Rumor has it the Marlins may make Jose Fernandez available this offseason. The Yankees, along with every other team in baseball, could be interested. If so, what is the Yankees best offer?
Fernandez just turned 24 years old. He's finishing up a 5.7 fWAR season with 174 innings, 33% strikeout rate and 2.40 FIP. He's been pretty much healthy all season, after losing most of 2014-2015 to Tommy John surgery. He's a free agent after the 2018 season.
Fernandez would undoubtedly be enormously expensive for any team to acquire. He's a top-10 starter in baseball, has star power, and is still crazy young. In a vacuum, I'd kill to have him on the Yankees. The problem is that the cost would be high, and Fernandez is a free agent before the Yankees will be ready to put a strong team on the field again.
Acquiring Fernandez Ditches the Rebuild
My best offer for Fernandez might be something like this: Aaron Judge, Justus Sheffield, Jorge Mateo, and a low level prospect or two. That's a pretty high price, but probably worth it. The Yankees might be able to negotiate an extension with Hernandez before he hits free agency, and there's a world where the Yankees make the wild card with Fernandez on their team.
The problem? That's not all that different from the price the Yankees got for Andrew Miller, and so it's not going to be enough to sign Fernandez. You might have to add two of Clint Frazier, Didi Gregorius, Gleybar Torres, or Greg Bird. Hell, they might even ask for Gary Sanchez. Some team is going to win the auction here, and I don't want the Yankees to take on the auction winner's curse.
Fernandez Constrains the Yankee Roster Options for 2017
Let's say that the Yankees go all-in and acquire Jose Fernandez in return for just prospects. They lose no one on their MLB roster. Now, what do the Yankees do? They have to go all-in. They'll have to sign a 1b/DH type and a corner outfielder off the free agent market, along with 1-2 relief pitchers. Maybe that's Edwin Encarnacion and a bla outfielder, Mark Melancon and Joe Blanton. Great! Those are pretty good players.
The problem here is that the Yankees still won't be better than the Red Sox in 2017. They'll be playing for a wild card. They can't sell at the deadline, even though guys like Masahiro Tanaka will be very tradeable, since they've put so much into this season. And they'll be saddled with a few bad contracts once the 30-somethings start to age. By the time the Yankee farm systems starts to output cheap players (the best of which will have been traded), Fernandez will be heading for free agency.
Lots of teams make the mistake of moving before their window opens. Just ask this year's Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks, or last year's San Diego Padres. They end up being set back farther than where they started. Those three teams have averaged 66 wins this year so far.
Instead, the Yankees, and us fans, need to be patient. Let the Red Sox do their best to win next year without David Ortiz. A couple years of breathing room are necessary to build a new dynasty.