Yankees can still add depth for the stretch run with small waiver trades

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Despite trading away valuable veterans at the deadline, the Yankees remain in the wildcard race and have a chance to at least make these last few weeks interesting. Are they the front-runners for the second wildcard spot? No. But they’re within striking distance, and as long as they’re close, they should continue to push for a postseason spot. If you’re not going to do that, what’s the point?

The Yankees are an obviously flawed team that is now at least fun to watch. They were pretty boring for most of the season. All of the recent call-ups have made things way more interesting, and I’m pretty sure they’ve made the Yankees an overall better team too. There are still ways to get better, and the Yankees can still make upgrades through waivers trades in the coming weeks.

A really quick crash course on trade waivers: every player on the 40-man roster has to go through trade waivers to be traded after the deadline. If the player goes unclaimed, he can be traded anywhere. If he is claimed, he can only be traded to the claiming team. Trade waivers are completely revocable, so if a player is claimed, he can be pulled back. Pretty much every player is placed on trade waivers this month. By putting everyone on waivers, teams mask the guys they actually want to trade.

Players must be in the organization by 11:59pm ET on August 31st to be eligible for the postseason roster and that’s a hard deadline. There are no loopholes around that one. Obviously if you make a waiver trade, you want to be able to take that player into October. But the Yankees aren’t in position to think that far ahead yet. They have to get to the postseason first, and if that means making a trade after August 31st, so be it.

The Yankees are committed to this transition and playing the kids, as they should be. There are still ways to upgrade the roster around them and improve the team’s chances of contention, and the Yankees should look to do that in the coming weeks. Here are the obvious spots Brian Cashman & Co. could look to upgrade for the stretch drive, plus some potential targets on teams out of the race.

The Sixth Starter

The last turn through the rotation has gone well thanks to Chad Green and Luis Cessa, who are replacing the injured Nathan Eovaldi and the ineffective Luis Severino. Severino is the sixth starter by default right now, which isn’t great because he has some things to work on in Triple-A. There’s always room for more pitching, though right now, the pickin’s are slim. Unless you want to pay big for someone like Jeremy Hellickson, that is. One veteran candidate stands out as a possible trade target.

De La Rosa. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)
De La Rosa. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)

Jorge De La Rosa, Rockies: The Rockies were three games back of a wildcard spot as recent as August 4th, though they’ve struggled of late and have slipped to seven games back. De La Rosa, an impending free agent, has a 5.07 ERA (5.19 FIP) in 110 total innings this season, though that doesn’t tell the whole story. He started the year in the rotation, pitched terribly, got demoted to the bullpen, then eventually rejoined the rotation.

De La Rosa made his first start back in the rotation against the Yankees and held them scoreless over five innings, as you may remember. Since rejoining the rotation the 35-year-old southpaw has a 3.56 ERA (5.00 FIP) in 78.1 total innings. The Yankees have been connected to De La Rosa before, both as a free agent and in trades, so there may be lingering interest. You could do a lot worse than a guy with a history of missing bats, getting grounders, and experience pitching in a harsh home ballpark for your sixth starter.

The Extra Reliever

No, they’re not Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, but Adam Warren and Tyler Clippard have done a fine job in the seventh and eighth inning since the trade deadline. The middle relief is still a bit sketchy — Tommy Layne and Blake Parker haven’t done much to solve things — and besides, there’s always room for another quality reliever. Reliever prices have been pretty high, though there’s a chance they may come down as rebuilding teams look to unload impending free agents rather than lose them for nothing after the season. Here are some potential bullpen targets.

Jim Johnson, Braves: The Braves have been signing and flipping scrap heap arms for prospects all year. They did it with Bud Norris, Jhoulys Chacin, Jason Grilli, and Lucas Harrell. Johnson has a 3.50 ERA (3.32 FIP) in 46.1 innings thanks to an improved strikeout rate (24.2%) and his typically excellent ground ball rate (56.6%). He’s been closing the last few weeks, ever since Arodys Vizcaino landed on the DL with an oblique problem. Johnson’s on a cheap one-year contract.

(Christian Petersen/Getty)
Logan. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Boone Logan, Rockies: The Yankees went from having two of the three best lefty relievers in baseball to no reliable southpaws at the trade deadline. Miller and Chapman are gone, leaving guys like Layne, Chasen Shreve, and Richard Bleier to pick up the slack. It hasn’t gone too well. Logan is having a phenomenal contract year, pitching to a 2.65 ERA (2.42 FIP) in 37.1 innings. More importantly, he’s held left-handed batters to a .148/.213/.253 batting line with a 32.6% strikeout rate and a 62.5% ground ball rate. He’s been a shutout left-on-left matchup guy.

Carlos Torres, Brewers: Don’t ask me why, but I’ve been an irrational Carlos Torres fan for a few years now. He’s have a strong season in Milwaukee (2.86 ERA and 3.78 FIP) and he’s a rubber-armed swingman, someone who can throw two or three innings at a time and pitch back-to-back-to-back days with no problem. As an added bonus, Torres would remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2018. The Yankees don’t have a long man at the moment and Torres would fill that void well.

The Big Bench Bat

Pitching is pitching and teams always need it. These next two positions are September specialties. Only once rosters expand does it make sense to dedicate a spot to an extra lefty bench bat, something the Yankees lack right now. (Their current bench is Mark Teixeira, Aaron Hicks, Ronald Torreyes, and Austin Romine.) Expanded rosters give teams the flexibility to carry a dedicated pinch-hitting specialist, which can come in handy. Here are two candidates.

Ryan Howard, Phillies: Go ahead and laugh. After all, Howard is hitting .198/.252/.445 (78 wRC+) on the season and he’s been a punchline for three or four years now. He hasn’t even hit righties this year (.206/.268/.472). So why target him? Because Howard is a short porch friendly left-handed hitter who can still hit a baseball to the moon …

… and he’s hitting .378/.425/.838 (228 wRC+) this month. The Phillies have been trying to give Howard away for close to two years now. Picking him up for cash considerations, say the pro-rated portion of the league minimum, to pinch-hit 12-15 times in September as literally the 40th man on the 40-man roster is a super-low-risk move. One well-timed dinger in those 12-15 September at-bats would make it all worth it.

Justin Morneau, White Sox: The Howard logic applies to Morneau, though Morneau is at least hitting a respectable .275/.312/.480 (108 wRC+) in limited time with the White Sox this year. They signed him at midseason following offseason elbow surgery and the club has since fallen out of the race, so there’s not much point in keeping him. As with Howard, Morneau could be a strategic September pinch-hitter as long as he comes super cheap.

The Pinch-Runner Specialist

Designated pinch-runners have become a September staple. The Yankees don’t have a true burner in Triple-A, and in fact their best pinch-runner option may be Jorge Mateo, who will have to be added to the 40-man roster for Rule 5 Draft protection after the season anyway. Is it worth calling him and starting his service time clock for that? Maybe. There are other candidates around the league though.

Emilio Bonifacio, Braves: Bonifacio never has been able to carve out as a role as a super utility guy, but he can still run, and he currently leads the Triple-A International league with 37 steals (in 42 attempts). He’s always been a bit reckless on the bases, which isn’t necessarily a good thing, but at least he won’t hesitate to run. Bonifacio is mighty aggressive.

Michael Bourn, Diamondbacks: Bourn’s days as an elite base-stealer are over because he’s old by speed guy standards (33), but he can still run a little and is 12-for-17 in steal attempts this year. I also think there’s something to be said for his base-stealing experience and knowing pitchers (and their moves) around the league.

Mastroianni. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Mastroianni. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Darin Mastroianni, Twins: A sexy name? Nope. But neither was Rico Noel last year, and Rico did the job well. Mastroianni has been up-and-down and hurt this year, so he hasn’t played much and only has ten steals (in 13 attempts). This is a guy who went 56-for-67 (84%) in steal attempts from 2013-15 though. Remember, the September pinch-runner only has to run. He doesn’t have to hit or even field. Just run. Mastroianni can run.

* * *

The important thing here is expanding rosters. There’s no sense in acquiring someone like Howard or Mastroianni right now. They’re guys you acquire on August 31st and activate on September 1st, once rosters expand so you don’t have to cut someone loose. The Yankees can still commit to playing the kids while upgrading the margins of their roster, either with some extra arms or bench players. And as long as they’re in the postseason race, even minor league upgrades are moves worth making.

Mailbag: Morneau, Cardinals, Ellsbury, Prospects

Got ten questions and nine answers for you this week. The best way to send us anything is through the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar. We get a ton of questions each week, so don’t take it personally if we don’t get to yours.

(Tom Lynn/Getty)
(Tom Lynn/Getty)

Vinny asks: Obviously he’d have to get his at-bats at DH at the expense of Carlos Beltran, but would you target Justin Morneau at the trade deadline? What would it take to get him?

Morneau, 33, is hitting .312/.345/.502 (119 wRC+) with 13 homers this year, his first with the Rockies. He’s actually hit better on the road (127 wRC+) than at Coors Field (109 wRC+). Morneau has big left-handed pull power and he’d fit wonderfully in Yankee Stadium, plus he’s always been a high contact hitter (10.6 K% this year). The Yankees need righty power more than lefty power at this point, but you take what you can get. The issue is Morneau’s contract — he’s signed for $6.75M next year and I’m not sure where they’d play him unless Beltran or Mark Teixeira went down with long-term injury. It took an okay big leaguer (Nate Schierholtz) and two prospects to get a year and half of Hunter Pence, which seems like a decent trade comp for Morneau. I’m just not sure where the Yankees would play him (unless Beltran has his elbow surgery).

Paul asks: Does St. Louis have any spare pieces the Yankees could deal for since they will need a catcher with Yadier Molina on the shelf for a while?

The Cardinals have a really deep farm system and lots to give up for a interim catcher, whether it be a stopgap like Frankie Cervelli or more of a long-term solution like John Ryan Murphy. Cervelli’s trade value is tiny as an injury prone out of options catcher. George Kottaras is roughly as valuable overall and he’s on waivers every other week (St. Louis actually claimed him right after the Molina injury). Murphy for someone like Randal Grichuk or Steven Piscotty would make a ton of sense for the Yankees since they could stick either player in right field immediately, but I’m guessing the Cardinals would balk, definitely on Piscotty. I get the sense the Cards will just ride this one out with what they have, maybe swing a nothing for a Cervelli type trade. Nothing more.

Jeb asks: Assuming the Yankees fold, would a trade of Jacoby Ellsbury to the Mariners be out of the question? If not, what would you guess the trade would look like?

I don’t think the Yankees would trade him, but, even if they were open to it, a deal like this would hinge entirely on Seattle’s financials and their willingness to take on that contract. This isn’t a salary dump in my opinion, Ellsbury is too good of a player to eat money to move him in a trade. The Yankees would be trading an impact two-way player, someone who is a standout center field defender and top notch leadoff man, so the return would be pretty big. I’d ask for Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin, and a very good prospect as a third piece. I don’t even like Franklin all that much (Danny Espinosa without the defense!) and Walker has been battling shoulder issues all season, so that package might even be a little light. An Ellsbury trade doesn’t seem likely at all.

Danny asks: Do you know if Luis Severino has an innings limit this year? At the time of his AA promotion, he’s at 88.1 IP for the year, which is double what he pitched last year.

Severino. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Severino. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

I’m sure he does. He is only 20, after all. Severino threw 64.1 innings in the Dominican Summer League in 2012 and 44 official innings last year. That doesn’t include all the time he spent in Extended Spring Training, however. (He made his official season debut in late-June, so he was in ExST for a while.) I have absolutely no idea how many innings he could have thrown there, but he “real” innings total for last season might be closer to 80-90. If so, that would put him in line for 120 or so this year. So he’s got another month or so before being shut down, more or less.

Joe asks: With the lack of any impact talent from the draft and Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Rafael DePaula, Manny Banuelos and Tyler Austin regressing (although I still think Austin ends up a solid ML player) and the Eric Jagielo, Jose Campos, and Abi Avelino injuries, would you say the system is having another down year or do you like the progress of others enough to offset this? Is this a top 15 or 20 system?

Nah, I don’t think this is another down year. Williams and Austin have disappointed and Heathcott and Campos have serious injuries, sure, but the Jagielo (oblique) and Avelino (quad) injuries were just muscle strains. Nothing structural like Heathcott’s shoulder/knee. Aaron Judge and Severino have emerged as top 50-ish prospects while Jagielo, Ian Clarkin, and Gary Sanchez are having good years. Dante Bichette Jr. has rebounded well, Jake Cave has built on last year’s breakout, and guys like Jorge Mateo, Alex Palma, and Leonardo Molina all make their domestic debuts. Has it been a great year? No. But I don’t think this is a down year. If anything, it’s a normal year. Some good, some bad, lots in the middle. I think the system is in the 11-20 range among the 30 teams right now, probably closer to 13-17 if you want a tighter range.

Ryan asks: Would best case scenario for Peter O’Brien be Mark Trumbo? With offense in short supply around the league, there has to be a spot for him somewhere if he continues to hit for this kind of power.

Yeah, that sounds about right. It is worth noting that when Trumbo was O’Brien’s age, he was hitting .299/.366/.575 (133 wRC+) with 36 homers at Triple-A, with better strikeout (21.2%) and walk (9.2%) rates than O’Brien has now (24.5% and 4.6%, respectively) in Double-A. O’Brien’s right-handed power is very real — I seem to remember Keith Law rating it a 70 on the 20-80 scale recently and 70 power is no joke, but I can’t find the link — but I’m not going to lie to you, I am very skeptical about whether O’Brien will be able to tap into that power at the big league level given the holes in his swing and his general lack of plate discipline. Keep giving him chances, of course. Everyone should be thrilled if he turns into Trumbo.

Mark asks: At what point do we know if Shane Greene is the real deal? I know two starts is a ridiculously small sample, but he sure would be a nice find in a bleak (to this point) season. Thanks in advance.

The stuff is the legit, right? You can see that from watching him. PitchFX says Greene has averaged 93.9 mph with his sinker and 87.8 mph with his slider, which will play anywhere. The only question is whether he will continue to command it well enough to be successful. I don’t think we can put a number on this, X starts or Y innings before knowing if he’s the real deal. Greene is going to hit a rough patch at some point, it’s inevitable, and his ability to adjust will determine if he’s the real deal. I will say that I feel far better about his chances of remaining in the rotation long-term because of the quality of his stuff than I did Chase Whitley, with all due respect. Whitley did have a nice little run there and that shouldn’t be forgotten. Greene’s stuff is more built to last.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Tom asks: With Masahiro Tanaka out for a while, could they flip Brandon McCarthy prior to the deadline if they fall further back (another good start or two and I’d think they could end up with something even better than Vidal Nuno)? Is there a restriction on trading a player recently acquired? (time limit? player approval?)

Darrin asks: With the health of CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda in indefinite question and Hiroki Kuroda‘s retirement coming sooner rather than later, if McCarthy pitches well would you be in favor of the Yankees signing him to a short term deal (1 year+option, 2 years) this offseason? He would cost less than some of the high dollar FA guys, although I wouldn’t mind another elite pitcher as well. Yanks need to fill several rotation spots.

Going to lump these two together. The Yankees could flip McCarthy at the deadline, there are no restrictions. The Red Sox acquired Adam LaRoche just before the 2009 trade deadline and traded him away nine days later. I don’t think they would get anything more than Nuno in return, however. There are a ton of teams looking for another starter and no one bit on McCarthy when he was with the Diamondbacks. If anything, they’d get a player similar to Nuno in return, nothing better.

