If the Yankees make a deal this offseason, who is most likely to go?

On Sunday I wrote a post arguing that the Yankees have a complete, competitive team ready to go right now, with ample slack in the farm system. The point of the post was to draw attention to the fact that the Yankees don’t have to make a move. They’re currently competitive. My colleague here at TYA, Steve S., disagreed in the comments section. He supported his disagreement with Brian Cashman’s quote that he would “sacrifice offense to improve pitching“. For my part, this quote doesn’t convince me as much as it did Steve. My hunch is that the Yankees are always willing to sacrifice their ample offense to improve their more spotty starting pitching, so there is nothing new to analyze here. I’ve been fairly bearish about the likelihood that the Yankees will make a splashy offseason move and remain so.

That said, I do agree with Steve that we can glean some information from Cashman’s quote. We can use it to get a better sense of which Yankee players are more likely to get traded than others, if the Yankees decide to test the trade market. Earlier this offseason I placed the most important Yankees into a tiered system to rank their trade value.  I’m using the conclusions from that post as my base for this one.

Parsing Brian Cashman’s quote, we can immediately conclude that it is extremely unlikely the Yankees would deal Ivan Nova, Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos unless the team was getting a top flight starting pitcher in return. Simply put, dealing anyone of those three for anything less than an established front line starter is likely to weaken the rotation over the next two years. That doesn’t seem to be the direction Cashman wants to take the team.

It is also unlikely that the Yankees would trade either Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson. Since August of 2010 these have been the best two players on the offense and figure to remain so in 2012. Nothing should be ruled out, but these guys are unlikely to be dealt because even getting a top five pitcher in return doesn’t guarantee fair value. The price for the other team to get one of these guys would be onerous to say the least.

That leaves two players who could realistically headline a deal: Jesus Montero and Nick Swisher. I’ll deal with Monetro first because it’s easier. Simply put (and I’ve written this before) after Montero’s break out September his trade value has never been higher. The Yankees can get a lot in return for him. However, that is also why the Yankees may be less likely to trade Montero, if they are looking to deal for pitching. His trade value is so high that he commands a top flight arm in return. In 2010 the Yankees almost made Jesus the center of a trade for Cliff Lee. Nothing short of that kind of return value will do, and that kind of return value is scarce in any sport.

That leaves Swisher as the odd man out. He’s trade bait for many reasons. He’s still young, turning 31 next season. He’s reasonably priced for 2012. He’s also better than many people realize. In his three seasons in New York he has posted a .267/.368/.486 slash line, with 81 homers, good for a .370 wOBA and a 126 wRC+. Nick has played above average defense during that time (+5.4 UZR, +2.5 dWAR on B-Ref). Finally, he’s also a switch hitter with a .350 career wOBA from the right side and a .377 career wOBA from the left side. Any team in baseball would want him if the price was right. Just about the only thing that hurts Nick’s trade value is his impending free agency, but that doesn’t matter too much for most teams, especially one that may feel as though it is one solid bat shy of making a run in October.

Nick has been worth an average of 3.7 fWAR each season in the Bronx. Assuming that we can translate one fWAR for hitters for one fWAR for pitchers, that gives us a good starting point for assessing Swisher’s general trade value (this is a HUGE assumption, by the way, but it’s almost December and I’m blogging about baseball so please work with me). If 3.7 fWAR in 2011 is our midpoint for finding possible trade targets for Nick, we get a list of names that is surprising high profile. Zack Greinke was worth 3.9 fWAR. Tim Hudson and Jon Lester were each worth 3.7. Jaime Garcia was worth 3.6. Gio Gonzalez, a name mentioned frequently as a trade target on the internet, was worth 3.5. So was Ricky Nolasco. In short, the Yankees could part ways with Nick, probably replace his offense without much difficulty and get a reasonable arm in return. Would they do it?

My gut tells me that if a pitcher as talented as some of the ones I mentioned above is available in a trade with Swisher as the centerpiece the Yankees would pull the trigger and never look back. Nick is valuable to the team, but the Yankees have done a better job of finding spare offense the past few seasons than they have with finding decent starters. Furthermore, it is likely that the Yankees let Swisher leave in free agency at season’s end if his price becomes too steep anyway. It is better for them to put together a package that maximizes his value now. The question, therefore, is not whether or not the Yankees would trade Swisher. They almost certainly would. The question is whether or not they can get something of appropriate value in return.

