten years at the time, though the Marlins are on the hook for $30 million provided that he doesn’t opt-out after this season. In return, the Yankees sent Starlin Castro (with two years and $22 million remaining) and prospects Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers.

Guzman was a back-end top 100 prospect who had topped out in short-season A-ball before the deal while Devers was still in rookie ball. Castro’s inclusion was more to offset salary than anything else.

With all that in mind, I’m sure the Yankees would want to include JA Happ in any deal to level out the 2020 payroll to some extent. After that, it would come down to haggling over prospects. But again, the Rockies don’t have much leverage here if they want to dump a significant portion of Arenado’s deal. Especially because Arenado has a no-trade clause. As a result, I don’t think the Yankees would need to include any prospects close to the majors. I’m not going to do a proposal because MTPS, but I’d assume parameters not all that different than the Stanton deal.

Yankees Trade Target: Yu Darvish

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Everyone knows the Yankees need another starting pitcher or two. We’ve already discussed a couple of the big names in free agency: Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. There are others on the open market that are a few notches below those two, but the Yankees could also explore a trade to bolster the rotation. Yu Darvish, who came up in the mailbag at the beginning of the month, could be one of those options.

Background

Before he was posted and signed by the Texas Rangers, Darvish had a masterful seven-year career in Japan for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. The career numbers in the NPB are just absurd: he had a 1.99 ERA in 1,268 1/3 innings there. At just 24 years of age when he came over to the US, there was a boatload of interest in acquiring his talents.

The Rangers made the high bid to the Fighters for Darvish: $51.7 million. This of course was well before the new posting rules, which now max out at $20 million. Darvish later signed with Texas for six years and $56 million.

Darvish spent about five and a half years deep in the heart of Texas before the Rangers dealt him to the Dodgers at 2017’s trade deadline. Yu helped bring the Dodgers back to the World Series for the first time since 1988. Darvish became a free agent after the fall classic concluded with a loss to Houston.

Then 32 years of age, Darvish truly hit free agency for the first time. It took until February of 2018 for him to find a home. Eventually, he signed with the Cubs for six years and $126 million. He could have opted out of the remaining four years and $81 million on his contract after this season ended, but chose not to. It’s not clear whether or not Darvish is available at the moment, but with rumors about Kris Bryant’s availability, one would think Chicago is open to offers on any of their high-priced players.

There’s so much more to Darvish than the fact that he’s a very good pitcher. Bobby touched on this in the mailbag previously linked, but the gist is that he’s pretty active on Twitter and funny to boot. He once joked that Masahiro Tanaka was overpaid. A more recent example: he absolutely roasted Justin Verlander in the playoffs. Aside from engaging in lighthearted stuff, he’s not afraid of addressing more serious baseball topics either, such as the Astros’ latest scandal.

Performance

Since departing his home country, Darvish has had an excellent stateside career. He’s had some health issues, which I’ll get to in a little bit, but when on the mound he’s been stellar. In 1,051 innings, Darvish owns a 3.57 ERA, 3.49 FIP, and 3.05 DRA. Those numbers have made him one of the league’s top-25 starts since 2012, his rookie season.

As great as those numbers look, there’s always the “what have you done for me lately?” question. He’s now 33, so his decline phase surely has begun or is nearing. In fact, it seemed like Darvish could have been in for an ugly and steep decline at the outset of his Cubs career.

In 2018, Darvish made just 8 starts for Chicago. They weren’t good: he only completed six innings thrice and posted a 4.95 ERA. The underlying numbers weren’t pretty either: he walked 21 and allowed 7 homers in 40 innings. What’s worse is that his season ended in mid-May.

Things didn’t get much better to start year two on the north side. By the end of this June, Darvish had made 17 starts and still struggled with control and dingers. At that time, the righty had a 4.98 ERA and 5.27 FIP. Things looked pretty bleak.

Come July though, things changed. In his final 14 starts of the season, Darvish was brilliant and rediscovered his control. He posted a 2.95 ERA and 3.06 FIP during this 88 1/3 inning run to close the season. Even though he allowed 15 homers during that span, Darvish limited the damage by walking just 7 batters.

A slow start, but a strong finish.

