A super early look at potential midseason trade targets

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Dunn. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Dunn. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

The Yankees have made a series of major moves this winter and barring something unexpected, the team you see right now will likely be the team they take into the regular season. Sure, there might be some tinkering here and there, but another big move probably isn’t happening. Once the season begins and we see how some things play out (the infield and bullpen, primarily), the Yankees can start to look for in-season upgrades via the trade market.

The most common trade deadline fodder is a player making decent money on a non-contender, and these days most teams stay in contention until late in the season thanks to the second wildcard spot. The Yankees have already blown past the $189M luxury tax threshold, so they’re in a position to take on salary to facilitate a trade without worrying about staying under the threshold. Obviously it’s way too early to seriously look at potential midseason trade targets, but here are a few players who could wind up on the block and be of interest to the Yankees.

Adam Dunn
The White Sox have three first base/DH types in the newly signed Jose Abreu, franchise icon Paul Konerko, and impending free agent Dunn. Dunn is the obvious odd man out here. The Yankees do not have a true backup to Mark Teixeira, so if his surgically repaired wrist flares up and causes him to miss significant time, one of their very first calls will be to the White Sox. Dunn is owed $15M this year, the last of his four-year contract, and the ChiSox will probably jump at the chance to unload even part of it. He would make sense for New York if Teixeira goes down with another injury.

Chad Billingsley
Okay, the Dodgers figure to be the opposite of a non-contender looking to shed salary this summer. They do have a pricey front four of the rotation (Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren) with Billingsley (Tommy John surgery) and Josh Beckett (Thoracic Outlet Syndrome) slated to return early in the season, so it’s possible one will become available as Los Angeles looks to plug another hole on their roster via trade. The 29-year-old Billingsley is more marketable than either Haren or Beckett (the other three guys aren’t going anywhere) and his contract includes an affordable $15M club option for next season. It’s a long shot but there could be a fit between baseball’s two highest spending clubs come June or July (or August).

Masterson. (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)
Masterson. (Getty)

Asdrubal Cabrera & Justin Masterson
The Indians snuck into the postseason last year thanks to a baby soft late-September schedule — they won their final ten games of the season, all against the awful White Sox, Astros, and Twins — and they got worse this winter by losing Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir to free agency. I suppose they could still re-sign Jimenez, but there are no such rumblings at this point.

Both Asdrubal and Masterson are due to become free agents next offseason — extension talks with Masterson were recently “shelved,” according to Paul Hoynes — so if the Tribe is out of contention, both could wind up on the market if the club wants something more than a draft pick in return. Heck, Cabrera was pretty bad last year (95 wRC+ and 0.6 fWAR) and there’s no guarantee he’ll be worth a qualifying offer at the end of the year, so they might lose him for nothing. If Cleveland falls out of contention sooner rather than later, both guys could be fits for a Yankees team with a weak infield and in perpetual need of rotation help.

Rickie Weeks & Aramis Ramirez
Okay, now we’re talking. Non-contender? Likely check. Big salaries? Definitely check. Free agents after the season? Check as soon as their pricey club options for 2015 are declined. New York has holes at both second and third bases, so both Weeks and Aramis would make sense. The former would have to show something with the bat (94 wRC+ from 2012-13) while the latter would have to stay healthy (knee problems limited him to 92 games in 2013) first, of course. The Brewers figure to cut both Weeks and Ramirez loose next winter and would stand to save upwards of $18M by dealing both for a small-ish return at midseason. Given the state of the Yankees infield, both players will represent upgrades even if they are league average producers.

Chase Headley & Pablo Sandoval
We’ve already talked about both guys this winter (Headley, Sandoval). The Padres and Giants would not only have to fall out of contention for them to become available, but they’d have to believe they are unable to sign either player to an extension. Even at the trade deadline, both Headley and Sandoval would fetch something via trade that is more valuable than the draft pick their teams would receive when they sign elsewhere after the season. Either player would be the realistic best case upgrade scenario at the hot corner.

Motte. (Andy Lyons/Getty)
Motte. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Jesse Crain, Jose Veras, Matt Lindstrom, Huston Street, Jason Motte …
… pretty much any reliever, really. Crain, Veras, and Lindstrom are on one-year contracts with presumed non-contenders, so they figure to be on the move come the trade deadline. Street is owed $7M with a $7M club option for 2015, but even if the Padres make him available, he wouldn’t be a great fit for the Yankees because he’s so insanely homer prone (1.40 HR/9 and 13.6% HR/FB from 2011-13). That won’t fly in Yankee Stadium.

Motte is the most interesting name in this cherry-picked group. Not only is he coming off Tommy John surgery and owed a considerable salary ($7.5M) heading into free agency, but the Cardinals have already replaced him at closer with Trevor Rosenthal and have more young power arms than they know what to do with. There is no such thing as too many good relievers, but trading Motte for a little salary relief and a player to plug a hole elsewhere on the roster seems very possible. If so, the Yankees should be at the front of the line for the right-hander.

Troy Tulowitzki
This one is pretty far-fetched. The Rockies have been stuck between rebuilding and going for it these last few years, so trading their franchise player would not only require them being terrible in 2014, but also finally deciding to tear it down and start over. Tulo just turned 29 in October but he can’t stay on the field (126+ games played in only two of the last six years) and is owed at least $134M through 2020. When he’s healthy though, he’s a brilliant two-way player who plays elite defense and hits like a first baseman at shortstop. I wouldn’t count on Colorado making Tulowitzki available this summer, but if they do, the Yankees are one of the few teams that can absorb that contract.

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  • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?

    Early bird, getting worms.

  • CC

    Would do anything in the world for Tulo. Sandoval seems realistic though.

    • ALZ

      He is a fantastic player, but the injuries at the money he is already signed for, along with the prospects the Rockies should be asking for would really deter me. He is great, but not everything.

      • LK

        Tulowitzki’s contract pays him less than $20M annually. The reality is that in today’s MLB that just isn’t very much money. When his contract expires he’ll be about to turn 36, so younger than Beltran is right now. The injuries are a concern, but the contract is going to be a bargain unless he goes full-on Sizemore.

        I completely agree that the Rockies would probably ask for a freaking ton in return though, and that makes the idea pretty much a non-starter.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I really wish the Panda thing could have happened this off-season, but SF appears to be banking on his showing up to camp in solid shape and seeing if he’s extension-worthy. Oh well.

    I look forward to augmenting the roster for a playoff run. That’s for sure.

    • The Great Gonzo

      The Panda’s Instagram (PandaGram?) would agree with SF’s assessment. Dude is looking svelte right now… #nofilter

      That said, wouldn’t it be a shit ton of fun watching Sandoval and CC gain weight throughout the season and lose it every winter for the next 5 years? That is reality TV worthy, and I’d watch the shit outta that.

  • I’m One

    Tulo (along with CarGo) are loved here in Colorado. Even if the Rockies are once again out of the playoff picture, I don’t see them trading Tulo. The fan base would be up in arms. Also, I’d be very afraid of injuries as he continues to age, if I were the Yankees. As you said Mike, brilliant 2-way player when he’s on the field, but ….

    • JAG

      Agreed, I don’t see Tulowitzki getting moved this year. But oh man, if they did, he could be a great fit on the Yankees. He could even be part of the rotating DH ensemble to maybe stave off some of those injuries.

  • Oy

    Mike, you have been vocal in regards to Yankees lacking the prospects to land Headley, what makes you think that Tulo is a possible trade target? Headley is under team control for only one year and has averaged 3.8 fWAR since 2009. Meanwhile, Tulo is locked into a very reasonable, hell, underpaid contract, and has averaged 4.8 fWAR. He is a model of consistency who has put up 5.5 fWAR years every year since 2009, besides 2012. Headley had one monster year and a few good years.

    If the Yankees do not have the prospects to land Headley, they can only dream about signing Troy in 2021.

    • The Great Gonzo

      A list of ‘potential’ midseason trade targets is not a list of ‘realistic’ midseason trade targets. One or all of these guys may be available in July, but one or all of these guys may have zero chance of being Yankees.

      Slow news day, man. Let it be what it is.

      • Oy

        A “potential” trade target must be a “realistic” one. Otherwise, it’s pointless. The article discusses “few players who could wind up on the block and be of interest to the Yankees.” Cardinals expressed interest in acquiring Tulo, but were shot down. Cardinals, who arguably have the best crop of young players in the majors. What can Yankees offer, a team that “does not have enough pieces” to acquire a very good 3B who is only under contract for one year?

        I’m all for discussing potential trade targets, I agree with Mike’s assessment of all the other players mentioned in this article, bu Tulo is just not going to happen.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

          Potential and Realistic are two very, very different words.

          A .00000001% chance is still potential, if not realistic.

          • jjyank

            Bingo. Long shot does not mean utterly impossible.

            And while Tulo the player should command more of a package than Headley, Tulo is very injury prone and is owed an ass ton of money for a long time. Now, you can say that his contract underpays his production, but still. $134 mil is a $134 mil. I’m not necessarily saying that Tulo would be cheaper than Headley prospect wise, but it may not be such a dramatic difference as one may think if the Yankees pay most of that contract.

            No, it probably won’t happen. But considering the position the Rockies are in and the size of Tulo’s contract, there is potential for him to get moved, sure.

            • LK

              $134M is $134M, true; it’s also $19M less than Ellsbury just got. Tulo’s getting paid like a 3-win player, and he’s exceeded 5 fWAR in 5 of his 7 seasons. We can’t look at these contracts the way we did 5 years ago. Tulo’s a bargain, injuries and all.

              • jjyank

                Sure. By today’s market, he’s absolutely underpaid. My only point is that it’s still a ton of actual money, and to say that a guy owed $134 million cannot be in the salary dump category, I think is wrong.

                Like I’ve said several times, I highly doubt he gets traded at all, let alone to the Yankees.

                • LK

                  Oh I highly doubt he’s getting traded. I would be totally shocked.

                  But Tulowitzki isn’t getting moved in a salary dump, at least not unless he needs an amputation this offseason or you’re sending a total stud with team control left in return.

                  • jjyank

                    I know that. I’m assuming that if Tulo gets moved, it would be both. I didn’t mean to imply that by taking on salary, the Yankees could get him for a B/C prospect or something ridiculous. It would take a salary dump AND a package of top prospects, I’d imagine.

                    • LK

                      Ah OK. I view the term “salary dump” a little differently I guess. I’ve always taken it to mean that the team trading the player doesn’t really receive any talent in return, just salary relief.

                    • jjyank

                      Okay, I got ya. I suppose your definition is probably the more widely used as the “pure” salary dump.

                      I consider salary dumps as an aspect of a trade like this though. Any time we’re talking about taking on potentially $100+ million, there is some “dumping” of salary going on, regardless of the actual market value of the player. If he was paid market value, it would simply just be a bigger salary dump, in my opinion. That’s still a lot of money.

                      All this said there’s no way Tulo goes anywhere unless Colorado gets some serious salary relief and gets legit prospects. And I don’t see that happening any time soon. Still though, to go back to how this entire thread started, I think it’s worth mentioning when taking stock of the entire field of trade candidates. While highly improbably, who really knows what happens by July 31. I’d say it’s worth a five sentence mention in an offseason blog post.

        • The Great Gonzo

          Tulo is, in fact one of a “few players who could wind up on the block and be of interest to the Yankees”. He could be available. he could be of interest to the Yankees. So could Felix Hernandez. Shit, so could Josh Hamilton…

          The Yankees may not have the pieces for a package that would land either of them, does not make them any less available or intriguing….

          • Oy

            Sure, every single player might “end up on the block”. But labeling Tulo as a potential mid season trade target is silly because….

            1. Yankees don;t have the pieces
            2. Rockies did not want to discuss dealing him with a team that has the best crop of young player in the game.

            We might as well talk about Trout being a potential trade target, in the same breath. But we don’t because that would be pointless. Oh wait…

            • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

              If the Yankees offered Nova, Austin, Gary Sanchez, Slade, Banuelos, Mason Williams, Jagielo, Betances and Pineda, I have a hard time thinking Colorado doesn’t consider it.

              • Oy

                An up and down pitcher who is under control for only two more years, a prospect in the top 50-75 range, three underachieving prospects in AA, two pitchers who missed two years of development due to Tommy John, a player in Single A, and a potential reliever, and a lottery piece in Jagielo for the best SS in the game, who is signed for a below market rate. I don’t think so….

            • jjyank

              So because it probably won’t happen, it’s not worth discussing, or even mentioning, in a post about potential trade targets in late January? Mike wasted a grand total of five sentences on the Tulo possibility. Hardly much to get worked up over.

              • Oy

                A Tulo to Yankees trade has as much depth for discussion as Trout to Yankees trade. I like Mike’s work a lot and consider him to be one of the best bloggers in the Yankees universe but I don’t see how Tulo can be a trade target. Mike himself said that Yankees don’t have the pieces for Headley and Tulo is x2 the player of Headley, considering contract.

            • The Great Gonzo

              Your Tulo-Rection is at full mast today, I see.

              You could make an argument for every name in the post above for why they also ‘wouldn’t’ be offered up. Mike simply made a post for why they ‘might be’…

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          It’s not pointless. It’s a survey of what may, or may not, be out there, with an assessment of what the potential fit to the team may be.

          I’ve been reading RAB since about 2008 or 2009. This type of larger look at things is one of the reasons I come back, and it’s when we get bogged down in perceived absolutes that I get turned off.

          Good write-up, Mike

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          In my defense, the very first sentence in the Tulo write-up is: “This one is pretty far-fetched.”

          • The Great Gonzo

            There is no defense in this world for suggesting that Oy’s man Tulo would be offered to the Yankees for less than $2.25 on the dollar. How dare you infer he’s not worth that.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      There’s value in taking on all that salary. Plus since we’re talking about midseason, some prospects may take a step forward and improve their stock.

      • Oy

        I think Tulo’s contract is VERY team friendly. If he did not sign his extension, Tulo would be in line for a 200m + deal during this off season. Instead, he is signed for a reasonable 8/145. He is by far the best SS in the game and had 4 amazing seasons in his last 5 years. This is not a salary dump situation.

        I don’t think it’s realistic to expect enough prospects to take leas forwards from now until mid season to acquire a player like Tulo.

        • jjyank

          “This is not a salary dump situation.”

          It could be. I agree with you that Tulo probably could have gotten more on the open market from someone, so in that sense, yeah, Tulo’s deal is team friendly to an extent. But that’s still a lot of money coming from a non-large market team.

          Nobody here is saying that it will happen, or even that it approaches the realm of probable. But when looking at the overall field of potential available players via mid-season trade, it seems silly to just omit anyone who is a long shot.

    • mitch

      The Yankees definitely have the prospects to land a guy like Headley. I’d estimate the going rate for a guy of his caliber with one year left before free agency would be a top 100 guy + a couple lesser prospects. Whether or not SD would be interested in moving him for prospects at this point is another story.

      • Oy

        I agree that the Yankees have the pieces to land Headley, but it would probably take a top 50 chip and another prospect in the top 50-100 range. Yankees have a borderline top 50-80 prospect in Sanchez and potential top 75-100 pieces in Williams/Austin. It would probably take Sanchez and one of Williams/Austin.

  • JoeyA

    Mike,
    Any particular reason Lee or Hamels isnt included?

    I would say, especially for Hamels, that it’s far fetched, but i have to imagine both are more likely thah Tulo.

    The Phillies are going to suck dirt this year and have 0 reason to believe they’ll contend without blowing it up.

    Lee is one of the few tradeable pieces they have. He is good enough to give up a prospects for, but expensive enough to not have the smaller, more prospect-laden clubs in on him.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      I don’t think the Yankees will go for another $20M+ per year pitcher, though they do love Lee and there are only two more guaranteed years on his contract. I suppose it could happen.

  • Farewell Mo

    Maybe the Phillies could look to dump Rollins or Utley for salary reasons if they’re out of the race which may be of interest to the Yankees

    • ALZ

      Utley was going to be a free agent this winter. They just signed him to an extension 6 months ago. I don’t see them making any real moves as long as RAJ is still GM.

  • Oy-Vey

    I can be such a kvetch at times.

  • http://www.twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

    Adam Dunn would hit a bajillion HRs at Yankee Stadium. A bajillion. I never understood why he is never in the HR derby (at least I don’t ever remember him being in one)

    • The Great Gonzo

      because he’d strike out, which is a glaring red flag for why he wasn’t worth $60M….

      • http://www.twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

        Striking out isn’t as bad when you are hitting 40 HR. Dunn is/was far from a perfect player but the power is real as it gets and it is something to valued.

  • Dan G

    At first glance, there’s absolutely no way COL would trade their reasonably paid franchise player but…

    While Tulo is an absolute monster when he’s healthy… he’s barely fully healthy. “Fully” healthy being the key word since you don’t have to be on the DL to have your performance affected by injury (see: Tex, Jeter, Sabathia).

    According to BRef, his 162 game average is .295/29/103 but when you look at what he’s actually produced per season, it’s .295/22/78. Still amazing for a SS but talent means nothing when you’re on the bench. And not for nothing, he does play half his games at Coors Field.

    This would also not be a first. When NY traded for Bobby Abreu, they got a franchise player putting up .300/20/100 type numbers, signed to a $15M deal… sound familiar? Granted PHI was just giving him up to the first caller and any SS that hits above .250 is worth a king’s ransom so it’s far from a perfect comparison

    Bottom line: Tulo might just be more available than one would think. And of course as always, it depends on what COL is asking and what the other team is willing to pay.

    • LK

      I think there’s a bigger problem with the comparison. $15M today buys you way less on the open market than it did when they traded for Abreu. It’s almost impossible to overstate how quickly MLB salaries have risen.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        MLB salaries have risen 134591343000234523% every year.

        Not quite impossible…

  • PaulP

    I am not entirely sure, but I think they can get down to 189 before the season ends, so it would seem they would be more likely to deal Ichiro at the deadline then dealing for a big paycheck. I think that is the reason they are holdind the line on more spending.

    • jjyank

      I don’t have the time to crunch all the numbers right now, but I’m pretty sure that you’re wrong on this one. They maaaaaaaybe could have gotten under before Tanaka. Now? It’s gonna take a lot more than trading Ichiro.

      Plan 189 is dead, at least for this season. It’s time to stop talking about it.

    • uyf1950

      My friend not sure if you are joking or not but the Yankees 2014 payroll as it stands today for MLB AAV is about $210 to $212MM all inclusive except Jeter’s incentives. That’s $21MM +/- over the tax threshold. Getting under the tax threshold in the foreseeable future ain’t gonna happen.
      BTW, if you think they may get under in for the 2015 season forget it. The Yankees right now assuming A-Rod doesn’t retire and comes back on the Yankees payroll in 2015 will have $162MM committed to just 9 players for the 2015 season.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      There is not much left out there in the market to spend on.

  • uyf1950

    I like the idea/possibility of adding Dunn as a potential backup for 1st base at some point. He certainly has the power the Yankees love and he really isn’t that bad of a 1st baseman defensively when and if the need arises. He’s due to make $15MM in 2014 so picking him up around the trade deadline would probably cost the Yankees about $7MM+/- of that $15MM. Then he goes bye, bye at the end of the 2014 season.

  • http://bronxbomberisms.blogspot.com BrahNick

    I’m not sure we really need more bats. Masterson would be great, but we may as well just wait and sign him in the next offseason instead of giving up way too much in terms of prospects.

    bronxbomberisms.blogspot.com

  • Chip Rodriguez

    If Teixeira struggles coming back from surgery, Dunn could be a great addition.

    Heck, even if Teixeira’s in a situation where he can only bat right handed, Dunn can be a good platoon partner for half a season, and a source of serious power off the bench. And I’ll take a lot of Ks over grounding into DPs.

  • Wayne

    Would the yankees give up a Bryan Mitchell and Jose Ramirez for a closer like Jason Motte?

  • Wayne

    My bad I mean Justin masterson would yankees give up Jose Ramirez and Bryan Mitchell ?

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Um….I sure fucking hope so.