Scouting the Trade Market: Arizona Diamondbacks

Bradley. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)
Bradley. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)

After two pretty miserable years under Dave Stewart, the Diamondbacks cleaned out their front office at the end of the 2016 regular season and brought in longtime Red Sox executive Mike Hazen to run the show. Arizona went 69-93 this year, down from 79-83 in 2015 despite spending big to acquire Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller last offseason. Ouch.

The D-Backs are an interesting team because they do have some impressive talent. You can do a heck of a lot worse than building your lineup around Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock, for example. The club also has some interesting young arms, and according to Ken Rosenthal, Hazen & Co. are expecting to field a lot of calls about those young pitchers this offseason.

The Yankees, like every other team, are perpetually in the market for rotation help. The younger the better. The three best starting pitchers in the organization at this very moment (Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda) can all become free agents after 2017. That’s sorta scary. Do any of Arizona’s young arms make sense for the Yankees? Let’s dive in.

RHP Archie Bradley

Background: Bradley, 24, was the seventh overall pick in the 2011 draft, and prior to the 2014 season, Baseball America ranked him as the ninth best prospect in baseball. The right-hander has struggled in his fairly limited MLB time, pitching to a 5.18 ERA (4.27 FIP) with 20.8% strikeouts, 11.1% walks, 47.8% grounders, and 0.96 HR/9 in 177.1 total innings. That includes a 5.02 ERA (4.10 FIP) with similar peripherals in 141.2 innings in 2016.

Scouting Report (via Brooks Baseball): “His fourseam fastball has essentially average velo. His curve is a real worm killer that generates an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ curves, has a sharp downward bite, is slightly harder than usual and has primarily 12-6 movement. His change is slightly firmer than usual and results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ changeups.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Bradley is a pure power pitcher — his four-seamer averaged 93.4 mph and topped out at 97.0 mph in 2017 — and the Yankees love power pitchers. He can miss bats and get grounders, which is a darn good recipe for long-term success. Bradley have five years of team control remaining, though depending on the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement, he could qualify as a Super Two if the cutoff drops a bit lower. Not a huge deal though.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? That 11.1% walk rate is no fluke. Bradley has a 12.3% walk rate in over 440 minor league innings, so throwing strikes is an issue. The kid averaged over 18 pitches per inning in 2016. That’s crazy high. Bradley’s changeup isn’t very effective either, which is why left-handed batters hit .315/.412/.523 (!) against him this year. Yikes. Also, he missed close to three months with shoulder tendinitis in 2015, but was fine in 2016. Strikeouts and grounders solve a lot of problems and Bradley can get them. The walks and inability to neutralize lefties are an ongoing concern though.

LHP Patrick Corbin

Background: The 27-year-old Corbin, a semi-local kid from up near Syracuse, was an All-Star with the D’Backs back in 2013 before blowing out his elbow in Spring Training 2014 and needing Tommy John surgery. His performance after returning last season was promising (3.60 ERA and 3.35 FIP in 85 innings), but the wheels came off this year, so much so that Arizona had to move him to the bullpen. Corbin had a 5.15 ERA (4.84 FIP) with 18.7% strikeouts, 9.4% walks, and 53.8% grounders in 155.2 innings covering 24 starts and 12 relief appearances in 2016.

Scouting Report (via Brooks): “His fourseam fastball generates a very high amount of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers, has some natural sinking action and has slightly above average velo. His slider generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ sliders, is a real worm killer that generates an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ sliders and has some two-plane movement. His sinker generates a very high amount of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ sinkers and has slightly above average velo. His change is much firmer than usual.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? The Yankees love buy low opportunities and Corbin is exactly that. He was a deserving All-Star three years ago and it’s worth noting his stuff has bounced back well following surgery. Corbin’s velocity has held steady and he’s getting similar movement on his secondary pitches. A true four-pitch lefty with a history of missing bats and getting grounders is a mighty fine rotation piece. There’s a chance Corbin’s numbers will bounce back simply by getting away from Arizona’s league worst defense too.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? The Tommy John surgery is not nothing. Corbin had a major arm procedure two and a half years ago, and while he’s been healthy since, it is a red flag. Also, we can’t ignore the dreadful statistical performance too. The shoddy team defense didn’t cause his 1.39 HR/9 this year, for example. Corbin was an All-Star three years ago. Now he’s not close to that level. Is he fixable? Considering he’s only two years away from free agency, the Yankees might not have enough time to find out and reap the reward.

RHP Shelby Miller

Background: Gosh, Miller has been through an awful lot in his career so far. The 26-year-old was a top 2009 draft prospect who slipped to the 19th overall pick due to bonus demands, then went on to be ranked as a top 13 global prospect by Baseball America in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Miller’s rookie season in 2013 was good enough (3.06 ERA and 3.67 FIP) to earn a third place finish in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. His sophomore season was bad enough (3.74 ERA and 4.54 FIP) that the Cardinals soured on him and traded him for one year of Jason Heyward.

Miller was an All-Star with the Braves in 2015 (3.02 ERA and 3.45 FIP) before being traded to the D’Backs in that insane deal last offseason. He had a 6.15 ERA (4.87 FIP) in 101 total innings this season. His strikeout (15.2%), walk (9.1%), grounder (41.9%), and homer (1.25 HR/9) rates were all … not good. It’s hard to imagine a pitcher this young and this talented going from All-Star one year to arguably the worst pitcher in baseball the next without a major arm injury, but Miller managed to pull it off.

Scouting Report (via Brooks): “His fourseam fastball has essentially average velo. His cutter results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ cutters and has some natural sink. His curve generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ curves. His change generates a very high amount of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ changeups, generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ changeups and is much firmer than usual. His sinker results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ sinkers and has slightly above average velo.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Is there a bigger buy low candidate in baseball right now? Unless he hid an injury all season, Miller’s issues were all mechanical in 2016. And probably mental too. It’s hard to think his confidence didn’t take a hit while getting blasted every fifth day. Miller got into this weird mechanical funk in which he dropped so low in his delivery he would hit his hand on the mound during his follow through …

Shelby Miller

… which briefly sent him to the disabled list with a sprained finger. Miller legitimately throws five pitches, and at his best, he’s a weak contact guy who gets a lot of soft ground balls and lazy pop-ups. Fix the mechanics and rebuild his confidence — not easy to do in the offense happy AL East and Yankee Stadium — and you could have yourself a pretty good pitcher. As an added bonus, the D’Backs sent Miller to the minors juuust long enough this season to delay his free agency, so he comes with three years of control.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Obvious, right? Miller might not be fixable. His mechanics could be beyond repair and his confidence could be completely destroyed. I am no pitching coach, but what Shelby went through this season doesn’t strike me as a quick or easy fix. He’s a reclamation project now. No doubt about it. I’d dub this an “extremely high risk, kinda high reward” play.

LHP Robbie Ray

Background: Ray, 25, was a 12th round pick who developed into a solid pitching prospect. The Nationals traded him to the Tigers in the Doug Fister deal three years ago, then the Tigers traded him to Arizona as part of the three-team deal that brought Didi Gregorius to New York two years ago. In 2016, Ray had a 4.90 ERA (3.76 FIP) despite striking out 218 batters in 174.1 innings. His 28.1% strikeout rate is the 20th highest by a qualified left-handed starter in a single-season in MLB history. (Ten of the 19 ahead of him belong to Randy Johnson.) Sam Miller wrote about Ray’s statistically odd season (ton of strikeouts, ton of runs) not too long ago, and I recommend checking that out.

Scouting Report (via Brooks): “His fourseam fastball generates a high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers, is blazing fast, results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers, has slight armside run and has some added backspin. His sinker is blazing fast, generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ sinkers, has little sinking action compared to a true sinker and has slight armside run. His slider has primarily 12-6 movement, generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ sliders, is much harder than usual, has less than expected depth and results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ sliders. His change is thrown extremely hard and is a real worm killer that generates an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ changeups.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? The appeal of an extremely hard-throwing lefty — Ray averaged 95.3 mph with his four-seamer and 94.5 mph with his sinker in 2016 — who can miss this many bats is pretty obvious, I’d say. Add in the fact he has quality secondary pitches in his slider and changeup and you’ve got a nice little rotation piece. Ray is four years away from free agency as well, so he’s a long-term buy. A southpaw who can miss bats is a welcome addition to a team that calls Yankee Stadium home.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? There is more to life than throwing hard and striking out batters, as several members of the Yankees’ pitching staff have taught us (coughMichaelPinedacough). Ray’s walk (9.2%), grounder (45.2%), and homer (1.24 HR/9) rates left something to be desired this year, plus righties hit him pretty hard (.269/.350/.447). Ray fits the mold of a “great stuff, dubious command” pitcher, and the Yankees haven’t had a whole lot of success helping those guys figure out the command part.

RHP Taijuan Walker

Background: Walker, 24, still has some prospect shine remaining after be named a top 20 global prospect by Baseball America in 2012, 2013, and 2014. His MLB performance to date has been just okay overall (4.18 ERA and 4.30 FIP), and this past season he had a 4.22 ERA (4.99 FIP) with 20.8% strikeouts, 6.5% walks, 44.1% grounders, and 1.81 HR/9 in 134.1 innings. It seems the Mariners got sick of waiting for Walker to take the next step, so they sent him to Arizona in the Jean Segura deal last week.

Scouting Report (via Brooks): “His fourseam fastball has slightly above average velo and has some added backspin. His splitter is thrown extremely hard, results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ splitters, has movement that suggests a lot of backspin and has slight armside fade. His curve generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ curves, has a sharp downward bite and results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ curves. His cutter results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ cutters.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Walker just turned 24 and it wasn’t that long ago that he was one of the top pitching prospects in the game, so there’s definitely still a chance things will click and he’ll reach his admittedly high ceiling. His value is down right now — example: he was just traded for Jean freaking Segura, who is only two years from free agency and has been terrible two of the last three years — so this is a chance to get a talented pitcher on the cheap. Walker misses bats and he uses three pitches regularly — the cutter is basically a show-me pitch — so the tools to remain in the rotation are there. He comes with four years of team control, all arbitration-eligible as a Super Two.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Two or three years ago Walker made a mechanical change and he hasn’t been the same guy since. I don’t know if he did it on his own or if the Mariners talked him into it, but he shortened his stride and finishes more upright now, which has taken some of the bite off his curveball and hinders his command. Walker has had some on-and-off shoulder injuries since the mechanical change as well — he’s actually coming off foot surgery at the moment, though that’s an unrelated injury — so that’s no good. This stride shortening thing isn’t necessarily a fatal flaw — Aaron Sanchez had the same issue, for example, and he got back on track last year — but it is something that needs fixing. Right now, Walker is a different pitcher than the guy who was atop all those prospect lists back in the day.

* * *

I really have no idea what to think about these young D’Backs pitchers. They all have talent, that much is obvious, and all but Corbin come with at least three years of control. These are, in theory, exactly the type of pitchers the Yankees are looking to acquire. At the same time, every single one is coming off a below-average season, even Ray with all his strikeouts. They all need to be fixed or helped in some way. They’re projects.

As always, it’s going to come down to the price. There’s always a point where it makes sense to roll the dice on a young project pitcher. Hazen has been at the helm for only a few weeks now, so he has no real attachment to these guys. Well, except maybe Walker because he traded for him, but otherwise these are not kids he drafted and developed. That connection is not there and it could make him more willing to trade them. We see that sort of thing all the time when a new GM takes over.

This free agent pitching class is so incredibly crummy that competition on the trade market figures to be fierce, so much so that even “broken” pitchers like Corbin and Miller will generate a ton of attention. The Yankees have plenty of prospects to trade. Finding a match won’t be hard. The real question is how much are they willing to give up, and how confident are they in their ability to fix one of these guys?

Scouting the Free Agent Market: Carlos Beltran

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Last week the Yankees made their first major move of the offseason when they sent Brian McCann to the Astros for a pair of Single-A pitching prospects. The move cleared quite a bit of salary ($11.5M in both 2017 and 2018) and also freed up the DH position. That was McCann’s only real ticket to regular at-bats now that Gary Sanchez is entrenched behind the plate.

Even before the trade, the Yankees were connected to many of the top free agent sluggers available. I have no doubt some of that is the general “the Yankees are in on everyone” nonsense we hear every offseason. Chances are there is some legitimate interest too. Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. The McCann trade created a need at DH and the team is exploring their options. It’s what they do.

One of those options is ex-Yankee Carlos Beltran, who was traded away as part of the youth movement a few months ago. The Yankees signed him during he 2013-14 offseason, and he spent the next two and a half years in New York before being traded to the Rangers for three prospects at the 2016 trade deadline. Beltran is a free agent now and the Yankees are said to have interest in a reunion. Does bringing him back make sense? Let’s dive in.

Offensive Performance

Because Beltran spent all that time with the Yankees, we’re familiar with his work at the plate. He hit .304/.344/.546 (135 wRC+) with 22 home runs in 99 games before the trade this year, which is right in line with the .295/.357/.505 (135 wRC+) batting line he put up after April last season. Remember how bad Beltran was last April? Woof. He followed that with over 800 plate appearances of 135 wRC+ baseball. Cool.

Beltran didn’t perform quite as well with the Rangers after the trade — he hit .280/.325/.451 (103 wRC+) with seven homers in 52 games with Texas — though I’m not too concerned about that. He was healthy and I’m sure there was something of an adjustment period after joining a new team in a new division in the middle of a postseason race. The end result was a .295/.337/.471 (119 wRC+) batting line with 29 homers in 593 plate appearances in 2016.

Of course, when you sign a free agent, you’re getting what he does in the future, not what he’s done in the past. That’s the tricky part. Beltran will turn 40 soon after Opening Day and it is very reasonable to wonder what he has to offer at that age. Batted ball data is a pretty big deal when it comes to players approach 40, so here is Beltran over the last three seasons:

carlos-beltran-batted-balls

An increase in ground balls is a classic “he’s losing bat speed” indicator, and while Beltran’s ground ball rate was higher in 2016 than it was in 2015, it wasn’t a huge increase. A 42.1% ground ball rate isn’t all concerning anyway. It starts to get scary when hitters, especially middle of the order power hitters like Beltran, start getting up closer to 50%. Carlos is not close to that yet.

As you can see in the graph, Beltran’s ground ball and soft contact rates did tick up late in the season, while he was with the Rangers. That helps explain why his numbers slipped after the trade. That could be nothing more than a small sample size blip though. Carlos could have been worn down after a long season, especially after playing a chunk of it in the Texas heat. Could be nothing, could be something. We can’t possibly know.

Point is, there are no major red flags in Beltran’s batted ball data over the last few years. He’s still elevating the ball and he’s still making hard contact overall. From both sides of the plate too. The sudden late season increase in ground ball and soft contact rates this past season is a little red flag. It’s something to consider. It’s not enough to avoid signing Beltran completely, I don’t think.

Defensive & Baserunning Value

This is easy: none. Less than none, really. Beltran is a negative in the field. He’ll cost you runs. Forget saving them. Once upon a time he was as good as any center fielder in the game. Now he’s a barely mobile right fielder who fits best at DH. Age and years of knee injuries will do that to a guy. With McCann gone, the Yankees are in position to play Beltran at DH exclusively in 2017, which is where he belongs.

As for the baserunning, it’s the same deal. Beltran’s doesn’t run well anymore. It’s not just the lack of stolen bases either — Beltran stole one base in 2016, none in 2015, three in 2014, and two in 2013 — it’s the other aspects of baserunning too. This past season Beltran took the extra base only 30% of the time. That’s going first-to-third on single, scoring from first on a double, things like that. The MLB is average was 40%. He was far below that.

According to the numbers at FanGraphs, Beltran cost his teams 4.2 runs on the bases and in the field in 2016. Baseball Prospectus says it was 5.0 runs. That doesn’t sound like much, but remember, he played only 69 games in the outfield compared to 73 at DH. The playing time split limited the defensive damage. Given his age, there’s no reason to think Beltran’s defense or baserunning will improve. He’s a bat-only player.

Injury History

For the first time since 2013, Beltran managed to avoid the disabled list this past season. He did miss time with knee, hamstring, and quad problems — Carlos had to have his knee drained in June — but they were all day-to-day injuries. Last season Beltran was sidelined with an oblique strain. The year before he had a bone spur in his elbow that required season-ending surgery.

Beltran’s knees are the biggest concern going forward. Guys pull obliques and hamstrings get tight. It happens. More and more with each passing year too. Beltran’s knees are pretty messed up though. The left, the one he had drained his year, has given him on and off problems over the years. The right knee required microfracture surgery back in 2010. The move to the full-time DH should help Beltran’s knees stay healthy. His medical history isn’t pretty though.

Contract Estimates

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

First things first: Beltran did not receive the qualifying offer this offseason. He was not eligible to receive it after being traded at midseason. I’m pretty sure there was better than a 50/50 chance Carlos would have taken the $17.2M qualifying offer, but who knows. Either way, he’s not attached to draft pick compensation. No worries there.

Unlike some other big name DH candidates, most notably Edwin Encarnacion, Beltran figures to come on a short-term contract given his age. No draft pick and a short-term deal for a guy who hit 29 homers with a 119 wRC+ in 2016? Pretty sweet. Here are some contract estimates:

I include Bowden in these things because his free agent contract predictions have been insanely accurate over the last few years. He might not get them right down to the last dollar, but he’s almost always in the ballpark. It’s kinda freaky, really, to be that close year after year after year.

MLBTR and the FanGraphs crowd project a one-year contract, which is what common sense tells you a soon-to-be 40-year-old free agent should receive, no matter how productive he was this past season. Common sense doesn’t always win out in free agency. With teams like the Red Sox and Blue Jays and Red Sox and Astros and Red Sox said to be in the mix, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Beltran gets two years. The team that offers the second year might be the one that gets him.

So What About The Yankees?

This is what I think: I think Beltran is Plan A for the Yankees at DH now that McCann is gone. He’s the guy they want. He won’t cost them a draft pick and he’ll come on a short-term deal, plus they know him. They know Beltran’s work habits and what he’s like in the clubhouse. Also, he adds lineup balance as a switch-hitter, and because he’s played in the Bronx the last few years, there should be no adjustment period. It’ll be like he never left.

I also think the Yankees are unwilling to go two years to get Beltran. Maybe one year with an option, but not two guaranteed years. Every indication they’ve given the last year or so points to getting under the luxury tax threshold — whatever that number winds up being — during the 2018 season, and two years for Beltran compromises that. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia will all be off the books after next season. That’s their best chance to get under the threshold.

Also, what about Beltran? What does he want? Chances are his top priority next season is being with a contender. He wants a World Series ring. The guy has banked over $200M in contracts in his career. Chasing after every last dollar doesn’t seem like a thing that will happen. Beltran figures to join a no-doubt contender. He’s not stupid. He knows the Yankees are a team in transition — heck he was traded for prospects as part of the transition — and that means there’s a pretty decent chance they won’t contend in 2017.

Bringing Beltran back for a year to serve as the DH and mentor the young kids seems like a great idea, and really, it is. The question is whether Beltran is on board with that plan. Another team could offer a better chance of contention and/or a guaranteed second year, which throws a wrench into things. I’m not going to lie, bringing Beltran back makes me nervous after watching A-Rod, Teixeira, and Alfonso Soriano fall apart in the blink of an eye. I’d be okay with a one-year deal, but I wouldn’t be too upset if he winds up elsewhere either.

Scouting the Free Agent Market: Rich Hill

(Getty)
(Getty)

Remember when Rich Hill pitched for the Yankees back in 2014? He threw 5.1 IP of one-run ball in 14 appearances, walking three and striking out nine. The Yankees, of course, did not bring him back that offseason. That 2014 season was the final season of his very forgettable seven-year stretch in which Hill was marred by injuries and inefficiency. In those years, he threw only 153.0 ML innings total with a cumulative 5.41 ERA and 108 walks. No one was going to give serious consideration to an aging journeyman pitcher who had a 6.4 BB/9 since 2008.

As you may know, it’s been a total turnaround for Hill. In 2015, he figured some things out and got a chance with the Red Sox. He threw four stellar games for Boston (29.0 IP, 14 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, 36 K, 1.55 ERA), looking unlike the pitcher who seemed to be on the verge of irrelevancy. Those four games made him an intriguing yet uncertain player entering free agency. The A’s took a flier on him with a one-year deal and a $6 million guarantee.

Hill showed in 2016 that he can stay effective for more than just four starts. In fact, he was one of the best ML starters when healthy. Pitching for the A’s and Dodgers, he had a 12-5 record with a 2.12 ERA in 20 starts. His underlying stats (2.39 FIP) suggest it was no fluke.

I was going to name this “Is Rich Hill a fit for the Yankees?” but of course he’s a fit. A pitcher who can perform like he did in those 20 starts this year is going to be a fit for any team. It is a question of whether Yankees should take a risk and throw money at him after what he’s done in his career, specifically the past two seasons. Let’s break it down.

1. He’s really good. Perhaps good enough that Yankees should consider splurging a bit.

The Yankees have not been willing to offer a huge-money contract to a starting pitcher since, well, Masahiro Tanaka in the 2013-14 offseason. Prior to that, they were willing to break the bank for Cliff Lee but the lefty chose to play with the Phillies. They also approached and signed Hiroki Kuroda via free agency.

The common theme that I see is that you could count on solid, consistent production from those guys. Sure, Tanaka was just coming out of NPB, but many had tabbed him to be a real deal. Cliff Lee, of course, was an ace and he went on a pitch like one in Philly. Kuroda pitched four very consistent seasons for the Dodgers before coming over to New York.

The Yankees did not bother much with the Ricky Nolascos or Wei-Yin Chens of the world — guys who were above average prior to hitting the market, but would you really be comfortable giving either a five-year, $80 million contract? (That’s how much the Marlins are paying Chen by the way. He had a 4.96 ERA in 22 GS in the first year of contract.)

Sure, Hill’s track record of domination isn’t long but his 2016 season reassured us that his surge is for real. He figured something out. Unless his physical strength deteriorates big time, he should have at least a year or two of quality pitching left in tank. You want numbers on how good he is? Here are some (min. 110 IP):

  • 2.12 ERA — ranks 2nd behind Clayton Kershaw
  • 2.39 FIP — ranks 4th behind Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard and Jose Fernandez
  • 10.52 K/9 — ranks 9th
  • 0.33 HR/9 — ranks 1st. It helps that he pitched in two of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks (A’s Coliseum and Dodger Stadium), but still, a great figure.
  • 22.3% soft contact rate — ranks 9th highest
  • 28.3% hard contact rate — ranks 19th lowest

As you can see, Hill ranked among the top 10 in many positive stats. It’s not like he was great at just one thing, a la Michael Pineda and striking hitters out. He excelled in many facets of dominating hitters. He’s a guy that you’d give a ball to in important games ten times out of ten.

If you need a refresher on what Hill’s stuff looks like, here are all the pitches thrown from his September 10 start versus Miami.

2. He won’t cost a pick.

The Yankees hold the 17th overall pick for the MLB Draft next year, which means that they will lose it if they sign a free agent that rejected the qualifying offer. New York is one of the teams that can afford to pick signability guys early and gift them with an ample bonus cash, just like what they did with Blake Rutherford, the 18th overall pick of the draft this year.