The late season run helped bring Yu back to respectability. He just was able to get his ERA below 4, but what’s more impressive is that Baseball Prospectus’s DRA indicates that this was actually Darvish’s best season of his career. His 2.69 DRA isn’t his lowest raw total, but when adjusting for the juiced ball, he had a DRA- of 55 (i.e. 45 percent lower than league average), easily topping his previous low of 61 in 2013.

So, even now at a later stage of his career, it’s safe to say Yu still has it. There was some thought that he could opt out of his deal this winter, though that obviously didn’t come to fruition.

Injury History

As hinted at earlier, Darvish does have a somewhat lengthy injury history. Considering that he debuted at Japan’s highest level at just 18 years-old, it’s not surprising that he’s got a bit of wear and tear at this stage of his career.

Darvish was a bastion of health for most of his career in Japan. He debuted for the Fighters in 2005, but wasn’t deactivated for any injury until shoulder fatigue sidelined him in 2009. He also dealt with minor knee and back issues the year after.

Unfortunately, Darvish has had a tougher time staying on the field in the US. Let’s go year-by-year:

  • 2012: Healthy!
  • 2013: Right shoulder strain, on DL from 7/7 – 7/22.
  • 2014: Started year on DL with neck stiffness, but was ready by 4/6. Season ended on 8/13 with right elbow inflammation.
  • 2015: Had Tommy John Surgery in March and missed entire season.
  • 2016: Returned from TJS on 5/28, but returned to DL retroactively on 6/9 with shoulder discomfort. He was reactivated on 7/16.
  • 2017: Back stiffness in August, on DL from 8/17 – 8/27.
  • 2018: Inactive from 5/5 – 5/15 with the flu. Right triceps tendinitis kept him out from 5/23 through end of season.
  • 2019: Healthy!

So Darvish has avoided the injured list in two of his eight seasons in the MLB. Scary! Most of these are arm issues too, which is alarming.

Contract

Darvish will receive a frontloaded $81 million through 2023. He has limited no trade protection too. According to Cot’s, he had full no trade protection through 2019, but can only block deals to 12 teams starting in 2020. It’s unclear if the Yankees are one of those 12.

Does he make sense for the Yankees and what would a trade look like?

As much as I like Darvish, I think the injury history is scary enough that the Yankees should be hesitant. The team needs certainty in its rotation, and Darvish doesn’t necessarily provide that. We can be pretty sure that he’ll be great — when healthy. It’s just a matter of how many innings the Bombers could actually count on. Now, if the Yankees land a big fish like Cole, that changes the equation. But Darvish as the lone big pitching acquisition just doesn’t quite cut it.

On the flip side, what would the Cubs want for Darvish? Do they even want to trade him? Here’s a snippet from Cubs’ owner Tom Ricketts:

“We have the resources financially. We have the good, young players. Maybe we can’t keep them all because of the salaries that they’ll demand over the next few years. But ultimately now, I think we can stop talking about windows. We should be consistent, and we should be looking toward building a division-winning team every year.”

Well then. Trading someone like Darvish surely would help them keep guys like Bryant and Javier Báez. So, I’d have to think they’d listen on Darvish offers.

Chicago still wants to be in contention next year though, so they’ll need to recoup something that can help them now. They have no shortage of needs, either: its bullpen is thin, the rotation could use help (especially if they deal Darvish!), and second base and center field are weak spots.

My thought is an NBA-style trade here: the Yankees send Chicago JA Happ (i.e. an expiring contract) while taking on a good portion of Darvish’s remaining money ($70 million?). The Yankees could also send one of their array of pitchers on the 40-man to help the Cubs’ pen (Jonathan Loaisiga?) and perhaps an infielder (Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada?) or outfielder (Mike Tauchman?). The Cubs do have four 40-man spots open right now, so they’d have room to take on a couple more players. Anyway, whether or not this is fair is unclear to me. I couldn’t get these parameters to work on Baseball Trade Values, but regardless: my trade proposal sucks.

So You’ve Decided to Trade for Mookie Betts

Bowl on over to the Bronx, why don’t you? (MLB Gifs)

Leading off for the Yankees, the center fielder, No. 50, Mookie Betts, No. 50.

The Boston Red Sox reportedly are considering trading their franchise centerpiece. Teams including the White Sox, Padres, Mets or just about anyone would be interested in the former MVP, but the Yankees are the one team you really can’t imagine him playing for in 2020.

