Sanchez, Williams among prospects with most trade value

In an Insider-only blog post, Keith Law ranked baseball’s best prospects on contending teams in terms of their trade value. SS Jurickson Profar of the Rangers tops the list, followed by RHP Gerrit Cole of the Pirates and OF Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals. The Yankees didn’t place anyone in the top ten, but C Gary Sanchez and OF Mason Williams rank 13th and 15th, respectively. They would have ranked higher had it not been for the whole Single-A thing — kids at the upper levels have more trade value because they’re closer to contributing.

On the other side of the coin, Kevin Goldstein posted an article (Insider req’d) looking at prospects who have lost trade value this season. Both LHP Manny Banuelos and RHP Dellin Betances made the list thanks to their disappointing seasons, the former due to an elbow injury and the latter due to control problems. The Yankees are kinda stuck in trade bait limbo right now, with their top chips in the lower minors and their upper level chips struggling.

Game 98: Without Alex

(REUTERS/Robert Sorbo)

This seven-game West Coast trip has been a nightmare on the field and unfortunately it’s going to linger over the next few weeks. Nick Swisher is expected back from his mild left hip flexor strain this weekend, but Alex Rodriguez will likely be out until sometime in early-to-mid-September after a pitch broke a bone in his left hand last night. Losing games on the field bad enough, but the Yankees can absorb some of those given their seven-game lead in the AL East. Losing players to significant injuries is another matter entirely. Here’s the starting nine…

RF Ichiro Suzuki
SS Derek Jeter
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
CF Curtis Granderson
DH Raul Ibanez
3B Eric Chavez
LF Andruw Jones
Russell Martin

RHP Ivan Nova

This afternoon’s game is scheduled to start at 3:40pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Swisher felt fine in batting cage, may not return until Saturday

Via Meredith Marakovits and George King, outfielder Nick Swisher took some swings in the batting cage yesterday and everything went well. He’s nursing a mild left hip flexor strain. Swisher won’t play today and Joe Girardi indicated that he will return to the lineup “probably Friday or Saturday.” The Yankees are off tomorrow and open a three-game series with the Red Sox at home on Friday.

With Alex Rodriguez going down for several weeks with his hand fracture, the club needs to get Swisher back into the lineup pretty soon to add some depth and power. He, Mark Teixeira, and Andruw Jones are the team’s only consistently sources of right-handed power at the moment, and of course the first two are switch-hitters while Jones only starts against lefties. A lineup without Swisher and A-Rod is quite short, so hopefully it doesn’t last very long.

Scouting the Trade Market: Stephen Drew

(Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

They’re going with Ramiro Pena for at least today, but given the current situation we can expect the Yankees to explore the market for a third baseman. Even at the near end of the six-to-eight week projected recovery period, Alex Rodriguez would be ready for a minor league rehab assignment on September 5th. If it takes any longer he could miss the chance at a rehab window, making his return even tougher.

The Yankees do have options at third base, as Mike wrote this morning. In the Outside Help section he mentioned a few interesting names. We’ve already covered Marco Scutaro, and he’s easily an option. But another name really stood out to me: Stephen Drew. Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick spoke ill of Drew recently, so perhaps he’ll be on the move before July 31st.

The Pros

  • Drew has been an average hitter throughout his major league career, producing a 97 OPS+ through 3,156 PA. That’s the exact sOPS+ of AL third basemen this year.
  • He’s a free agent after this year, so there’s no long-term worry of what to do with him once A-Rod returns.
  • While the Diamondbacks might not want to concede a playoff spot, they’ve been playing mediocre ball this year and might want to get anything they can for Drew.
  • The Yankees could use a left-handed bat, since playing Eric Chavez against every righty is risky.

The Cons

  • Drew is coming off a pretty bad ankle injury and has a .556 OPS in 17 games since returning. He didn’t exactly hit well in his rehab assignment, either (power numbers in the PCL don’t really count).
  • While a merely average bat can be valuable, it’s tough to justify trading anyone of importance for said average bat. Especially when that average bat will be gone after the season.
  • The Diamondbacks could be less willing to deal him now that they have dealt Ryan Roberts, says Jack Magruder of FoxSportsArizona.com.
  • Despite Drew’s overall averageness, his poor production this year, and his recent injury, GM Kevin Towers has said that he hasn’t found a deal for Drew “that’s going to make us better.” The Yankees don’t have many, if any, expendable pieces that can help Arizona right now.
  • Transitioning from SS to 3B, especially mid-season, can’t be easy.

As it turns out, the name stood out to me more because of the name value than the actual player value. Given the market conditions right now, the Yanks probably don’t have any interest in Drew. Name value just doesn’t translate.

Yankees will explore third base trade market

With Alex Rodriguez likely to miss several due to a broken bone in his left hand, the Yankees will explore the third base trade market and consider all options according to Joel Sherman and Buster Olney. That includes Chase Headley of the Padres. The Yankees expect to have A-Rod back by mid-September but won’t know for sure until he sees the doctors in New York tomorrow.

