One way to add a frontline pitcher

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Moshe Mandel contributed to this post.

At this point four years ago, the Yankees faced a difficult choice. They were among the few potential landing spots for Twins’ ace Johan Santana. The match seemed perfect. The Yankees desperately needed an ace. They had just re-added Andy Pettitte, but they still needed someone to slot in ahead of him and Mike Mussina. Santana was there for the taking — Minnesota had made it clear that he would not be with them to start the season. But the Yankees had other plans.

Why trade prospects and sign Santana to a big money contract, when they’d have to wait just one year for another left-handed ace to hit the free agent market? And so they spurned the Twins and waited for CC Sabathia. That was a risky move for sure, but a calculated one. There was no way that Sabathia was signing an extension before his free agency. The Indians had offered him one, but it wasn’t even close to the offers he’d get after the 2008 season. There was also no chance they’d trade him before the season, because they were just one game away from the World Series in 2007. And so the Yankees waited.

We can look at the current market similarly, but it’s not at all the same. Yes, there are a number of high-end pitchers scheduled to reach free agency following the 2011 season. If this were 2008, and the circumstances were similar to Sabathia’s, the Yankees might be justified in sitting it out this winter, sticking with their internal options, and waiting to nab a starter from the free agent market. But as we saw with John Danks’s extension, this is a different game. There might not be any top-end starters left for the Yanks once the 2011 season ends.

Matt Cain: The Giants have some good and expensive pitching, but chances are they’ll work to hold onto Cain. Recent reports indicate that they’ll try to get something done before spring training.

Zack Greinke: He has the best chance of anyone to reach free agency, but it’s not clear if the Yankees consider him an option in New York. Still, a pitcher with his track record at age 28 could be enticing.

Cole Hamels: The Phillies have spent tons of money building their roster. Why would they hold back when it comes to an ace-level left-hander?

That’s the extent of the high-end pitchers on the market — guys who could firmly step into the No. 2 spot, or even the No. 1 spot, for the Yanks. There are some other decent names on the list, such as Anibal Sanchez and Shaun Marcum, but it’s more difficult to see them atop the rotation. These three best fit as top of the rotation arms. Yet once free agency begins we might see only Greinke on the list of available pitchers.

If the Yankees do desire one of these pitchers, they might have to get creative. That would necessarily involve a trade, though it’s tough to envision any of the three pitchers becoming available in a trade — at least before July. But, since this is the time of year when crappy trade proposals run rampant, perhaps we can find something here. In fact, Moshe and I independently formulated the same framework for a deal that would bring Cole Hamels to New York. So, please indulge us for a moment.

Philadelphia gets: Gio Gonzalez, Austin Romine, another non-top-5 prospect from NYY

Oakland gets: Brett Gardner, Manny Banuelos

Yankees get: Cole Hamels

Our trade proposal sucks. But let’s examine it anyway.

Why it works for Philly: Instead of getting one more year of Hamels and then getting six to seven expensive years of free agency, they get four years of Gonzalez at arbitration prices. They also get a few prospects to help replenish their system. Romine in particular could entice them, because their starter, Carlos Ruiz, is 33 this season. The additional prospect helps replenish their system.

Why it works for Oakland: They get an absolute haul for Gonzalez. In fact, that might be the weakest part of this deal (other than the Phillies actually trading Hamels, of course). They get Gardner for three arbitration years and Banuelos for six. Perhaps the Yanks could sub out Betances here, but it still seems unlikely. I can’t imagine Oakland saying no to this.

Why it works for New York: They get a second ace lefty to complement Sabathia. In fact, Hamels is quite similar to Sabathia in terms of their pre-free agency numbers. Through 2008 Sabathia had a 3.66 ERA and 3.62 FIP, while Hamels has a career 3.39 ERA and 3.63 FIP. There are certain differences among them — Sabathia’s pre-free agency numbers came in a tougher offensive era, and he was in the majors longer — but all told they’re fairly even. With one more season along the lines of his 2010 or 2011 seasons, Hamels will be a perfect comp for Sabathia. They’ll both even hit free agency after their age-28 seasons.

