Picture this worst case scenario for the Yankees: 10 to 15 games behind the division pace in mid-July. Injuries, underwhelming performance, and improved rivals set the Yankees in a seemingly insurmountable hole. The odds of a late season comeback look slim, and the Yankees are poised to miss the postseason for the first time since 2008, and just the second time since 1995.
Is this farfetched? Sure. While the Yankees haven’t gotten any better this offseason, the roster still talented enough to be a playoff team. I would be stunned if the Yankees were out of the race at that stage, but it certainly would be a fascinating situation for Brian Cashman to handle.
Let’s break down some of the pieces the Yankees could put on the trade block if they decided to blow the team up.
BIG NAME RENTALS
Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes, and Hiroki Kuroda all are free agents at the end of the season, and would certainly draw significant interest on the market, barring anything unforeseen.
Cano would be a monumental decision for the Yankees: would they build around him going forward, or would they try to acquire a massive package of prospects (at least one or two major league ready)? In all likelihood, the team signing him may only complete the trade if they can get Cano to sign an extension upon acquisition. Why? Two reasons: (1) when a team empties the farm for a star, it’s killer to only keep him for a half season; (2) players traded mid-season can no longer be attached to draft-pick compensation if lost in free agency. The problem here is that it’s highly unlikely Cano and Scott Boras will sacrifice an opportunity to field multiple offers in free agency. Thus, only teams with big money might be willing to take the risk.
Suitor(s): The Dodgers would be the most willing the take the risk, and could easily pay Cano to boot.
Granderson is likely a goner win or lose after 2013, but could bring back a nice haul at the deadline. Like Cano, though, the acquiring team wouldn’t be able to get a draft pick if they lose Granderson in free agency. That being said, a package for Granderson would not be nearly the same caliber as Cano, so perhaps some clubs would be more willing to take the chance.
Suitor(s): Clearly, the Mariners have been in play for outfield bats this winter. They lost out on Justin Upton, but acquired Mike Morse. There’s some good talent in that organization, which would be a solid match with New York. The Rangers might be interested as well with the loss of Josh Hamilton this winter. That, and to keep him away from Seattle. I could also see the Giants try to upgrade over Gregor Blanco. One more: perhaps the White Sox look to bring Grandy to his hometown.
Hughes would also be a hot commodity. Could he be worth a package comparable to what Miami obtained for Anibal Sanchez? He may not be as good as Sanchez, but the Marlins dealt the free-agent to be for a nice return last summer. As always, there are going to be plenty of teams in the hunt that are looking to either get over the hump or are struggling with pitching injuries.
Suitor(s): There could be a plethora of suitors for Phil, but the Angels seem like a logical destination. Hughes could patch up the loss of Zack Greinke.
Kuroda‘s situation is relatively akin to Hughes. However, age could be a concern for some teams. Additionally, with greater odds of Hiroki being a rental (he contemplated a return to Japan this winter), some teams may back off. Additionally, and I haven’t been able to confirm it, he might have a no trade clause. Per Cot’s Contracts, there’s no indication he received one with his 2013 deal, although he had one in 2012.
Suitor(s): The Dodgers make the most sense, considering their deep pockets and interest in bringing him back this winter. I can see the Angels trying to get involved for the same reasons as I mentioned with Hughes, plus the fact that Hiroki would be comfortable with the LA area.
If Gardner returns to be that 5 win player he was in 2010 and 2011 and proves to be healthy, it might be the best time to sell Gardner, considering he’ll turn 30 in August. Someone will want him to man center field and hit leadoff considering his OBP and speed.
Suitor(s): Cincinnati might be interested once they realize Shin-Shoo Choo can’t play centerfield.
Robertson would be a very hot item, given the widespread desire for relievers/closers at the deadline. While he could be the closer in waiting for the Yankees, he might be more valuable as a trade chip.
Suitor(s): If Bruce Rondon struggles as closer with Detroit, I could envision the Tigers being the top option. The Angels make sense too if some of their 2012 bullpen issues carry over to 2013.
Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Kevin Youkilis, and Ichiro Suzuki could carve out roles around the league. None of these guys would bring back anything special, but hey, maybe someone gets desperate. Crazier things have happened before. Remember when the Dodgers traded Carlos Santana for Casey Blake?
Hopefully (and most likely), none of this comes to fruition. It would be extremely bizarre to see the Yankees as sellers at the deadline, but there are some internal and external circumstances that are reason for concern: ownership’s $189M mandate, an aging roster, health concerns, the improvement of the Blue Jays, and the steadiness of the Rays, to name a few. A fire sale isn’t the Yankee way, but it would be a logical option if things sputter out of control midway through the season.
By jimmyack205 on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “Brian Cashman”) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons