Early season trade candidates: hold or deal?

Second Lefty Poll: Rapada or Cabral?
3/27 Camp Notes: Swisher, Pettitte, Mo, Joba
The Yankees might be forced to trade Maxwell soon (via Reuters Pictures)

As March wears on, different needs arise for different teams. Some suffer injuries and need to trade for additional help. Others make it through the spring in relatively healthy shape and have surpluses from which they can trade. The Yankees, to this point, fall into the latter category. They not only have six starters for five rotation spots, but they also have an out of options player with some value along with a marginal player generating a little interest. That puts them in a position of strength. How far should they go in taking advantage of it?

In theory, the Yankees could trade all three players in question: Freddy Garcia, Justin Maxwell, and Ramiro Pena. But trading from a surplus isn’t always the right answer. As the Yankees experienced this spring, plans can change in an instant. Holding onto those players in some way or another can work out for the better. So how should the Yankees approach the situations for Garcia, Maxwell, and Pena?

Freddy Garcia

After Garcia helped patch up the 2011 rotation, the Yankees were apparently eager to bring him back into the fold. Shortly after they offered him arbitration, they signed him to a one-year, $4 million contract. But he wasn’t exactly their Plan A. After the Yankees acquired both Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda, Garcia was seemingly squeezed out of a rotation spot. That appears to still be the case, despite his strong spring performances.

The Yankees reportedly offered Garcia to the Marlins, but were rebuffed. It’s not clear whether the Marlins weren’t interested at all, or whether the Yankees asked for too much in return. Whatever the case, it does appear that the Yankees are willing to deal Garcia to help clear up their pitching situation. If that is the case, I hope that they didn’t work out a deal with the Marlins because they were asking for too much in return. Garcia can be greatly valuable to the 2012 team.

While he’ll likely start in the bullpen, Garcia could very well end up in the starting rotation before long. Ivan Nova, who suffered an elbow injury in the Yankees’ final game of 2011, has experienced a rough spring. He has by far the worst numbers of any Yankees starter. He does have a track record, and there appears to be little chance he’ll start the season anywhere but in the rotation. But if he falters in April, the Yankees could move quickly and push Garcia into the rotation.

The problem with trading Garcia is that he’s relatively valuable to both the Yankees and other teams. A No. 4 or No. 5 starter who can consume 150 to 170 innings per season is nothing to scoff at, even for a middling team. After all, those innings have to come from somewhere. While the Yankees appear to have a surplus now, and another reinforcement on the way in May, that might not always be the case. Few teams go through the season with even six starters, so the Yankees can definitely use Garcia.

On the other hand, what can they get in return for him? The 2012 team is pretty set. Maybe they could acquire a bullpen arm, but rare is that team that has a glaring need in the rotation while also having a spare, useful bullpen arm. Any bench upgrade would be marginal at best. It seems unlikely that a team would trade a legit B prospect for Garcia. That is, the Yankees probably aren’t going to get back as much value for Garcia as they can potentially realize from him themselves. He might not be an ideal fit in the bullpen, but his capacity to jump into the rotation is probably more valuable than anything they’d get in return.

Justin Maxwell

Mike wrote about Maxwell yesterday, so there’s no need to dig too deeply into his case. It all boils down to a lack of viable options for him. The Yankees can’t send him down to AAA without first passing him through waivers, and as Mike noted it’s unlikely that he’ll pass through. Their only other options are to carry him on the 25- man roster or to trade him. Since they don’t have room on the 25-man, a trade seems the most likely route.

When it comes to trading a player like Maxwell, urgency is the key. How badly does a team need outfield help, and where are they in the waivers order? Finding a relatively desperate team far down on the waivers list is the key. Otherwise, teams might hold onto their trade chips and simply wait for the Yankees to waive him. They can play one team off another, but for a player of Maxwell’s caliber that might not be very effective. Odds are that Maxwell joins another organization and the Yankees get little to no return for him.

Ramiro Pena

Believe it or not, there is a team potentially interested in Pena’s services. The Phillies will start the season without Chase Utley and Michael Martinez. With Placido Polanco also dealing with an injury, the Phillies could certainly use some infield help. We learned over the weekend that they have some interest in Pena. Unfortunately, as Mike said, he’s not going to fetch much in return.

Pena does have some value to the Yankees. He’s already on the 40-man roster, and can play high-quality defense. Since he’s one of three players on the 40-man roster who can play shortstop, he’s probably more valuable to the organization than the couple hundred thousand dollars or D-prospect he’d fetch in a trade.