Why Philly won’t do it: Philly might have a lot of money on the books, but there’s little stopping them from extending payroll further. They know the value of making the playoffs, having been there every year since 2007. It helps them sell out every game and will lead to a huge TV rights deal, if they don’t already have one. Additionally, after 2013 they have a lot of money coming off the books, so extending Hamels could cause complications in just one season, 2013. Plus, there’s plenty of allure in retaining a homegrown ace. They would probably rather just extend Hamels.

Why the Yanks won’t do it: They’d essentially be trading their No. 2 prospect, their starting left fielder, and a good catching prospect for one year of an ace. Of course, an extension would have to be part of this deal, but that just gives the Yankees the right to pay Hamels $23 million per season for the next six or seven years. There’s a legitimate chance that they don’t want to get bogged down in that kind of contract. There’s also the matter of Banuelos. Do the Yankees think that he can reach Hamels’s heights? That’s a pretty lofty ceiling, as his career numbers show. If they do think he can reach Hamels levels, how long will it take? Can they put together a rotation between now and then that will keep them in the postseason picture? There are tons of question to ask along with this. And that doesn’t even get into the hole in left field.

To reiterate, this will not happen. I’m certain that the Phillies will sign Hamels long-term. I’m also certain that Brian Cashman will not pay this type of premium for a pitcher just one year away from free agency. If anything, the players involved in this deal illustrate the value of developing pitchers internally. The Phillies have gotten several good to excellent years out of Hamels. If they can swing their final year of cost control for another young lefty, plus prospects, that’s a huge win. Even if Banuelos won’t reach Hamels’ production, even reaching 80 percent of it would probably make him more valuable as a pitcher to the Yankees.

It’s easy to become antsy at this point. The Yankees have some flaws in their rotation, and we’d prefer to see those addressed before the 2012 season begins. But given the asking prices of available pitchers, it just doesn’t seem likely. After all, would you give up all that even for Hamels?

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  • Eric

    Gardner/Banuelos is a huge price for 1 year of Hamels, but I would consider it if : 1. The Yankees can sign Cespedes to replace Gardner, and 2. Hamels extension is somewhat reasonable financially. This trade would pretty much blow up the austerity plan, but maybe the Yankees had no intention of getting below $189 million in 2014. I can’t see this from Philly’s perspective unless they think they have no chance of resigning Hamels though.

    • thenamestsam

      I think #2 hits it on the head. For me, it all depends on the extension. If he likes the idea of pitching in NY and is willing to sign on at a slight discount-say 5 years 110M with a team option for 25M for a 6th year or something like that, then I think you swallow hard and pull the trigger. If he wants the full Sabathia extension + inflation: 7 years 182 or something like that, then I think you have to walk away. It’s just too much talent to trade and not get a discount on the dollar price.

  • Craig Maduro

    I definitely like Hamels a lot, but for right now, my main hope (in terms of external options) is that Zack Greinke hits the open market. I know he’s a pretty polarizing topic here, but I can’t help but like the idea of Greinke slotting into the No. 2 slot behind CC in 2013.

    • Reggie C.

      Your not the only one who thinks Greinke can do great things in a Yankees uni. Definitely count me in as interested when Greinke hits FA.

  • D-Lite

    I don’t like trading Banuelos for anyone less than Felix Hernandez. Young lefties with great changeups should get a chance to succeed. And with Hamels and the concern of injury, I’d rather go with the cheap potential of Banuelos.

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      You wouldn’t trade Banuelos straight up for a proven pitcher like Hamels?

  • http://none Favrest

    Cashman has to do something. I don’t want to trade Banuelos, Montero or Betances, but I’m going to if I want to a frontline starter in return. Marcum is garbage. I don’t want him.

    Gonzalez or Hamels. I doubt Cashman has the onions to get either.

  • Rich in NJ

    FWIW, @Buster_ESPN
    Buster Olney
    Gordon Edes is reporting Red Sox very much involved on Gio Gonzalez, so it may be OAK now choosing between BOS and WASH offers.

    • Kosmo

      Gio is close to being dealt to either WSN, Miami or one other team possibly Boston.

    • Jesse

      I hope he goes to Boston.

      • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

        Miami would be interesting. Let’s let them get another piece and see if they really make a run.

        • Jesse

          I agree, Miami would be a good spot for him.

          I actually can’t wait to see the Marlins play this year. If everything goes right, I could see them making a deep run in the postseason.

          • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

            I remember being able to walk up, right before gametime, to a Marlins game, and get seats which would cost me thousands at the new Yankee Stadium.

            I also remember sitting right on the third base line for an interleague game against the Rays in which there was a guy next to me heckling Wade Boggs all the night long with lewd mentions of his mistress and Scott Brosius.

            Good times.

      • Hikker


  • OldYanksFan

    “There’s also the matter of Banuelos. Do the Yankees think that he can reach Hamels’s heights? That’s a pretty lofty ceiling, as his career numbers show.”

    Manny doesn’t need to approach Hamels. Hamels will cost $150m while Manny costs almost nothing.

    Do you really want ANOTHER long, expensive contract on the most fragile of positions (SP)? Not me. This will also cost the Yanks another $30m+, as they will never come under $189m with a contract like that. And then there’s the cost of replacing Gritner.


    Look…. ir’s been a great run, but between the new CBA agreement and the Yankees current commitments, it’s time for the Yanks to develop from within. It’s quite possibe that Manny, Phil and Nova could be #2/#3 SPs. Along with CC, that could be enough.

  • Kosmo

    Why trade for Hamels ? Trade for 4 years of Gio. I´d give up Gardner, Banuelos, Romine and Phelps for Gio and Michael Taylor.

    • Craig Maduro

      Oakland wants to add outfield talent. Despite Gardner’s presence, my guess is that they wouldn’t trade Michael Taylor in that deal.

      • Kosmo

        I agree but allegedly Oakland was reported to be discussing a deal during the winter meetings in which Taylor would be dealt to KC in a 3-way deal with NY.
        Oakland can still flip players like Romine and Phelps.

    • CP

      Hamels had the 10th best walk rate among the 94 qualified pitchers last year. Gonzalez was 93rd.

      There’s really not a comparison between the two.

  • David, Jr.

    A nice article. The deal would depend upon what we really thought of Banuelos. It certainly isn’t far off.

    More and more, I’m thinking that we keep Montero, and if a deal happens it is basically our young pitching in exchange for older but still young pitching.

    • JAG

      Agreed, at this point I feel like the Yankees need to give Montero the chance to produce now. Unless Kershaw’s name comes up, I don’t see Montero going anywhere until his team control years end at the earliest.

    • LarryM.,Fl.

      I agree with your thinking but in the back of my head. I hope someone of quality falls in our laps. Obviously, it doesn’t happen quite often to the Yankees because teams know the Yankee resources of money and talented prospects.

      We have won the WS 1 time in the last ten years with all our spending. Now the new CBA puts some restraint on the timing of our spending to fall into minimal luxury tax payments. SO, stay the course, promote from within and look for guys such as Oswalt with minimal contracts of years and hope for the kids to produce.

      97 wins with a team that had a patched up rotation but a great bullpen, solid offense and a great bench. Resign, Jones, keep Nunez busy playing caddy for Arod, Jeter and occasionally Cano. We’ll be fine. I’m pretty sure.

  • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

    Wouldn’t do it. Take my chances with Hamels as a FA signing.

    • Reggie C.

      The proposal is admittedly off-the-wall and most improbable. It just couldn’t happen without Philly and the Yanks kicking in at least 1 more highly regarded prospect.

      Here’s hoping one of Hamels and Greinke hits Free Agency.

  • Mike

    I believe the Yankees should’ve gone after darvish, here’s why, I know that spending that kind of money for an unproven pitcher is a bit ridiculous but, in every article you read, you hear that cashman doesn’t want to give up prospects and what not, but in order to acquire darvish, all that needed to be spent is money, which the Yankees obviously have. Now that darvish is gone I think they should attempt to go for Cespedes, I see him as a young Sammy Sosa.

    • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

      It’s the same money that can go towards a FA after 2012, or kept if the team sees success out of several young pitchers close to the majors.

      The team made a bid on Darvish that reflected their interest in him. Someone else wanted him more.

      If Cespedes has a realistic asking price, and the team’s done their due diligence, I’d bite. Some of what I’ve heard thrown around here sounds absolutely insane though, especially when years are mentioned.

