Is “selling the farm” worth it?

Let’s break this deal down from a realistic standpoint, by which I mean the way another team would look at things, not from the perspective of fans dreaming big on these kids. In Montero, you have a very highly touted hitting prospect, but also a first baseman who has suddenly lost the ability to hit for power in Triple-A and whom the Yankees clearly don’t like much. (As an aside, the Yankees have really done a bang up job protecting Montero’s trade value. Or not.) In Banuelos, you’ve got a young pitcher who’s been making everyone drool for the past year, but who’s also walking everything in sight this year in his first taste of the high minors. It’s within the realm of possibility that he turns into an ace, but right now he’s just a very young pitcher who hasn’t shown he can consistently get outs in the high minors. With Betances, you’ve got a prospect scouts absolutely love to dream on, but who has never shown an ability to keep the free passes to a minimum (a career 4.2 BB/9 across the minors), and who may well profile as a reliever in the majors. And in Nova, you’ve got a completely average starter who is big league ready.

Now that’s not to sell any of these young guys short. Maybe one of them does hit their ceiling. Heck, maybe all of them do. But right now they’re just uncertain commodities who haven’t shown any (or much) big league ability. Ubaldo, on the other hand, is one of the 15-20 best pitchers in baseball, at a minimum, and the Rockies have him under control for 3 additional seasons at an absurdly affordable rate. In other words, he’s a Ferrari. And just because a Ferrari costs a lot of money doesn’t mean the dealer isn’t asking for a fair market rate for it.

When it comes to these “trade the farm” deals, the ultimate decision is one of risk, and where you want to put your money. In essence, do you think it’s more risky to bet on Ubaldo Jimenez or to bet on a package of young players. There’s no way to answer this question philosophically, it’s always a case by case thing, and the more I think about this question, the more I lean towards closing my eyes and pulling the trigger. It’s been fun to dream on the Yankees’ current top 3 prospects, but when you consider the risk involved with them, and consider that Ubaldo would be signed through 2013 at a very low salary, I’m pretty sure the trade comes out to a fair value for the Yankees. They’ll be getting a very good big league pitcher coming into the prime of his career at a significantly discounted salary, which will save them money they can put somewhere else in the organization. And they’ll certainly get better in the short term, without significantly managing the next few years, thanks to the fact that Ubaldo is only 27 years old.

Montero, Banuelos, Betances, and Nova is a high price to ask, but for Ubaldo Jimenez, it’s probably fair. And if push came to shove, I’d probably make that deal if I were Brian Cashman.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

58 thoughts on “Is “selling the farm” worth it?

  1. With all due respect, thank God you are not Cashman!! I just can't give up that much for one player and who knows how the young guys careers will turn out. You just have to have patience in my opinion.

  2. The Yankees have tried a pitcher from the Rockies. Remember Shaun chacone? He was decent. I remember him for his playoff win against the angels to tie the series to make a game five. I'm sure ubalado is way better than him. But for me I'll give up nova,montero and betances but no banuelos…I see something there. And I would love to see him come up the organization. Cashman is awfully patient. Maybe he knows something we don't.

  3. Javier Vazquez was 27, had a better k/9, bb/9, and WHIP than Ubaldo. (Yes, I know Coors Field is a hitter's park, but NL West offense is the worst in the league, so that evens out a bit). Vazquez was also more durable, pitching 217+ innings the last four season before he became a Yankee. On a side note, Vazquez's control was arguably better back then with lower HBP and WP.

    We obviously do not know what the young Nova will show in the future and we have even more questions marks on our prospects. But honestly, Javy was as good as (or better than) Ubaldo. I don't think this trade should take place. The potential our prospects give is high right now, and I would rather prefer to see the young guys fail within the system than see Ubaldo falter and hurt the team. If these prospects are given opportuntiies, how much are they going to damage the team during the season? We can easily replace them without too much bleeding taking place. But replacing Ubaldo after pitching several games not only hurts the team during the season, but also in the near future, as there are no prospects like Banuelos to replace him.

  4. Why exactly is Javier Vazquez relevant here?

    To be frank, the Vazquez trade only further proves Brien's point, that is, unless you're going to argue that the Yankees really missed out on the careers of Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera, and Randy Choate.

  5. I keep hearing about how none of these prospects are sure things, but whats to say that Ubaldo is either? I am sorry if I am not confident that half of an amazing season in the NL West will translate easily to the AL East. This guy is not the proven commodity that Cliff Lee was last year. This is definitely a case of supply and demand where there really aren't any ace pitchers on the market this year. The Rockies are smart to take advantage of that situation to try and get the most out of what they have, but the Yankees should not give up the farm for this guy.

  6. My hesitation, as I wrote in a comment on a previous Ubaldo post, is that he may already be in his decline. Some pitchers peak early, and to recycle the numbers already posted before the average fastball velocity dropped 2.8% last year. This may also correlate as to why the Rockies are willing to move him. Don't get me wrong, I'd probably pull the trigger on a deal, but certainly not at the Rox current asking price. I think it's a bit naive to think they are just willing to trade a cheap, reliable, ace pitcher unless they know something is up.

  7. Not a fan of the Yanks or Rocks, so I'm probably talking out of my hat, but I don't generally think of WAR when I think of the Yankees b/c recent (~10-15 years) history shows that they're going to end up in the playoffs. Are any of the prospects going to contribute at all in the next 3-4 years to a playoff series? Montero is a 1B who's blocked at 1B. Nova's not starting a game in the ALCS or Series unless someone's injured. Banuelos looks good, but again, probably isn't starting a playoff game in the next 3 years. CC/Ubaldo is an elite 1-2 punch, and then hope for the best from Garcia and Colon and Hughes.

  8. Ubaldo is a good pitcher but not one of the best 15-20 pitchers in the game. He currently ranks 35th in FIP, and 41st in xFIP. Yes, he is doing this while pitching half his games in Coors, but he also gets to pitch against the weak NL West lineups.

    What really makes him attractive is his contract. While the Yankees have a budget too, team friendly contracts are relatively less valuable to the Yankees than to your typical team. I understand why Ubaldo with a low salary might typically demand a Montero-Baneulos-Bettances-Nova package, it doesn't make as much sense for the Yankees.

  9. I'm wary of Ubaldo because of small sample size and the fact that a team still contending is willing to trade him in his prime. The Rox may be pulling a TB here and getting out at the right time on a declining young pitcher.

    That said, I have no issue with the Montero part of the deal, not because I don't think Montero will hit, or even because he doesn't project as a catcher, but because a bat can always be purchased on the market (e.g., Fielder), but a top of the rotation starter cannot. My issue is with giving up 3 pitching prospects. I would do Montero, Nova (also replaceable in FA or on waiver wire), and either Betances or Banuelos (preferably the former), but no more.

  10. I think this trade is very fair. The rockies aren't going anywhere this year and need to start over. Their starting rotation this year has been terrible with the exception of some quality starts and not alot of them have been from Ubaldo. We need young pitching talent like we do with Chacin and Nicasio. Maybe the rocks can add Wigginton into the deal since the yanks need a third baseman. This trade would benefit both sides and I hope Cashman/O'Dowd pull the trigger