I don’t think Yankees would risk losing a pick that high for a pitcher with substantial risk. They have been collecting many young assets via the draft and trades, and I don’t see them slowing down anytime soon. Hill did not reject the qualifying offer — he couldn’t receive one because he was traded at midseason — so he won’t cost the Yankees their first round pick.

3. What about his age and health? 

The thing about Rich Hill is that the man has a long enough injury history to it out on an entire roll of toilet paper. In 2016 alone, he had two separate DL stints (groin and blisters) and was limited to only 110.1 IP. The silver lining is that neither of them are serious arm issues, but they still caused him to miss an extended amount of time. One of the last things you want during the season is to have one of your best pitchers hit the disabled list, whatever the reason may be.

If the Yankees sign Hill, they will monitor his workload for sure. It’s pretty clear that the Yanks are targeting bullpen arms this offseason. If all goes as planned, they could have another ‘pen that can send an array of trustworthy arms after a 5-6 IP outing by the starter. I’m not guaranteeing that they will sign another guy beyond Aroldis Chapman/Kenley Jansen/Mark Melancon, but I think it would make sense if they do. In 20 regular season starts, Hill went 7 innings or longer only thrice. The highest pitch count he had was 112. If New York signs him, I think it is very possible that Joe Girardi will have a strict limit.

From what we can tell, Hill can give a team excellent quality innings in a limited number of starts. “Limited” is the key word here. Prior to 2016, the last time he had a 100+ IP season in pros was 2010 (103.0 IP total between AAA and MLB). In his pro career that started in 2002, only six times he managed to break the 100 IP mark. That is kind of terrifying.

Behind that number are a lot of injuries, but at the same time, he was very ineffective and also had pitched as a reliever. Perhaps we shouldn’t take the figure too seriously. It is true, however, he has limited or basically zero track record of durability. There could very well be a scenario in which he suffers a major injury early on in the contract and is never effective again. Obviously I am no Dodgers fan, but I always get wary that a free agent pitching signing could go as bad as the Jason Schmidt deal. It’s not an outcome that happens often but anything bad could happen when you take on an aging arm.

(Getty)
(Getty)

4. Do the Yankees need rotation help? (Spoiler: Yes)

As of right now, the two locks for the 2017 rotation are Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Pineda. Who do they have otherwise? Nathan Eovaldi will be rehabbing. Luis Severino could spend another year flip-flopping between the rotation and bullpen. Chad Green will have to earn a spot again if he recovers well from sprained elbow. Bryan Mitchell had a decent showing late in the year but I can’t say he’s locked down a rotation spot. There’s also Luis Cessa, who was decent but not a type that I’d easily guarantee a spot to.

So yeah, there are tons of question marks. At this point, you’ve gotta figure management knows that they need to make a move to improve the rotation to be competitive in 2017. As you can see the names from above, the young depth is there. It is hard to tell, at this moment, if any of them will turn out to be a reliable MLB starter for 2018 and beyond.

The Yankees would surely like to be a winning team in 2017. A Tanaka-Hill tandem would be a hoot. Hill was worth 3.8 fWAR in 2016, which is remarkable considering he only threw 110.1 IP. Getting 20 starts worth of solid production is better than none. Also, in a scenario where the 2017 Yankees tank coming into the trade deadline and Hill pitches lights out, they could explore trading him for prospects.

I think Hill is a worthy venture. He is an elite starting pitcher when healthy … for now. You never know what could happen to a pitcher turning 37. Unless he suffers a season-ending injury, a team could count on him for 100-130 IP worth of solid production. Is 150 IP out of the question? Maybe. If they monitor him well and his body doesn’t betray him, I can see Hill being a useful starter until the young guys in the organization start to make an impact. However, he hasn’t shown a track record of staying healthy as a SP for most of the season since, well, 2007.

On the other side of the coin, Hill wouldn’t require a draft pick or a trade. Just a check from the Steinbrenners. If the contract is around 3 years and $45-50 million, I say sign him. You don’t get many chances to sign a guy with such upside for that money. I don’t think money would be a huge issue for Yankees. However, I’m wondering, because of the weak starting pitching market this winter, if the Hill camp pushes the envelopes a bit and demand more annual money and/or a fourth year. I’m sure the team has done/doing/will do their research to evaluate whether Hill would be worth the risk. We’ll see what happens.

Scouting the Trade Market: Houston Astros

Musgrove. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Musgrove. (Bob Levey/Getty)

According to multiple reports, the Astros are prepared to do something big this offseason. They had a breakout 2015 season, winning 86 games and beating the Yankees in the AL Wildcard Game before losing to the Royals in the ALDS. Rather than build on that success in 2016, they slipped to 84 wins and fell five games short of a postseason berth. They want to wipe that disappointing 2016 season from their memories.

So far this winter Houston has been connected to big name players like Edwin Encarnacion and Miguel Cabrera. More realistically, the Astros are also said to have interest in Yankees catcher Brian McCann, who has been deemed expendable thanks to the emergence of Gary Sanchez. Jason Castro is a free agent and the ‘Stros want a veteran backstop who can lead the staff and also provide some offense. McCann can do exactly that.

The Yankees are reportedly willing to eat up to half the $34M remaining on McCann’s contract to facilitate a trade, but if they do that, they want a better package in return. Makes sense. Pitching is said to be the top priority this offseason and I’m guessing that will be the focus in any McCann trade. McCann has a full no-trade clause, so he’s in control here. There are indications he will approve a trade to the Astros because they figure to contend and he’ll be able to DH. We’ll see.

Despite all their tanking over the years, Houston’s farm system is not loaded with talent at the moment. They’ve got plenty of good prospects, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not like the Yankees will be sifting through a farm system as deep as, well, their own. Here are some ‘Stros youngsters who could pique New York’s interest as they work through a McCann trade. The players are listed alphabetically and all scouting reports come from MLB.com.