There’s a good reason for that; Brian Cashman has spoken in the past about how he’s talked to 28 teams, obviously excluding the Red Sox even when his frequent trade partner in Dave Dombrowski was at the helm. The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry sits on an emotional faultline which makes any trade of non-scrub players untenable in the current environment.

Furthermore, the Yankees have budgeted themselves under the top luxury tax tier in the past season and one would assume they’ll do so again. If they’re going to pursue a top starter, adding Betts without shedding salary doesn’t quite work. We, for example, apportioned $30 million in AAV for Gerrit Cole, and that is on the low-end of projections. Boston, meanwhile, would mostly consider trading Betts to get under the lowest luxury tax year.

But let’s ignore rational thoughts for a second and a few hundred words. What if the Red Sox actually make Betts available and are willing to sell him to the highest bidder, rivalry or otherwise? What would a package for Betts look like?

Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe put together the following hypothetical trade in a column recently:

Red Sox trade: Mookie Betts and MiLB LHP Jay Groome
Yankees trade: Miguel Andújar, Clint Frazier, Luis Gil and Michael King

On the surface, that checks out. Run that deal through Baseball Trade Values and the site finds it fair on both sides. While Betts is far and away better than anyone else in that deal, he’s also only under contract for one season. The Yankees would be giving up one of their top pitching prospects, a pitcher in the upper Minors and two right-handed hitters who could thrive at Fenway despite their defensive limitations.

(I have thought that Frazier would be a particularly good fit for Fenway Park. Playing the Green Monster would take time to learn, but once he got used to it, it would allow his arm to play up while making his lack of range or first step a secondary concern. Any right-handed pull bat also gets to hit off the Monster.)

However, Boston isn’t going for just fair. They want to extract their pound of flesh. That might not apply just to the Yankees — You can’t give up Betts for just a fine set of prospects — but it’s especially pertinent with the Bombers.

The situation makes me think of Roy Halladay back in 2009. The Blue Jays entertained offers from the Yankees, but they reportedly expected a premium to acquire the veteran ace in-division. That’s fair; Can you imagine what it would have been like to watch a franchise cornerstone like Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera thrive in Toronto while you were mired in fourth place? That’d be an ordeal.

So the Yankees would have to give up something that hurts. The Red Sox would ask for Gleyber Torres and Brian Cashman would threaten to hang up before Chaim Bloom beckoned him to stay on the call. Aaron Judge, too, is off the table, even if Betts is arguably the better player.

Therefore, I’m not sure a deal is workable without Deivi García. The Yankees would still have to give up at least one of Andújar and Frazier, and perhaps a fourth prospect as well. García, though, would be the piece that would hurt, the player Boston could hail as the future to their rotation and as the centerpiece of a retooling rather than a rebuild. New York doesn’t have another MLB or near-MLB ready player to headline the package.

So I kept the basic framework of Abraham’s deal and changed it into the following:

Red Sox trade: Mookie Betts
Yankees trade: Deivi García, Clint Frazier, Jonathan Loaisiga and Mike King

This deal still provides the Red Sox with an outfielder to replace Betts and exchanges Gil for García, giving Boston a player closer to the Majors. While Andújar has more value than Loaisiga, the Red Sox could use the pitcher more than a likely DH who overlaps on defense with Rafael Devers.

I’ll remind everyone that your trade proposals suck, and my trade above is certainly included. I accept all of your critiques, though I remind you that a Betts-to-the-Yankees trade is just not in the offing. Baseball Trade Values has my proposal as an even deal, which means New York would likely have to give up even more and include someone such as Andújar instead of King.

(Baseball Trade Values)

The Yankees could, however, look to acquire Betts in free agency a year from now, making him their center fielder and moving Hicks to left field. This is nearly as much of a pipedream, but they’ll have plenty of money coming off the books. In that hypothetical, New York would avoid what Cashman often mentions as paying twice for a player, giving up both prospects and an extension.

Even if it’s entirely unrealistic, the dream is fun. Maybe one day, with one of the teams or both out of contention, we’ll get a Yankees-Red Sox blockbuster with reputations on the line. Until then, all we have is frivolous speculation and hypotheticals on which the offseason thrives.

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