Mailbag: Sizing up off-season tradesBy
Nick writes: So I know as Yankees fans (and just fans in general) that we over value our prospects/players. Everyone wants a top flight Ace, or a “#2″ starter but they don’t want to give up Montero and Banuelos (for the most part anyway). What type of pitchers are available for a package that could include some of the following prospects: Dellin Betances, Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine, Adam Warren, David Phelps, George Kontos. Also, the Mets were somehow able to get a top prospect for Beltran for a half year. What kind of haul could Swisher bring back on the pitching prospect side? Maybe one of the Braves young starters? Not saying that should happen, just curious of his value for a full year.
Nick’s question raises a number of issues I’d like to address regarding off-season expectations. He’s clearly right. As fans we tend to overvalue the players in the Yankees’ system while underestimating other teams’ needs. Even if we take a step back and try to look at the situation from a different vantage point, we often misunderstand what teams seek in trades. It all leads back to the RAB off-season mantra: your trade proposal sucks.
Thankfully, Nick’s question stops short of a trade proposal. Here’s a breakdown of a few choice parts and what they mean for the Yankees’ off-season.
What type of pitchers are available for a package that could include some of the following prospects: Dellin Betances, Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine, Adam Warren, David Phelps, George Kontos.
This question brings one issue to mind. Rarely, if ever, will you see a quantity trade. That is, the more players you add to a hypothetical trade package, the less likely it is to become reality. If a team does desire to trade a No. 1 or 2 starter, they’re going to value quality over quantity. More players in a trade package typically means less high-end value.
Guys such as Phelps and Kontos are afterthoughts in any significant deal. They might go in a package for a pitcher, but they’re not going to play a big part in said package. Even a guy like Sanchez won’t headline any deal. Maybe the Yankees can entice a team by packaging Betances, a high-end and near major league ready arm, with Sanchez, a far away but promising prospect. But there is no chance that they package, say, Sanchez as the headliner in a deal along with Phelps and Kontos. They’re just not going to get much back for that, because the only high-end player in the deal is at least three years away from the majors.
Any trade for a useful pitcher will have to include either Montero, Banuelos, or Betances as the headliner. A few of those other guys might be included, but they’re not the indispensable parts. Without a high-end prospect that is near or at the major league level, teams simply will not part with their top talent. Maybe that changes if the Yankees are looking at a player in a contract year, such as John Danks. But even then it’s hard to see a deal getting done without Betances at least.
Also, the Mets were somehow able to get a top prospect for Beltran for a half year. What kind of haul could Swisher bring back on the pitching prospect side?
The Mets found themselves in a unique position this season. They had one of the best outfielders in the league and had no use for him themselves. They also had a number of teams that could have used the upgrade. But most importantly they had the Giants, a team that was in a rough spot. They were clinging to a three-game lead in the NL West, with Arizona nipping at their heels. Their offense was horribly underpowered, to historic proportions. They absolutely needed Beltran, and so they gave up a valuable pitching prospect for him.
It’s a bit different in the off-season. Teams can take their times constructing rosters. They can also look at a slightly less productive, but much cheaper, option to start the season and then see what develops. In addition, there are a number of free agent outfielders who can fill spots for just money (and perhaps a draft pick). Why trade a pitching prospect for Swisher when you can sign Carlos Beltran, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Josh Willingham, Cody Ross, Ryan Ludwick, or David DeJesus? Some of them might not be quite as good as Swish, but they also won’t cost a prospect.
That is to say, Swisher’s trade value isn’t that great. Mike made this point pretty clearly in his post about picking up Swisher’s option.
Maybe one of the Braves young starters?
This just brings up a quick note. The Braves traded Derek Lowe today. That doesn’t hurt their rotation much, but the move does make them more reliant on young starters. They’ll likely opt to retain their depth and focus on other areas. I’d be shocked if Atlanta moved any other starters this off-season.
To put it another way: if the Royals are looking to add starters rather than trade some of their young prospects, you can bet that most teams won’t be willing to trade young starters. In fact, as we’ve seen lately, far more teams are promoting and extending their young pitchers. The free agency game just isn’t attractive, and it appears that both players and teams are starting to recognize this.
We can expect the Yankees to remain active this off-season, looking under every rock for a deal that will improve the team for 2012. That might be a trade or an undervalued free agent, but whatever the case we can expect plenty of rumors from the hot stove. What we can’t expect is the Yankees to acquire something for nothing. Furthermore, we can’t expect the Yankees to acquire rare resources that other teams control and covet — especially if they’re only willing to part with fairly common prospects. That is, you’re either going to see the Yankees make a big splash with one or two enormous moves, or you’re going to see them operate as they did last off-season, taking advantage of their pro scouting department to find a few underrated players. Either way, it will make for great winter entertainment.