RHP Chris Devenski

Background: Devenski, 26, was a 25th round pick by the White Sox in 2011. The next year he was sent to the Astros as the player to be named later in the Brett Myers trade. Devenski worked as both a starter and reliever in the minors, and after making his MLB debut as a starter this season, he settled into a relief role and had a 2.16 ERA (2.34 FIP) in 108.1 innings. Only Michael Fulmer bested Devenski in fWAR (3.0 vs. 2.8) and bWAR (4.9 vs. 2.8) among AL rookie hurlers.

Scouting Report: “The key to his success is his plus changeup, which allows him to get swings and misses from lefties and righties alike despite having otherwise fringy stuff. Devenski’s fastball operates at 89-91 mph and tops out at 93. He also has a curveball that he can throw for strikes. Devenski can’t overpower hitters, but he keeps them off balance and doesn’t beat himself with walks or homers.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Devenski has the tools to start thanks to his three pitches and good control. His velocity ticked up as a reliever — he averaged 92.3 mph and topped out at 97.6 mph in 2016 — but even at 89-91 mph he can have success turning a lineup over multiple times, especially if he maintains his 4.9% walk rate. The upside here is a cheap back-end starter with the fallback option of a pretty good reliever.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? There are reasons to believe Devenski is not as good as he was this past season. I can’t help but look at his 33.5% ground ball rate and 0.33 HR/9 (3.5 HR/FB%) and think that’s probably not going to last long-term, especially not for a dude with an 89-91 mph fastball as a starter in a small ballpark like Yankee Stadium. That doesn’t mean Devenski can’t still be valuable with, say, a 1.00 HR/9 as a starter, it just means his 2016 performance probably isn’t who he will be going forward.

RHP Michael Feliz

Background: The 23-year-old Feliz originally signed with the Athletics as an amateur out of the Dominican Republic, but his contract was voided after he failed a drug test. The Astros scooped him up, he served his 50-game suspension, and he’s since blossomed into a hard-throwing righty. Feliz received a cup of coffee last year and spent the entire 2016 season in Houston’s bullpen, where he had a 4.43 ERA (3.24 FIP) with a great strikeout rate (35.2%) and an okay walk rate (8.2%) in 65 innings.

Scouting Report: “His fastball sits in the mid 90s and gets up to 98 mph. His slider is his best secondary offering, and his changeup gives him a third quality offering. He mostly works around the zone, but his delivery will need more refinement before he truly commands all of his pitches. If he can make the necessary adjustments, he’ll have all the makings of a frontline starter.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Feliz has good size — he’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 230 lbs. — and tremendous raw stuff, though he didn’t throw his changeup a whole lot in relief this year. The natural ability is there, as is the potential to start long-term. A 23-year-old kid with this kind of arm is always worth pursuing.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Like many young kids with big arms, Feliz lacks overall command and it’ll come down to improving his delivery. That’s not easy to do. Also, some other scouting reports, such as Baseball America‘s (subs. req’d), aren’t as enthusiastic about his slider and changeup as MLB.com. Feliz has talent. He is need of refinement though, and he may not be ready to step into the rotation next season.

RHP Francis Martes

Background: Martes went to the Astros in the Jarred Cosart trade with the Marlins, when he was still in rookie ball. He’s since developed into one of the game’s top pitching prospects. Martes, 20, had a 3.30 ERA (2.73 FIP) with a 25.0% strikeout rate and a 9.0% walk rate in 125.1 Double-A innings this summer, where he was more than four years younger than the average Texas League player. MLB.com currently ranks him as the 29th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “(Martes) now operates at a consistent 93-95 mph with a peak of 98. His breaking ball improved even more significantly last year, becoming a devastating power curveball. His changeup is in its nascent stages but shows some promise. Martes’ control also got a lot better during his first full year with his new organization … (He’s emerged as) a potential frontline starter.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Martes is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and he’s nearly MLB ready. He figures to start next season at Triple-A and could earn a midseason call-up, regardless of whether he’s with the Yankees or Astros or whoever. The fastball/curveball combination points to a future at the front of a big league rotation.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? As with most 20-year-old pitching prospects, Martes is still rough around the edges. He doesn’t have much of a changeup, and that’s a pretty big deal. His control isn’t all that great either. Martes is very exciting. That fastball/curveball combo is as good as it gets. But until he refines his changeup and strike-throwing ability, it’s hard to think he’ll be an effective MLB rotation option.

RHP Joe Musgrove

Background: The Blue Jays drafted the 23-year-old Musgrove with the 46th overall pick in the 2011 draft, then traded him to the Astros in the ten-player J.A. Happ trade at the 2012 deadline. (Ten-player J.A. Happ trade!) Musgrove was a borderline top 100 prospect coming into 2016. He made his MLB debut in August and had a 4.06 ERA (4.18 FIP) with nice strikeout (21.5%) and walk (6.3%) rates in 62 innings spread across ten starts and one relief appearance.

Scouting Report: “Musgrove takes advantage of his big, physical frame to throw his low-to-mid-90s fastball from a good downhill plane. He mostly attacks hitters with his fastball and pounds the zone with it, creating plenty of ground ball outs. He also has a good curveball and some feel for his changeup, but both of his secondary offerings still need more refinement … He has all the makings of a future workhorse starter.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? The MLB.com scouting report doesn’t mention what Baseball America (subs. req’d) calls “plus command/control,” which allows everything to play up. Musgrove is a no-doubt starter long-term thanks to his ability to locate four pitches — PitchFX has him throwing a slider in addition to the fastball/curveball/changeup in the scouting report, and you can that slider in the video — and that’s exactly what the Yankees are looking for.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? There aren’t many reasons, really. Musgrove is not a budding ace or anything. His ceiling isn’t sky high. He’s more likely to settle in a solid mid-rotation pitcher, which is perfectly fine. Not exciting at all, but fine.