As for re-signing McCarthy, that depends on how he performs in the second half, obviously. His long history of shoulder trouble is scary, so that will have to be considered. If McCarthy pitches well down the stretch and he’s open to a short-term contract, then sure, bring him back. The Yankees are going to need pitching and he’s a solid option for the middle to back of the rotation. As we’ve seen this year, there is no such thing as too much pitching. There will always been room for him. McCarthy is on a two-year, $15.5M contract right now and I wouldn’t go any higher than that after the season. Maybe even offer less since he’s two years older and not as good as he was the last time he was a free agent. Two years and $12M instead?

Austin asks: I’m glad to see that Bernie Williams is going to be honored with a plaque in Monument Park next year, but I think he deserves a larger footnote to the ‘Core Four’ discussion. From 1995 – 2002 he slashed .321/.406/.531 and averaged 5.2 bWAR. How does Bernie stack up with center fielders of his era?

I hate the Core Four (the term, not the players) because it completely ignores Bernie for no other reason than because Core Five doesn’t rhyme. It is pretty disrespectful to the guy who was the best all-around hitter on the team during the dynasty years. Anyway, Bernie’s peak was basically 1994-2002, so a strong nine years. Let’s stretch it out and call his era 1990-2005. I’m not sure where else to cut it off. Here is the center field WAR leaderboard during that period (full list):

Rk Player WAR/pos OPS+ Age G
1 Ken Griffey 79.6 146 20-35 1998
2 Kenny Lofton 64.8 108 24-38 1838
3 Jim Edmonds 56.8 137 23-35 1587
4 Andruw Jones 52.3 115 19-28 1451
5 Bernie Williams 49.8 126 22-36 1945
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/17/2014.

No, WAR isn’t perfect, but it’s fine for an exercise like this. Plus it’s easy to search. Griffey being at the top should be no surprise. It’s definitely Griffey (big gap) Lofton (moderate gap) everyone else among center fielders of the era. There’s a decent-sized gap between Bernie and the number six player, Steve Finley (43.7 WAR and 107 OPS+). You could argue that, offensively, Williams was the third best center fielder behind Junior and Edmonds. His defense lagged behind the other guys and that costs him, but I don’t see any shame in being the fifth best overall center fielder in an era with Griffey, Lofton, Edmonds, and Andruw. All five of those guys are borderline Hall of Famers at worst.

Olney: Yankees are not talking to the Twins about Justin Morneau

Via Buster Olney: The Yankees are not discussing a possible waiver trade involving Justin Morneau with the Twins. Darren Wolfson hears New York is monitoring the slugger though, and they figure to do that right up until August 31st. Players have to be in the organization by that date to be eligible for the playoff roster, no exceptions.

Morneau, 32, cleared trade waivers earlier this month according to Mike Berardino, so he can be dealt to any team now. He’s owned approximately $3.5M for the rest of the year and will become a free agent for the first time this winter. The lefty-swinging Morneau is hitting .269/.322/.434 (107 wRC+) with 15 homers overall this season, but he’s been a monster in August: 158 wRC+ and seven homers.

The Yankees could use Morneau as a powerful part-time first baseman/part-time DH down the stretch, and fitting him onto the roster won’t be too big of an issue with September call-ups looming. They should probably focus on adding a starting pitcher (Dan Haren?) more than a bat right now, but every little upgrade matters at this point. Morneau would be useful in some capacity.

Heyman: Yankees have checked in on Justin Morneau

Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have called the Twins to check in on the availability of Justin Morneau. They prefer Alfonso Soriano however, mostly because he’s a better fit for the lineup since he’s right-handed and hits for power.

Morneau, 32, has hit .272/.332/.401 (102 wRC+) with seven homers this season, and he’s managed a 109 wRC+ with four homers over the last 30 days. His offensive performance has been on par with Lyle Overbay’s (100 wRC+). The Yankees are getting nothing from their DH spot and I’m sure Yankee Stadium‘s short right field porch would help Morneau’s power output, but he is owned more than $5M through the end of the season and has been trending downward with some major red flags. I think he’s a last resort, basically.