Having a surplus is always a nice thing. It leaves a team with options that its competitors do not have. The Yankees could try to cash in its trade chips for prospects or other useful parts, but that just doesn’t appear likely in this case. They might be forced into that position with the out-of-options Maxwell, but in the cases of Garcia and Pena they have players who provide value in their depth. That value is, in all likelihood, greater than what they’d receive in return from another trade. If the Yankees can get back a decent prospect in a Maxwell/Garcia package, so be it. But unless they find something that will significantly improve their farm system, they should hold onto their surplus. They never know when they might need it.

Second Lefty Poll: Rapada or Cabral?
3/27 Camp Notes: Swisher, Pettitte, Mo, Joba
  • AP

    You have to trade Maxwell for whatever you can get. I think you hold onto Pena and Garcia unless someone offers something of value. Trading them prematurely could come back to bite you.

  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    That’s the 1 downside to having too many starters, if Pineda/Nova/Hughes struggles out of the gate they may be replaced prematurely before they can get into a stride because we know we have a viable 6th starter ready to step in (and around may possibly a very viable 7th starter) That’s not even taking into account the minor league guys like Banuelos, Phelps, Betances, Warren etc

    • Ted Nelson

      It’s definitely possible, but they can also find their stride in AAA.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Good points all around, although I don’t see what the real need to hold on to Pena, if someone else wants him, is.

    I’m more willing as well to throw caution to the wind and seeing what the team can get for Garcia before the start of the season. I’m counting on a Pettitte return and the AAA guys not embarrassing themselves if, worst case scenario, they needed to step up.

    • http://thegreedypinstripes.com Bryan V

      So you believe Pena’s value to another team > Pena’s value to the Yankees? And by “another team” I’m referring to what the Yankees could get in return from a trade.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        What value do you feel he has to the Yankees? I like his glove too. I could just as easily like Doug Bernier’s glove in the miniscule role he’s bound to play unless several things go wrong.

        • http://thegreedypinstripes.com Bryan V

          It’s not so much his value to the Yankees, it’s his value to other teams. If the Yankees can’t get much in a trade out of him, then why bother?

          You don’t just trade somebody because you can.

          BTW, Pena does have value to the Yankees as a possible middle infield back-up. Is it a lot of value? No, and that’s thanks to Eduardo Nunez. But if Jeter gets injured then there’s a good chance it’s Pena that would take a spot on the bench.

        • RetroRob

          Okay, but the problem I have with your approach is it feels like you’re saying the Yankees should trade Pena just for the heck of it so he can play for a month.

          The Phillies have to provide something to the Yankees that’s more valuable than the depth that Pena provides. The Yankees don’t exist to help the Phillies need for a middle infielder for the first month. Pena’s career is going to be exactly what we’re seeing: The AAA-to-MLB shuttle, and/or reserve on a MLB roster.

          Notice the Phillies aren’t asking for Bernier. There’s a reason. They wouldn’t want him playing for a month. He’s five years older and a lesser player than Pena. Don’t let Bernier’s hot spring fool you. Bernier is Pena’s back-up. No reason for the Yankees just to give that away on the hopes that the Yankees don’t have injuries on the MLB roster, or on the hopes that Bernier doesn’t get injured in AAA.

  • Mike Myers

    Package Max,Pena and Freddy to the phillies. They could use all 3. get a B prospect?

    • steve (different one)

      Do the Phillies need Garcia? But thank you for not mentioning Dom Brown.

    • http://thegreedypinstripes.com Bryan V

      Not that Blanton is a good 5th starter or anything, but with Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Worley already in the rotation, I don’t think they need Garcia bad enough to give up much of anything.

    • Jesse

      For Dom Brown!

      • Robinson Tilapia


        Someone should field a team one day of other team’s players overhyped on here as potential pickups. We could field an outfield of Brown, Seth Smith, and Ryan Spilbourghs.

        • YanksFanInBeantown

          Well, to be fair, Brown isn’t in the same class as Smith and Spilborghs. Spilborghs especially is a AAAA player if there ever was one.

        • thenamestsam

          While Dom Brown has definitely been overhyped on here, there is a reason for it: Fundamentally he makes a lot of sense, and good ideas tend to get repeated (it can be a bit of an echo chamber around here). If I could grab any one type of young player for the current Yankees it would probably be a lefty hitting outfielder. Short term it replaces the suckage that is Ibanez. Long term it gives flexibility with the outfield situation. So lets try to enhance the conversation instead of complaining about it. Here’s another name:

          Brandon Belt.