RHP David Paulino

Background: Like Martes and Musgrove, the 22-year-old Paulino was acquired in a trade when he was still in rookie ball. The Astros got him as the player to named later in the Jose Veras trade with the Tigers in 2013. Paulino was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery at the time. This season he had a 1.91 ERA (2.32 FIP) with 28.6% strikeouts and 5.4% walks in 94 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A. Paulino made his MLB debut in September and allowed four runs in seven innings. MLB.com currently ranks Paulino as the 70th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “(Paulino) came back from his elbow reconstruction to operate at 93-95 mph and hit 98. His curveball also has improved significantly, becoming a legitimate power breaking ball and giving him a second pitch that grades as well above-average when at its best. Paulino has made strides with his changeup too, and he had no problem regaining his control after Tommy John surgery … He has frontline-starter ceiling but also little track record.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Paulino’s raw stuff is electric. Mid-90s gas, a bat-missing curveball, and an improving changeup, all with decent control. On top of that, the kid is listed at 6-foot-7 and 215 lbs., so he’s a big intimidating presence on the mound who gets great extension out in front. It’s very easy to dream on Paulino and envision him becoming a top of the rotation starter.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Injuries, for starters. Paulino had Tommy John surgery in 2013, and that along with some other issues limited him to 106.1 total innings from 2011-15. Also, Paulino was suspended for a month this past season for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Like Jorge Mateo, but a longer suspension. Even if the suspension doesn’t bother you and you’re willing to overlook the injuries, the bottom line is this kid has thrown 203.1 innings over the last six years. Total. That’s an awful lot of development time missed.

OF Kyle Tucker

Background: The only position player in this post was the fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft. Tucker, 19, is the younger brother of Astros outfielder Preston Tucker. Kyle hit .280/.354/.433 (125 wRC+) with ten homers and 33 steals, plus promising strikeout (16.6%) and walk (9.8%) rates, in 122 games between Low-A And High-A this season. MLB.com currently ranks him as the 49th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “Tucker makes consistent hard contact thanks to fast hands, a balanced left-handed swing and a mature approach. He also has plenty of raw power and could deliver 20 homers per season once he fills out his lanky 6-foot-4 frame … (Tucker) profiles best in right field. He has solid arm strength and speed, though he figures to lose a half-step once he matures physically.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Because he’s one of the best pure hitting prospects in the minors, that’s why. Tucker is not quite Christian Yelich but it’s the same basic skill set. Quick hands and a sweet lefty swing that generate oodles of hard contact. The Yankees have a ton of outfielders in their farm system, but that doesn’t matter. Tucker is better than pretty much all of them. He’s the best prospect in Houston’s system in my opinion and therefore the best non-big leaguer the Yankees would be able to pry loose in a McCann trade.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Aside from the fact Tucker is only 19 and in Single-A, meaning there’s still plenty of time for things to go wrong, I can’t think of one. I guess also because he doesn’t satisfy the Yankees’ long-term pitching needs?

* * *

The Yankees have had interest in righty Lance McCullers Jr. before, specifically last year during Andrew Miller trade talks, but the Astros shot that down. I assume McCullers is still off limits. The same is probably true of righty Forrest Whitley, Houston’s first round pick in this past summer’s amateur draft. Here is MLB.com’s top 30 Astros prospects list, if you want to sift through that some more.

I’d love to see the Yankees get Tucker in a McCann trade, but I don’t think it’s going to happen, even if they eat $17M of the $34M left on his contract. Out of everyone else in this post, Musgrove is the guy I hope the Yankees target. He has four pitches and good command, plus he got his feet wet at the MLB level this year, so he’s ready to step right into the rotation. It would be nice to have a young pitcher who is more than a good stuff/bad command guy one of these years, you know?

Scouting the Trade Market: Chicago Cubs

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Over the last few weeks no team has been more connected to the Yankees prior to the trade deadline than the Cubs. As good as they are, the Cubbies need some late-inning bullpen help, ideally a southpaw. That’s why they went out and acquired Mike Montgomery from the Mariners yesterday. They needed some more bullpen depth, but Montgomery is not someone who is going to stop them from trying to get another end-game arm. Hardly.

The Yankees have two premium late-inning lefties in Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, either of whom would satisfy Chicago’s bullpen needs. Reports indicate the Cubs prefer Miller to Chapman, which makes sense because Miller is willing to work as a setup man and is under contract an extra two years. Theo Epstein and Miller have a relationship dating back to their days with the Red Sox too, and that only helps.

By now we’ve all heard the Yankees want Kyle Schwarber in any trade involving Miller. The Cubs say that won’t happen. I’m not a huge Schwarber fan but I get why the Yankees want him and why the Cubs don’t want to give him up. The Cubs have so many other talented young players in their organization that not being able to pry Schwarber loose shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. There’s Javier Baez, or Albert Almora, or Willson Contreras, for example.

In this post we’re going to focus on Chicago’s farm system, just like we did with the Indians yesterday. The Cubs have a strong farm system, though it’s not as good as it was a year or two ago simply because they’ve graduated so many guys to the big leagues. They landed three players on Baseball America’s midseason top 100 update and could have one or two more by season’s end. Here are eight Cubs prospects who could make sense for the Yankees in a Miller or Chapman trade. All scouting report blurbs come from MLB.com, unless otherwise noted. The players are listed alphabetically.

3B Jeimer Candelario

Background: Candelario, 22, signed for $500,000 out of the Dominican Republic a few years ago and has gradually climbed the minor league ladder since. He’s hit .245/.356/.417 (118 wRC+) with seven homers, a 13.7% walk rate, and a 19.6% strikeout rate in 83 games split between Double-A and Triple-A this year. The Cubs called Candelario up briefly a few weeks ago, and he went 1-for-14 (.091) at the plate in five games in his MLB debut.

Scouting Report: “A switch-hitter, Candelario has a fluid swing and makes consistent contact from both sides of the plate. He understands the strike zone and could develop into a solid hitter for both average and power … Though Candelario has below-average speed and quickness, he has worked hard on his defense and is selling more scouts on his ability to stay at third base. His hands and arm are assets, and his instincts help him make plays.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? A switch-hitter who makes contact and knows the strike zone is a pretty sweet offensive player, even if the power projects to be more 15-18 homers than 20+. The Yankees have a long-term need at the hot corner, not to mention a need for hitters who work the count and spray the ball line to line. That Candelario is in Triple-A and close to MLB ready is a bonus.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Candelario might not be a third baseman long-term. There are plenty of folks who think he’s going to wind up at first base at some point soon — he’s played a handful of games at first in the minors — and if that happens his bat figures to be light for the position, especially in the power department. You’ve got to either really believe in the bat or really believe in his ability to stay at third to see Candelario as a regular.