2013 Potential Trade Targets — Part III

We’ve already covered a bunch of players in Part I and Part II of the 2013 Potential Trade Targets series, so for those of you who missed out those posts, be sure to get yourself caught up. For the rest of us, there’s no time like the present, so let’s jump into the next batch of names.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Justin Morneau
There was a time, not so long ago mind you, that most teams would be quite interested in a first baseman like Morneau. From 2004-2010, he hit 18 or more home runs each season (30+ home runs in his 2006 MVP season, 2007 and 2009). Throughout his career, he’s been largely considered a solid defensive player and an all-around good clubhouse guy as well.

Unfortunately, he’s not the same player he once was these days. In 2010, his season was derailed by a concussion (and lingering symptoms afterwards). The 2011 season required a neck surgery to fix of a pinched nerve. Shortly thereafter, Morneau experienced more concussion-like symptoms after suffering a shoulder injury (which ultimately shut him down for the rest of the season). He finally made it back onto the field in 2012, and posted very mediocre numbers (.267/.333/.440, .330 wOBA, 108 wRC+) though the former HR Derby champ did manage to hit 19 long balls in the process (.172 ISO).

This season has brought more of the same mediocrity (.288/.342/.407, .328 wOBA, 107 wRC+), except it’s now without the power. Morneau’s hit only four (!) home runs thus far. He’s also taking fewer walks (down about three percent from his career norm). Contractually, he’s owed approximately $7.5M for the rest of the season, after which point he’ll hit free agency. Personally speaking, the team can’t afford another guy incapable of hitting the ball over the fence, especially one who plays a position known for premium offensive production.

Now I can understand why Yankees fans may feel some trepidation about first base production for the rest of the season (and maybe even beyond). After all, Mark Teixeira is done for the year and Lyle Overbay was the same caliber player offensively and has cooled considerably since his hot start. I’m not sure Morneau is the answer though. We’re talking about an expensive past-his-prime-veteran rental, who’s basically been replacement level the past couple seasons. Granted, I don’t think it would take too much to acquire him in terms of prospects due to the power shortage and durability concerns, but who knows, maybe the Twins value him differently given his local popularity and past contributions. Frankly, I’d just prefer the team roll the dice on a guy like Mike Morse, who could play multiple positions and come at half the salary. Basically, Morneau is one Twinkie I’m okay passing on (see what I did there?).

Josh Willingham
When I think of Willingham, I think of a guy who has basically been the quintessential role player — which don’t get me wrong, certainly has value. As it turns out, my initial perception was about right on this one too. The now 34-year-old Willingham has been mostly a bit better than the average guy over the years (2.7 fWAR in 2008, 2.4 in 2009, 2.7 2010, 1.8 in 2011). Last season he managed to make the jump from “role player” to the type of guy I would probably categorize as “solid contributor” (3.6 fWAR).

(Mike McGinnis/Getty)
Willingham. (Mike McGinnis/Getty)

The 2013 campaign hasn’t been as kind to Josh though. Despite the fact that he’s managed to lead the Twins in home runs (with 10), he’s slumped (.224/.356/.398, .336 wOBA, 113 wRC+). A lot. He’s also had to nurse a balky left knee. To his credit though, Willingham has managed to get on base frequently via the walk (13.1 BB%) though he does strike out often (25.8 K%). It’s also probably worth noting that from 2010-2012, Josh has had an increasing propensity to struggle against lefties. This season hasn’t followed suit though, as a reverse split has become noticeable instead (a tidbit I’m not real sure what to make of yet). Maybe he’s one of those guys who could benefit from a change of scenery; I know I’d find playing in Minnesota pretty tedious. Also, if he were in pinstripes, you’d be comparing Willingham’s slumping numbers against those posted by Vernon Wells which certainly bodes well for his cause.