          Considered a very good prospect. Lefty hitter. Can play outfield and 1st base (perfect replacement for Swisher after this year). Not crazy power but it should play up somewhat in YS. And rumors just emerged today that he may be sent down again this year when people considered him ready for last year (another reason people were looking at Brown is that his own org seems less than enamored with him). The Giants plan on starting Crawford and Fotenot at second and short. They could sure as hell use Nunez, probably even Pena could help them. Thoughts?

          • CJ

            Belt? Betances or Nunez

  • small sample size

    Pena and a bag of beans for Manhattan.

  • Dan 2

    We got a great return from Garcia in 2011. Anything beyond that going forward may be too much to expect. Trade Freddy while he has maximum value. Looking for a right field prospect who can step in in 2013 if all goes well or at a minimum be part of a platoon.
    Trade maxwell for whatever you can get and keep Ramiro, because he will be very valuable in a pinch.

    • nsalem

      We should trade Garcia because he he can’t possibly be as good as last year due to his age and lack of velocity. We don’t need Garcia because Hughes worked out this winter and will be healthy all year and he has had a biting curveball this spring so it’s a sure thing he will return to his first half of 2010 form. Nova’s lack of command and Pineda’s lack of velocity in March means that they are doomed for the 2012 season and should start the season in the minors. Ibanez is finished and his 50 crappy ST AB’s are the proof and he should be replaced by Damon who isn’t through. Nothing like thinking inside the box in brown and white.

      • jsbrendog

        shit, did you remember to poke holes in the box for him? no? good.

      • Dan 2

        yours is outside the box thinking?

  • SRB

    Unload Pena for anything- His bat has always been useless and his glove seemed to falter at AAA last year where he appeared disinterested/upset at the demotion- Nunez/Hall are better options at this point

    • AP

      Even if he broke both legs, I would trust Pena’s glove over Nunez’s

      • nsalem

        I Nunez’ problem last year was his arm rather than his glove. His problems at third base (both mental and physical) might be attributable to his lack of experience at the position Only 6 games and that was several years ago in the low minors).

  • Carl LaFong

    Trade Garcia and Maxwell for the best available young prospect you can get regardless of position, & hold onto Pena. As has been pointed out, Garcia is at his highest value now or shortly will be, & just about every club is looking for an extra power bat, so Maxwell could be a fit in the same deal if a Garcia deal becomes a possibility.

    Pena is more valuable to this Yankee team as he can play all infield positions at least moderately well. He wasn’t disinterested last year, he had his appendix out, so I’m sure that factored into his play.

    Pena’s versatility, his ability to lay down a bunt, his improved stick from the left-hand side argues for keeping him around. Jeter’s age & Nunez being the only other backup ready middle infielder, sells me on keeping Pena here.

    • STONE COLD Austin Romine


      Most sensible post this entire thread imo.

  • Daniel

    can you guys ever remember a season where we had so many extra parts going into the season? It’s a really nice luxury. Props to Cashman for really building this organization up over the last few years

  • Mike

    Why don’t we throw in the loser of the Rapada/Cabral race and Jorge Vazquez too?

  • Jesse

    Trade Maxwell, keep Freddy and Pena.

  • CS Yankee

    Garcia & the choice of either Rap or Cab to the A’s for Seth Smith with the Yankees paying for the difference in salary.

    The A’s now have quite the OF depth, but lack some SP. That left power bat should play nice in YS3.

    • jsbrendog

      freddy garcia……for bartolo colon….

      your mind, it is blown.

  • Jared

    Hoard pitching. Don’t even think of moving Garcia until Andy is back and in good form. Kick the decision down the road and preserve optionality. Someone is bound to get hurt or get rocked. I disagree that Garcia is currently at his peak trade value. Even if he is warehoused in the pen as a long man and performs indifferently in the role, attrition among the pitching staffs of other teams will maintain or even marginally increase his trade value.

  • SevenAces

    IMO trade Garcia to give some of the younger pitchers in AAA (not Banuelos/Betances) a shot at the majors if there was a need to fill in the rotation due to injuries.

    Would rather see some of these young pitchers grow even if it there is a risk, than to see a pitcher that has zero space to grow and is a temporary piece.

  • http://wwww.theyankeeanalysts.com Steve S.

    Remember the name of the Rays player that took out Cervelli at the plate in Spring training a few years ago?

    Neither do I.

    • steve (different one)

      Elliot Johnson.