The Advantages of the Trade Market

Pipe dream? I hope not. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

As of 12:01am ET this morning, the free agent market is officially open for business. Free agents can now receive and accept offers from all teams, which means we’re going to see tons of (bonus) rumors and (legitimate) signings in the coming weeks. It’s fun stuff.

We always expect the Yankees to be a major player in free agency because they can outspend everyone else, but the open market is not always the best way to go about plugging a hole in your roster. Sometimes the solution just isn’t out there, and other times the solution presented to you isn’t a good fit. That’s where trades come in, which like free agency, has some advantages of its own…

Money Still Talks

The big advantage in free agency, especially for the Yankees, is that they can just throw their money around and let that do the talking. Yeah, you have to give up an asset in a trade (i.e. one or more players), but the Yankees can still use their financial might to absorb salary that most other teams could not. MLBTR projects John Danks to make somewhere between $8-10M next season (just using him as an example), and how many teams can realistically take that on in a trade? It’s probably less than half the league, maybe even less than a third.

The general rule of thumb is the more money you take on a trade, the less you have to give up in terms of players. That doesn’t mean the Yankees can just buy players they want from other teams, but their superior budget can help keep the player cost down in some cases.

More Options

There are a ton of free agents out there, hundreds of them if you start counting the minor league guys, but that doesn’t always mean the open market will offer what you need. It’s no secret the Nationals are looking for a center fielder that can hit near the top of the order this winter, but they’re completely out of luck in free agency. It’s Coco Crisp or bust in that department. The Yankees want another lefty reliever, but that market is close to barren.

The trade market can offer viable alternatives in many cases. Sometimes it’s a non-contender looking to beef up their prospect pool, other times it’s a contender dealing from a position of depth to shore up another hole. It’s just another pool of players you can mine for talent.

Peak Years

This is the biggest advantage the trade market has over free agency in my book. Because players need at least six years of service time to qualify for free agency, most of them are over 30 by the time they hit the open market. Yeah, there is the occasional Alex Rodriguez or CC Sabathia or Jose Reyes or Prince Fielder, but those guys are the exception and not the rule. If you’re looking to buy peak performance years, those age 26-30 seasons, you’ll have a very tough time finding them on the free agent market. You might have to pay a little extra for them in a trade, but it’s usually worth it.

* * *

The Yankees want need pitching this offseason, but there’s not much available in free agency aside from Edwin Jackson, C.J. Wilson, and potentially Yu Darvish. The trade market may or may not offer some attractive alternatives, but if it does, the Yankees have the big budget and cache of upper level prospects (David Phelps, Adam Warren, Austin Romine, etc.) to get a deal done.

After ’12, Yanks’ radio rights could be up for grabs

When the Yankees announced a one-year renewal of their radio deal with WCBS AM last week, it seemed clear that something was going on. The Yanks wouldn’t just renew their preexisting — and lucrative — contract for one year without a plan, but at first, the story hadn’t emerged. And then The Post got their hands on it.

In a small and easy-to-overlook item in Saturday’s paper, media reporter Phil Mushnick wrote of a brewing radio war between the Yankees and the Mets. As a few readers had speculated, the Mets’ deal with WFAN expires after the 2012 season, and the Yanks could be looking to find a more high-profile radio partner willing to pony up the big bucks. It helps that WCBS and WFAN are owned by the same company, and the end of the Mets’ contract gives the Yanks leverage to demand preferential treatment.

Mushnick offered up a few more tidbits about the ongoing radio machinations. ESPN Radio appears to be quite interested in landing the Yanks in an attempt to boost their popularity as a sports talk outlet, but their current home on 1050 AM offers up a weak signal. To placate the Yanks, they are looking for a 24-hour clear-signal station on either AM or FM. One possible target could be 101.9 FM, a station that recently flipped from rock to news with a disastrous impact on its ratings. Its owner is searching for something to anchor the network.

For Yankee fans outside of New York City, the perfect answer would likely be WFAN if the Yanks jump ship. Like WCBS, it is a clear-channel AM station with a signal that reaches from Boston to Washington if listening conditions are just right. WEPN, on the other hand, barely reaches Albany. In the immediate area, 101.9 has a strong signal, but as an FM station, its overall reach is limited. (For what it’s worth, local stations that rebroadcast games as part of the Yankees Radio Network will not be impacted by the flagship deal.)

With all of these radio happenings, though, the question of who will be behind the mics remains. John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman will be coming back for at least 2012, but the sports media world has featured some on-again, off-again rumblings of a new radio team. A new flagship may want to find a younger team or the Yanks may elect to maintain or replace Sterling and Waldman. Despite his roll as the long-time Voice of the Yankees, John Sterling is a very divisive person among Yankee fans. His home run calls may get laughs, but it’s tough to tell which game he’s watching when he broadcasts. As one columnist once wrote, the Yanks play two games — the one on the field and the one John Sterling calls.