Although the Twins are only a few games under .500, I do think they kind of stink, and I do expect them to be potential sellers at the deadline. Assuming the Yankees were one of Willingham’s suitors, they would potentially be on the hook for about $3.5M this season and another $7M next season. If I had to guess, I’d say a mid-level prospect and some salary gets it done. The real question isn’t whether he’s better than Big Vern though. It’s whether you’re comfortable with another role player patrolling the outfield for the next season and a half full-time. I’m not sure that I am, though if it wound up happening it wouldn’t be the worst move in the world.

Marlon Byrd
First off, it’s my official stance that anyone whose first name is Marlon should have the last name Brando, so that’s strike one. Secondly, the Mets outfield, as a whole, is terrible. They’re ranked 28th in wOBA (.298), 26th in wRC+ (91), and 28th in fWAR (0.2) — sounds a lot like another NY team I know actually — so Byrd gets strike two for guilt by association. He’s also on the wrong side of 35, which makes for a convenient strike three.

Superficiality aside, Marlon has been by far the best outfielder in an otherwise anemic group. He’s hit .262/.313/.489 (.341 wOBA, 120 wRC+) with 12 home runs and is on pace to end the season at about 3.0 fWAR which would be not only be pretty good generally speaking, but would mark the second best WAR produced by Byrd personally since his 2010 campaign with the Cubs.  Historically, he’s been pretty inconsistent throughout his career in terms of production though.  On the plus side, although Byrd’s patrolled right field for the Mets this season, he’s also capable of manning Center Field as well (which would provide some added depth behind Gardner).

Perhaps the best argument that could be made here for obtaining Byrd is that he’s dirt cheap right now ($700K) — remember he was close to retiring this past offseason (he would have called it quits had he not made the big league roster out of Spring Training). His stock was way down after his season ended rather abruptly last season after testing positive for Tamoxifen, a banned substance.  If the Yankees could squeeze half a season of decent production out of him, they’d have no problems cutting ties afterwards — he’d certainly pose no threat to the austerity budget if that ends up happening.

The Mets have a lot of work to do in their own outfield, so I don’t know that it makes a whole sense for them to give up the one guy who’s been a productive contributor this season.  While they may not be expecting to contend now, they might favor the idea of having Byrd as relatively cheap insurance policy (despite his age) in 2014. Perhaps a mid-level prospect is enticing enough to make it happen though — after all, salary isn’t an issue here. In any event, I’m okay passing on Marlon Not-Brando Byrd given the age.

Air Cuddyer. (Victor Decolongon/Getty)
Air Cuddyer. (Victor Decolongon/Getty)

Michael Cuddyer
Is it just me, or does Cuddyer’s name come up every single year around this time? I feel like he’s one of those players folks are perpetually advocating a trade for. Anyway, the former Twins first round pick is another Willingham type — that is to say a role player who has value, but is probably not a difference maker.

Other than 2010, which was awful (0.4 fWAR), I think Cuddyer has generally been considered a decent outfielder despite playing a pretty poor defense — though to his credit, he can fake it at first if necessary, which would certainly help the Yankees in terms of roster flexibility.  Offensively, he’s a career .274/.343/.461 (.348 wOBA, 112 wRC+) hitter who averages roughly 13 home runs a year. He doesn’t take a ton of walks (career 8.9 BB%) but also doesn’t strike out a ton (career 17.9 K%) either. This is his age 34 season, and he’s owed about $5.25M for the rest of this season and another $10.5M next year.

I was dubious about the Willingham contract, and doubly so about this one. Cuddyer isn’t getting any younger, and I suspect the Rockies would require a decent prospect in addition to salary relief. Is he better than what the Yankees have deployed in right field thus far? Definitely. Is he the type of impact bat that’s worth the money, the prospects surrendered, and the additional year of service? Meh, I’m not convinced.  Cuddyer is a fine player and every team needs guys like him. I just think cheaper alternatives who can provide comparable production probably exist elsewhere.