      • Craig Maduro

        True, that same money could be used for a future FA, but that’s the problem. Those guys aren’t hitting the market anymore. If I had to make a bet today, I would bet on Greinke hitting the market. Honestly though, I wouldn’t be surprised if he, Hamels and Cain each got extended. And then ‘poof’ there goes everyone’s vaunted 2012-2013 free agent class.

    • LarryM.,Fl.

      Do you believe Darvish can give you more than Oswalt this year? Oswalt would be short term with less cost and prospects stay put with no trades. Its only money. Even if Oswalt gave us through July with no injuries and kids finished off the year.

  • mustang

    The Red Sox are closing in on having a rotation of Lester, Beckett, Buchholz, and Gonzalez while the Yankees have CC, Nova and ????????????.

    And people here seem to be ok with that just WOW!!!!

    • Jesse
      • mustang

        So what? Collapses happen did we forget ALCS 2004 you make changes and move on.

        • Jesse

          I wasn’t necessarily pointing to the collapse, I was pointing to their supposed pitching depth which really, ended up being a weakness for them. Quit assuming he’ll be an ace if he went to Boston. His walk rates are high in the minors and majors, and there’s not much to suggest they’ll drop. Plus, he’d be pitching his home games in Fenway and against better offense, thus the fraud in him will show.

          Of course, this is all moot now that he’s headed to Washington, so I won’t even bother responding.

    • mustang

      Please feel free to tell me how it’s ok because Montero is going to Babe Ruth and the two B’s are going to CY Young.

    • Reggie C.

      I think Heyman just reported a rumor. I havent read anywhere of actual names getting exchanged. Have you?

      I do agree on one point however. Gio Gonzalez in a RS uni is NOT a good thing. Gio’s peripherals aren’t on a Lester-level, but Gio’s still very good #2 starter.

      • mustang

        “Gio Gonzalez in a RS uni is NOT a good thing. Gio’s peripherals aren’t on a Lester-level, but Gio’s still very good #2 starter.”


        Yet you still have stuff like this:

        Jesse says:
        December 22, 2011 at 3:19 pm
        I hope he goes to Boston.

        I mean seriously

        • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

          Jesse, you can have the pleasure here.

        • Paul from Boston

          Um, no.

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      Didn’t we do this last winter? How’d that turn out?

      • mustang

        Yes, keep your hopes on another Colon/Garcia show repeat.

        • mustang

          And one side order of “historical collapse” please.

    • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

      I tend to not have my life revolve around what the Boston Red Sox do.

      • mustang

        Since they are one of the best teams in the division and they play 18 times maybe they should think about just a little bit.

        • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

          So suppose the Red Sox have the better team in the short-term next year because the Yankees didn’t make a rash decision, Mustang. What will you do?

          Going tit-for-tat with the Boston Red Sox would be the dumbest…..ah, fuck it.

          • mustang

            First Gio is not a short-term fix he is a long-term investment.

            “Going tit-for-tat with the Boston Red Sox would be the dumbest…..ah, fuck it.”

            I agree, but it’s also dumb to wave off a Gio to Boston as being nothing in some cases even hoping for it.

    • Steve (different one)

      I am not ok with it, but that doesn’t mean I would acquiesce to the asking price for Gio. I dont think Montero and Baneulos should be untouchable, but I need more certainty than what Gio provides. Gio in Yankee stadium is not going to be a great pitcher and the entire premise of bringing him here, that he will stop nibbling with a potent offense behind him, is complete conjecture. Gio is a nice pitcher, but I don’t think he’s the guy you empty your system for. If the Sox want to do that, they will be very formidable provided everyone stays healthy. If they have any injuries, they are going to have NO ONE to plug their holes with. That would seem more unlikely if we didn’t just watch it happen.

      • mustang

        I don’t totally agree, but least you make a good argument and admit this:

        “If the Sox want to do that, they will be very formidable “

  • The Manchine

    Edwin Jackson please.

  • Paul from Boston

    Yeah your trade proposal sucks. Banuelos is worth holding on to no matter what. And they’d have to shell out dollars to replace Gardner.


  • Tyrone Sharpton

    I got a better trade proposal: Joe Pa and Mandel for Stephen A Smith.

    • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

      Some trade proposals suck, but yours really sucks. :)

  • Now Batting

    Why would Oakland EVER do that?!?!?