Assessing trade probabilities in advance of the offseason

Trade, free agency, and other roster construction speculation is entertaining. That’s why writers hypothesize what a general manager’s next move will be, fans have an insatiable lust for rumors, and gamers play fantasy GM in OOTP and MLB: The Show. It’s also why I’m about to give you my estimation of various Yankees’ likelihood to don new uniforms via trade in 2017.

Thanks to Brian Cashman, we were given a head start on some trade guesswork. In his end of season press conference, trade talks were on the forefront of the media’s agenda. Brian McCann was highlighted in particular, along with possibility of the front office using its stocked farm system to acquire a big star. You can see how I subjectively evaluated the odds certain players (in bold) departing below. I only considered players on the 40-man roster at this time, and made up unscientific six categories.

Wouldn’t be a surprise

Brian McCann lost his job to Gary Sanchez this summer, and there have already been rumors tying him to his former team, the Braves. Evidently, Atlanta wants to be competitive next season so adding McCann would make some sense. The Yankees could still use him as the primary designated hitter while splitting time behind the plate, but it makes sense for them to explore his value, as the team has a surplus at the position.

Trading Brett Gardner has been a talking point for the past year or two, partly because of his similarity to teammate Jacoby Ellsbury and because his contract would be much easier to move. Dealing Gardner would open up the corner outfield spots for Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks full-time next season, which is something a team in transition might be willing to do. If Cashman is serious about contending next year, Gardner could stick around. Of course, if Cashman had his druthers, I’m sure he’d get rid of Ellsbury first.

Austin Romine‘s situation is complex, but a trade is plausible. The Yankees showed a willingness to carry three catchers for much of 2016, and could do it again if McCann and Romine stick around. If McCann is traded, Romine would surely stay put to be Sanchez’ caddy. On the other hand, the team could keep McCann and only want to carry two catchers on the roster, making Romine the odd man out. It wouldn’t be crippling to trade off Romine because for one, he’s not very good. However, Kyle Higashioka will be added to the 40-man roster this winter, as Cashman noted in his presser, and can assume the third string catcher role in Triple-A.

What are the Yankees going to do with Rob Refsnyder? He didn’t get a regular chance to play second base when Starlin Castro was out, and his bat isn’t strong enough to carry him as a regular right fielder. Besides, the Yankees have higher upside outfielders ahead of him. He might have some value as a bench bat or a second division regular, but it’s hard to see him carving out such a role in New York. Joe Girardi doesn’t seem apt to give him opportunities, so a trade elsewhere might make sense to create some roster space.

Probably not, but wouldn’t be stunning

After a brutal first month of the season, everyone couldn’t wait to dump Chase Headley. He turned things around the rest of the way, and was truly one of the team’s better position players. With two years and $26M left on his deal, he’s certainly a tradeable asset. But it’s not like the Yankees have an immediate in house replacement, as Miguel Andujar is still far from the big leagues, and an smooth transition for Starlin Castro’s to the hot corner is no certainty.

The organization is pretty high on Aaron Hicks despite his poor showing in 2016, let alone the fact that he was pretty bad for the Twins beforehand. Hicks has talent, no doubt, but he hasn’t been able to put it together in nearly 1,300 plate appearances. I’d say the Yankees probably should cut their losses now, but they appear more than willing to give the 27 year-old another shot.

Adam Warren was reacquired this summer and did a fine job returning to the Yankees’ bullpen. He’s an important part of next year’s middle relief as it stands, but it wouldn’t be a total shock to see him dealt. After all, the front office traded him away once already.

Mason Williams returned from shoulder surgery and did well in limited time this season, and will likely be first in line for promotion next year if any outfielders go down in the Bronx. Other teams certainly would be interested in his ability to be a reserve outfielder, like how the Mariners acquired Ben Gamel and Ramon Flores in recent years. The Yankees have no lack of interesting outfielders at the Double-A level and above, including Clint Frazier and Dustin Fowler, so Williams might be on borrowed time. Then again, the Yankees have another option remaining on the 25 year-old Williams, and probably want to see how he rebounds from his injury after having a full Spring Training under his belt.

Tyler Austin‘s resurgence put him back on the map this season, but his role with the Yankees long-term isn’t quite clear. The most viable use for Austin in 2017 is at first base, where he could be anything from the starter, platoon player, or minor league depth. If Austin’s the starter, it’s probably bad news for Greg Bird‘s recovery. I have a feeling that the Yankees will look for some veteran presence as insurance at the position, rather than having Austin as the backup plan. Steve Pearce or Danny Valencia, perhaps? If that’s the case, Austin would be expendable and might fetch something useful.

I’m not sure what the Yankees could get for Ronald Torreyes, but it’s probably peanuts. It’s not like they have much incentive to move him, either. He did a nice job as the utility infielder, and might be in the role yet again in 2017. Yet, the Yankees did designate him for assignment after trading for him last offseason, before claiming him back again. So to an extent, the Yankees might not be too hung up on letting him go. One could also argue that claiming him back is a sign they had hoped to sneak him through waivers.

Doubtful

Michael Pineda is to the 2017 Yankees what Ivan Nova was to the 2016 team. Like Nova did, Big Mike provides much needed depth and is semi-competent. Furthermore, Pineda is entering the final year of team control, similar to Nova this past season. That’s why I think the Yankees start the year with Pineda on the roster, but will be open to moving him midseason depending on the circumstances. Talk to me in June or July about the team’s chances of moving Pineda.

Luis Cessa and Bryan Mitchell showed promise as back-end starters late in 2016, roles the Yankees need to fill going forward. I imagine the Yankees will look to bolster the end of the rotation, not wanting to use two spots on rookies. You could probably make a case that these two belong in the category prior to this one, especially if the team adds depth in the rotation. For now, I’ll leave them here as I think the Yankees would like to gather more data about what they have in these two.

The bullpen is pretty thin before the 8th and 9th innings, so Tyler Clippard should be here to stay. It wouldn’t be stunning to see the Yankees in the running for Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen, but even if one of those two were picked up in free agency, I think Clippard would hang around. The front office clearly values a deep bullpen considering how the roster shaped up prior to last season.

Unlikely to draw interest

Most of this group is the Scranton reliever shuttle. The Yankees wouldn’t get much for  Jonathan Holder, Chasen Shreve, James Pazos, Ben Heller, Nick Goody, or Johnny Barbato. A couple of those guys might even be 40-man roster casualties.

I’m only writing about Donovan Solano, Tommy Layne, Richard Bleier, and Billy Butler because they’re still on the roster. Solano is arbitration eligible, Layne and Bleier are pre-arbitration, and I believe the Yankees essentially have a team option at the Major League minimum on Butler since he was under contract with Oakland through 2017 before his release. The Yankees aren’t getting anything for these four if there are any inquiries.

Health complications

Even if healthy, Greg Bird would be an unlikely trade candidate. Ideally, he’s the first baseman of the future after his exciting debut in 2015 despite a lost 2016 because of shoulder surgery.

Nathan Eovaldi is undergoing Tommy John and will be out all of next season. If he’s off the roster next year, it’s because the team non-tendered him – not because of a trade. It’s not all that different for Dustin Ackley, who missed the majority of the season after having shoulder surgery at the beginning of June. There’s a good chance he’s non-tendered, too.

Branden Pinder and Nick Rumbelow should be back from Tommy John surgery at different points next season. They didn’t have much value as trade chips anyway, so they should remain in the organization. Jacob Lindgren also had Tommy John in 2016, but because it was in August, his rehab will likely keep him out all of next season.

Chad Green is recovering from an elbow injury, but fortunately does not need Tommy John surgery. The elbow issue likely scares the other 29 teams away. The Yankees also need rotation depth, something they hope a healthy Green can provide.

Conor Mullee has ulnar nerve decompression surgery in August, and no timetable for his return was given. That’s some sort of elbow surgery I’m not familiar with. Regardless, he wasn’t really an interesting trade piece in the first place.

Highly unlikely

With roughly $90M due to Jacoby Ellsbury through 2020, he’s essentially untradeable. Unless the Yankees are willing to eat a big chunk of money, he’s going to be the starting centerfielder on Opening Day 2017.

CC Sabathia is due $25M next year, the last contracted season for the lefty. The money is probably a deterrent for other suitors, but the Yankees also need him in next year’s rotation.

Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro make up the starting middle infield, and there are no immediate internal replacements in sight. In another year or two we could hear their names bandied about, but not until the likes of Gleyber Torres, Jorge Mateo, and Tyler Wade are knocking the door down.

Luis Severino was a disappointment in 2016 after such a promising debut the year before. Arguably the club’s top prospect just a year ago, the Yankees aren’t going to give up on his potential because of one challenging season.

Right field is up for grabs next year, a position Aaron Judge is in line for the taking. His debut this season flashed his immense power, something prospect mavens have been drooling about despite the swing-and-miss in his game. Unless the Yankees surprise us with a corner outfielder from outside the organization, Judge ideally is in the Bronx for a full season come spring.

Cashman will probably receive plenty of calls for Dellin Betances, because it doesn’t hurt to ask. The Yankees aren’t about to move one of the game’s top relievers and thereby destroy the team’s bullpen, though.

In any trade discussions, the rest of the league will ask about Gary Sanchez. Not because other front offices think he’s obtainable, but because it would be negligent not to try. Of course, the young backstop isn’t on the Diamondbacks, so there’s no reason to be concerned about him being dealt for pennies on the dollar. The Yankees would have to get a king’s ransom to deal Sanchez.

Finally, unless the Yankees are ready to give up on 2017, Masahiro Tanaka isn’t going anywhere. The rest of the league would probably be wary of his elbow, anyway.

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