And so like all good or bad things, 2012 could be the end of a Yankee radio era. Waldman, for the trail she has blazed for female radio personas, won’t draw too many tears if she is jettisoned. I personally won’t miss John Sterling. His repetitiveness and willingness to play fast and loose with the game on the field make for an exhausting broadcast. But I know a few people who find this personality far more charming than a rote play-by-play guy. So as the Hot Stove League begins to heat up with free agency looming, on this night in November, I leave you with a poll. What would you do with John Sterling?

What would you do with John Sterling?
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Phelps has best start of winter in AzFL

None of the seven Yankees farmhands playing in the Arizona Fall League were selected to participate in the Rising Stars Showcase, essentially the league’s all-star game (rosters). The game will be broadcast live on MLB Network and this coming Saturday at 8pm ET.

Also, Josh Norris spoke to David Adams’ agent, who said the second baseman “feels good and is preparing for a long and productive year next season.” Adams has played just a handful of games since breaking his ankle sliding into second base way back in May 2010.

And finally, the Short Season Staten Island Yankees were named the Short Season Team of the Year, so congrats to them. They finished with the best record in the circuit and won the league title.

AzFL Phoenix (3-1 loss to Mesa) Monday’s game
Ronnie Mustelier, 3B:1 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K – hitting .405/.405/.649 through nine games
Rob Segedin, LF: 1 for 3, 1 2B, 1 BB
Corban Joseph, 2B: 1 for 4, 1 2B, 1 K
David Phelps, RHP: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 6-5 GB/FB, 1 E (pickoff) – 41 of 67 pitches were strikes (61.2%) … easily his best start out here so far … they cap the starters at five innings, but he definitely could have gone longer
Dan Burawa, RHP: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2-1 GB/FB – 13 of 20 pitches were strikes … really having a rough go of it out here, that’s seven walks and six strikeouts in 11 IP
Preston Claiborne, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1-2 GB/FB – ten pitches, eight strikes

AzFL Phoenix (10-7 loss to Salt River) Tuesday’s game
Rob Segedin, DH: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K
Chase Whitley, RHP: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 1-0 GB/FB – threw just one pitch

AzFL Phoenix (11-8 win over Mesa) Wednesday’s game
Ronnie Mustelier, 3B: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 SB, 1 CS
Rob Segedin, LF: 1 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 CS
Corban Joseph, DH: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB – second time he’s DH’d in the last week, I wonder if he’s banged up

Open Thread: Army-Rutgers

In case you haven’t heard, Yankee Stadium will be hosting its third college football game since opening next weekend, when Army takes on Rutgers next Saturday (the 12th). Thanks to our friends at TiqIQ, we can help get you into the game at a 30% discount. Just click the image above or this link. I’m sure we’ve got some Scarlet Knights out there in our readership, so get out there and support your team while giving the Yankees some more of your hard-earned cash. Seriously though, I heard the previous two football games were absolutely amazing.

Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. The 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series will resume tomorrow, so you’re baseball-less tonight. The Devils are the only local hockey team in action, but I’m sure you can find another way to spend the evening. You all know how this works, so have at it.

Discussion Question: Keeping it semi-realistic, what is your dream rotation for 2012?

Granderson, Cano take home Silver Slugger Awards

Via Chad Jennings and Enrique Rojas, Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano have won AL Silver Slugger Awards at their respective positions. The winners are being announced live on MLB Network right now, but the list is being updated at Congrats to both of these guys, they were well deserving of the awards given their offensive dominance in 2011.

Report: Yankees concerned about Oswalt’s back

Via Wally Matthews, the Yankees are unlikely to pursue free agent right-hander Roy Oswalt this offseason because of concerns about his back. “[They’re] very worried about his injury history,” said Matthews’ source. “The guy’s falling apart from that back of his. That’s why Houston dumped him.”

Oswalt, 34, has a pair of degenerative discs in his lower back that have required numerous cortisone shots but never surgery. He talked openly about retirement when recurring back pain sent him to the DL this summer, saying: “I’ve had a pretty good one … I don’t want to be labeled a quitter. I’m kind of a liability more than anything.” Oswalt’s a sexy name given his past accomplishments, no doubt about it, but there is a ton of risk here and the Yankees need certainty more than anything.

Why the Yankees are unlikely to trade Montero

(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

At his press conference yesterday, Brian Cashman made it sound as though Jesus Montero‘s presence on the 2012 roster is a certainty. “He could be a catcher, he could be a DH, he could be a bat off the bench, depending on how the roster looks,” he said. Of course, that leaves out one possibility. Cashman did speak to this possibility, though not to Montero specifically: “If anybody wants to approach me on anybody on this roster, if they don’t have a full no-trade clause, worst I can tell em is no.” Yes, there is a chance that Montero opens the 2012 season in a different uniform. But just how likely is that scenario?