12 thoughts on “If the Yankees make a deal this offseason, who is most likely to go?

  1. Agree with Swisher being a likely trade candidate, but I could also see the Yankees letting Granderson go provided that got adequate value in return. Obviously, this would be higher than the value they’d get for Swisher. With Gardner available to patrol CF (and possibly better than Granderson), perhaps the Yankees could find someone adequate for LF with reasonable offensive numbers. With the offense Montero is likely to provide above what the DH gave last year, there is less needed from the OF positions. And Granderson’s trade value may never be higher.

    • I struggle to see the Yankees trading Granderson. Granderson has one more option year in 2013, I believe and he just came off a season in which he was the best Yankee hitter. I struggle to see the team parting ways with him, although I agree his trade value has never been higher.

  2. Even though trading pitching to acquire pitching does not improve the Yankees’ staff in terms of quality depth, I would not be shocked if Ivan Nova got moved. I don’t necessarily think he will nor am I necessarily endorsing it, but his long-term status is probably as a solid No. 4 or 5. The Yankees have several guys (Adam Warren, Hector Noesi, David Phelps and MAYBE D.J. Mitchell) who should eventually be able to replicate what Nova may ultimately produce.

  3. Nick Swisher is a trade candidate only because so much of the team is untradeable and since the need is for pitching, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to trade Nova or a close to ML ready arm unless you get back a true ace in return.

    Swisher is certainly tradeable and one of the few position players who is. I think you are really overestimating his trade value though. He’s not cheap even if he’s generating surplus value, only has one year left, and there are free agent options at OF. I don’t think he could really net a starting pitcher that would be a difference maker without including significant other pieces.

    If a major trade is made, Montero, Betances or Banuelos will likely be included in my opinion. You probably were correct though that it’s just as likely that Cashman only makes small moves or signs a Buerhle/Oswalt type.

    • My hunch remains that Cashman doesn’t do much, but I’ve been wrong before.

      I did not mean to say that Swisher would get such a pitcher straight up. I meant to say that he would be the centerpiece of such a trade, but other pieces would have to move.

  4. I can see Betances as part of a trade package to trade for a #2 starter. It seems to me that all 3 pitchers Nova, Betances and Banuelos realistically will never be in the starting Yankees rotation and that Betances is the most expendable. Nova has proven he can handle NY and Banuelos is a young lefty with upside always a positive in Yankees Stadium.

    A trade for a proven #2 can solidify the Yankees starting rotation for the next 4, 5 or 6 years.

    Just imagine a starting rotation in 2013 and beyond for the next few years of: CC, Matt Cain (or someone similar), Nova, Hughes/Banuelos/Phelps/Mitchell/Warren/Noesi. Any 2 of those last 5 would be a very nice back of the rotation.

    I’d love to see it happen.

    • Betances alone doesn’t get Matt Cain, or someone similar. The Yankees would punch the ticket on such a trade in a heartbeat. The reason Betances won’t get traded is because his market is too thin right now. He’s unproven. If that changes then I would suspect the Yankees trade either him or Nova.

  5. Swisher plus Hughes plus Noesi would be a very attractive package.

    I would hold on to Betances and Romine — two other attractive pieces — as Yanks will need all the cheap (and capable0 young players they can muster while overpaying A-Rod and others over next few years. Apart from Romine, for example, I don’t see another quality position player on the horizon. Hughes is not at peak value right now but I think that together with Swish and a Noesi/Marshall/Warren type could net something very good. Of course, Phil could turn it around and be as good as anyone we get.

  6. Betances is far more valuable than many seem to think. At very least he projects as dynamite eighth inning type ith all the K potential that role demands. Teams know that even if Betances does not pan out as starter he will be vital bullpen cog.

    • The truth is that doesn’t make his value very high. Most of the league thinks (as do I) that his future is ultimately in the bullpen. Bullpen pitchers don’t carry as much value as even good number 4 or 5 starters because of the massive innings gap. Any deal Betances is in would be apart of a bigger overall package, but it would be hard to sell him as the main piece.

  7. Mike, I don’t believe my post mentioned Betances alone. I said I can see Betances “as part of a trade package…”. I just wanted to clarify.