As I mentioned this morning, potential stopgap options could include Marco Scutaro, Stephen Drew, Placido Polanco, and Ty Wigginton. I would be pretty surprised if they made a significant move for someone like Headley, who is under team control as an arbitration eligible player through 2014, though I wouldn’t be opposed to it. The Yankees will recall Ramiro Pena to take A-Rod’s spot in the short-term, but I would not be shocked if something comes together quickly and the team finds a more viable replacement during tomorrow’s day off.

Yankees to recall Ramiro Pena

Via Joel Sherman, infielder Ramiro Pena is en route to Seattle to take Alex Rodriguez‘s roster spot. A-Rod was placed on the DL after a pitch broke a bone in his left hand last night. The Yankees wanted some versatility, particularly someone who could play the outfield in a pinch, hence Pena with Eduardo Nunez still on the mend from his thumb injury. Sherman says Nunez is a candidate to rejoin the team soon, however.

The A-Rod Injury & Third Base

(REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

At this point of the season, with a seven-game lead and 65 left to play, the Yankees are just looking to maintain their cushion and stay healthy. The latter is sometimes out of their hands though, and last night they lost Alex Rodriguez for an unknown length of time when a pitch broke the fifth metacarpal in his left hand. It’s a non-displaced fracture and although that’s better than a displaced fracture, but it will still require a DL stint. Most estimates put his timetable in the 6-8 week range but we won’t know fore sure until he gets back to New York and sees the doctors on Thursday.

One way or the other, the Yankees just lost their starting third baseman and an important middle of the order bat for a not insignificant period of time. A-Rod is no longer the historically great hitter he once was, but his .356 wOBA and 121 wRC+ will be very tough to replace. The Yankees also have zero right-handed power in their lineup now — it’s basically Andruw Jones on the days he starts and that’s it. Switch-hitters Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher do soften the blow, thankfully. The team has not yet announced the corresponding roster move, but they have some options to plug the third base hole.

Eric Chavez
The Yankees have gotten some fantastic production out of Chavez this year (108 wRC+) and he remains a standout defender at the hot corner, but they would risk injury by running him out there on a full-time basis. It’s not a matter of if he would get hurt, just a question of when. Joe Girardi has done a fine of job of limiting his playing time in a way that both helped the team and kept Chavez off the DL. Doing that with Alex on the shelf will be much more difficult.

Jayson Nix
Nix has been fine as the utility infielder but he is a right-handed bat who does almost all of his damage against left-handers (99 wRC+). He and Chavez make sense as a platoon tandem in the short-term but the Yankees run the risk of exposing Chavez to injury and exposing Nix to opposing pitchers by using it permanently.

Eduardo Nunez & Ramiro Pena
Nunez is still working his way back from a thumb injury in the minors, so he’s probably not an option just yet. The Yankees love him and almost certainly would have used him as A-Rod’s replacement had a) he been healthy, and b) his defense not been so bad in April and May that he had to be sent to Triple-A. We’re all familiar with Pena, the switch-hitting slap hitter with a .249/.302/.316 batting line in Triple-A this season. He can play all over the infield and is excellent with the glove, but he can’t hit. You don’t want him out there on a full-time basis at all. Both Nunez and Pena are on the 40-man roster.

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

Brandon Laird & Corban Joseph
It’s been two years since Laird broke out with an MVP-winning season in Double-A, but Triple-A has been a much more difficult challenge. He’s hit .253/.294/.406 in just over 1,000 plate appearances at the level but has been hot of late, hitting .313/.367/.613 in July. Laird is a right-handed hacker with some power and he can actually play the position well, so he seems like a potential call-up candidate. CoJo has been mashing at Triple-A since making his debut a few weeks ago — .281/.379/.503 with nearly as many walks (31) as strikeouts (34) in 220 plate appearances — and has 43 games of third base experience to his credit (for his career, not this year), so he has to be considered as well. As a left-handed bat, he would get most of the playing time in a platoon. His ability to play second base would be nice as well. These two are both on the 40-man roster.

Outside Help
Go figure, Ryan Roberts was both designated for assignment by the Diamondbacks and traded to the Rays just a few hours before A-Rod got hurt. He would have been a solid temporary replacement had the timing been right. The Yankees could still explore the third base market with the trade deadline a little less than a week away, but I have to think they’ll wait for an official timetable from the doctors before diving into anything. Chase Headley is the big name now that Hanley Ramirez is off the market, but I have a hard time thinking they’ll do something of that magnitude. Headley wouldn’t just impact 2012, he’d impact 2013 and 2014 as well. A free agent-to-be like Marco Scutaro, Stephen Drew, Ty Wigginton, or Placido Polanco may make more sense.

* * *

Regardless of who the Yankees call-up to fill A-Rod’s spot — I expect it to be Nunez, but that’s nothing more than a guess — we’re probably going to see quite a bit of Chavez (and a little bit of Nix) at third for the next week or so. Chavez is an obvious fill-in but Girardi and the Yankees have to be very careful with him, they must ensure that he’s well-rested unless they want to lose two third baseman to the DL. I don’t have much faith in Laird or really any of the minor league guys at the moment, so swinging a trade before the deadline would be preferable. Either way, the Yankees will not be able to replace Alex and everything he provides, even this aging and declining version.