When speaking of the Yankees off-season plans, Cashman uttered a familiar refrain. “Pitching, pitching, pitching. That will be the main trust of this stuff.” The Yankees have a number of able candidates for the rotation, but with close competition from the Rays and the Red Sox, and with the second Wild Card adding emphasis to winning the division, the Yankees would do well to add another high-end arm to complement CC Sabathia. A few options exist on the free agent market, namely C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish, But there is a good chance the Yankees avoid another long-term deal and instead pursue the trade market.

Should the Yankees seek another team’s pitcher, Montero would prove a valuable trade chip — perhaps the Yankees’ most valuable, though left-hander Manny Banuelos will surely garner plenty of interest. In fact, just last week FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron, writing for ESPN Insider (sub. required), suggested that Cashman “use Jesus Montero as trade bait to get the front-line starter he really covets.” For the DH slot the Yankees could sign David Ortiz, turning the tables on the rival Red Sox. Yet there are two problems with the idea of trading Montero, and neither involves prospect love.

If the Yankees stick to their payroll level from the past few seasons, they could run into a snag when trading Montero. He’s ultra-cheap, and will remain so for the next three seasons. Before factoring in arbitration figures for Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Russell Martin, Brett Gardner, and David Robertson the Yankees already have $174 million committed to the 2012 payroll. A rough estimate puts those totals a little under $20 million, so the Yankees are already near their previous $200 million level. Adding Ortiz would cost them at least $13 million in 2012, and a frontline starter could cost just as much, if not more. That’s quite a payroll bump.

The other reason involves the Yankees matching up with other teams. Montero is not a player the Yankees should dangle for any old pitcher. He has immense value, even if he’s stuck at DH (or 1B for another team), in his bat alone. He is not, in other words, a player the Yankees should trade for someone with one or two years remaining before free agency. The only scenario in which they should consider trading him involves a 25- to 28-year-old starter who has at least three more seasons of team control. He has to be an established starter, and his current team has to either 1) have enough of a pitching surplus that they can spare such a valuable arm, and 2) have a need for offense, particularly at first base or DH.

That doesn’t sound like a large group of teams and players to make a match.

After scouring each team’s roster and removing the players who absolutely won’t move anywhere — think Tim Lincecum, Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, etc. — and teams that will surely contend in 2012, I’ve come up with only three names.

Mat Latos: This is the first and most attractive match. Latos is just 24 years old, and despite a rough start to the season — perhaps due to a big innings jump between 2009 and 2010 — he still finished with quality numbers. He strikes out plenty and has a decent walk rate. Even factoring in his HR/FB ratio, perhaps a product of Petco Park, he still grades out as a very good starter. At 24 he should only get better. The Padres might want more than just Montero, but the Yankees have a number of major league ready pitchers who could go along in the deal. For Latos it could be worthwhile. It doesn’t hurt that Cashman and new Padres GM Josh Byrnes hooked up on a relatively complex deal two years ago.

Jaime Garcia: This is unlikely, mostly because St. Louis recently inked him to a long-term extension. Garcia has just two years in the majors, but they’ve been two impressive years. He combines a decent strikeout rate with good control and ground ball tendencies, which makes for a quality starting pitcher. He ran into some problems later in 2010, likely because he was gassed — he threw 163.1 innings in 2010 after just 33.2, while rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery, in 2009. When he’s on he has stuff that dives and darts all over the strike zone, and he could absolutely be a No. 2 for the Yankees. Unfortunately, the Cardinals probably need him more than they need Montero, who wouldn’t fit with the Cardinals unless Albert Pujols signed elsewhere. Even then, it’s unlikely they’d part with a 25-year-old pitcher with a quality major league record.

Jordan Zimmermann: Chances are the Nationals envision a rotation that includes both Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg at its head, so they’re not likely to deal him. If they did make him available, the Yankees would have to listen. He showed impeccable control in 2011, one year removed from Tommy John Surgery, and he could be even better heading into 2012, his age-26 season. As with Garcia he combines a quality strikeout rate with a low walk rate, though he doesn’t get as many ground balls. Still, if the Nationals want to add Montero as their first baseman, the Yankees should settle for no less than Zimmermann.

As you can see, the options are not only slim, but unlikely. Of the three Latos has the greatest chance of moving east in a trade, and even that’s not so likely given the state of San Diego’s farm system. With the lack of matches, combined with the payroll issue, it’s highly unlikely that the Yankees could trade Montero for something they’d consider equal value, even if they were inclined to do so. There are no guarantees, of course, but I’d bet decent money that Montero opens the 2012 season wearing pinstripes with the interlocking NY on his chest.