In a move yesterday that some predicted, some welcomed, and some never saw coming, the Yankees traded Shawn Kelley to the San Diego Padres for 22-year-old right-handed reliever Johnny Barbato. Barbato has some upside thanks to a mid-90s fastball and a legit swing-and-miss curveball, but his command has been spotty and last season was his first above A-ball. Kelley would have contributed something positive to the Yankee bullpen in 2015. It's not nearly as likely that Barbato will do the same.
The most intriguing part of the deal is what it may suggest about additional deals in the works. Kelley said Cash told him that "he hated to see me go" but that the decision to move Kelley was "part of a new plan." What is that plan? What else is involved in it? And how does getting Kelley's fractional amount off the 2015 payroll play into that plan? There has to be another move in the works and it might be coming soon. These 3 possibilities would be the most logical targets:
1) Another Starter
Everybody knows they need one. They've been hogtied to Max Scherzer by the clickbaiting reporters but have held steady thus far to their company line of not adding more big contracts. The rest of the FA market has thinned out, so maybe a trade is in the works to bring in another young starter. Maybe they just wanted to free up a little cash and a roster spot to sign another Capuano type. Another starter in that capacity could ultimately be more valuable to the team next year than Kelley in a 6th-7th inning role.
2) A 1-Inning Closer
The option is still there to replicate what could have been with D-Rob by signing a traditional 1-inning reliever to handle the 9th inning closing duties and freeing up Miller and Betances to dominate the 6th-8th. There are multiple guys with closing experience on the market, like Rafael Soriano, Casey Janssen, and Francisco Rodriguez, and it might only take a 1-year deal to land any of them. The Yankees would essentially be swapping Kelley for whoever they signed, which would be an immediate upgrade, and they would be keeping their flexibility to allow some of their younger arms to break into middle relief options in the future.
3) A Second Baseman
The word on the street was that the Yanks were out on Asdrubal Cabrera, and the word from the front office has been that the second base job will be a ST competition between Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela. Those words can always change, however, and it would be against recent company policy to hand an everyday job over to a rookie. According to a Jon Morosi report yesterday, the Yankees are one of 4 teams who have "kept in touch" with Cabrera, and there is a growing belief that he would be willing to take a 1-year deal to rebuild his value. You can see how all of this adds up.
Of course this could all be another Ninja Cash misdirection exercise, but it doesn't seem like it. The Kelley deal followed the same trends that most of the other Yankees moves this offseason have established: getting younger, cutting out the smaller chunks of bigger money from the roster, not holding onto marginal players. If Cash says there's a new plan and things in the works, I'm inclined to believe him.