RHP Dylan Cease

Background: The 20-year-old Cease was a potential first round back in 2014, but he needed Tommy John surgery that spring and fell to the Cubs in the sixth round. He made it back to the mound late last year, and so far this season he has a 3.32 ERA (3.56 FIP) with a 25.6% strikeout rate and an 8.9% walk rate in 21.2 innings down in a short season rookie league.

Scouting Report: “Cease reached 97 mph with his fastball before he got hurt and hit 100 shortly after he returned to the mound last summer. He sits in the mid-90s with his heater, which also features life that makes it even tougher to barrel. He has turned what was a three-quarters breaking ball into a true power curveball … Cease needs to refine his changeup and use it more … The Cubs have helped him clean up his mechanics some and he should be able to repeat them efficiently enough to fill the strike zone.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Cease is a classic projectable power arm — he’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 190 lbs. — with an out-pitch breaking ball and improving mechanics. He was a first round talent before getting hurt, remember. Cease has the potential to one day pitch near the front of a rotation, and guys with that kind of ability aren’t easy to find.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? The recent Tommy John surgery is a red flag, as is the fact Cease is injured right now. He left a start with a still undisclosed injury two weeks ago, and according to Steve Mims, Cease is currently throwing and could return to the mound soon. Still though, he’s hurt again. Cease has an awful lot of talent and an awful long way to go to reach the big leagues and his ceiling.

2B/OF Ian Happ

Background: The Cubs grabbed the 21-year-old Happ with the ninth overall pick in last year’s draft and he’s doing exactly what you’d expect the ninth overall pick to do: mash. Happ is hitting .302/.394/.470 (143 wRC+) with a 13.4% walk rate, a 21.4% strikeout rate, nine homers, and 13 steals in 92 games between High-A and Double-A. Baseball America had him 37th on their recent top 100 update.

Scouting Report: “A switch-hitter, he exhibits a quick stroke and good balance from both sides of the plate, and he owns deceptive strength and solid speed. Happ should post high batting averages and on-base percentages, and he has the upside of a 20-20 player … Happ is a good athlete with a strong arm, and Chicago will try to maximize his value by playing him at second base in 2016 … he also saw action at all three outfield spots in his pro debut.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Lots and lots and lots of reasons. Happ is a switch-hitter with power and patience, some speed, and good defensive shops. He’s taken to second base well this season and is average and improving at the position. Happ can be in the big leagues next season and he projects as a switch-hitting impact player on both sides of the ball.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? No reason, really. Even if you don’t buy into Happ at second base, his bat will be more than fine for the outfield.

OF Eloy Jimenez

Background: Three years ago the Cubs went on an international spending spree a la the Yankees in 2014, and the top prospect they signed was the 19-year-old Jimenez. He received a $2.8M bonus. So far this season Jimenez is hitting .331/.370/.520 (160 wRC+) with ten homers, six steals, a 5.8% walk rate, and a 22.5% strikeout rate in 83 Low-A games. Baseball America had him 46th in their midseason top 100, and if you watched the Futures Game, you saw Eloy put on a show.

Scouting Report: “Jimenez has huge raw power and right-field arm strength. He looked much more comfortable at the plate in 2015 than he did in his U.S. debut the year before, making more consistent contact … He’s adding strength to his big frame and exhibits impressive bat speed and leverage from the right side of the plate … he’s an average runner who’ll fit best in right field once he improves his throwing accuracy. The Cubs love his makeup.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Jimenez has premium power potential from the right side of the plate and he’s learning how to use it in games this season. He’s also not a liability in the outfield, so you’ve got a well-rounded prospect with a chance to be an impact middle of the order hitter down the line. Why wouldn’t you want a player like Jimenez?

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? The biggest knock on Jimenez is that he’s a bit of a hacker at the plate, so he’s going to chase out of the zone and probably won’t post high OBPs down the line. Also, the kid is 19 and in Low-A ball. There’s a very long way to go to reach that middle of the order ceiling. Jimenez has loads to talent, but he also carries quite a bit of risk simply because he’s so far away.

OF Eddy Martinez

Background: The Yankees “made a run” at Martinez last year, after he defected from Cuba and was declared a free agent by MLB. He would have been part of the 2014-15 signing period. Martinez opted to wait so more teams could get involved in the bidding, and sure enough, he leveraged interest from the Giants into a $3M deal with the Cubs. The 21-year-old is hitting .261/.340/.393 (117 wRC+) with seven homers, six steals, a 10.0% walk rate, and 21.4% strikeout rate in 89 Low-A games.

Scouting Report: “(He) has the potential to have four solid tools and some gap power. He has a line-drive, contact-oriented approach from the right side of the plate. Though he didn’t display much pop in Cuba, he does have bat speed and has added strength since leaving the island … Martinez’s best tool is his speed, which is at least plus and earns plus-plus grades from some evaluators. He has the quickness to play center field but will need to hone his instincts to remain there.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? The same reasons they wanted to sign him as a free agent, I assume. He has some offensive potential and knows the strike zone, and he can be an asset in the outfield as well thanks to his speed. Even if he winds up in a corner, Martinez can be a solid hitter from the right side of the plate and provide value on the field and in the bases. He’s not a star, but the potential to be a future regular exists.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Not everyone buys into the bat, especially Martinez’s power potential and approach. There’s some thought advanced pitchers will be able to pick apart the holes in his swing. There’s definite ‘tweener potential here, meaning not enough defense for center and not enough bat for a corner.

SS Gleyber Torres

Background: Torres, 19, is already in High-A, and he’s hitting .275/.356/.435 (122 wRC+) with nine homers, 18 steals, a 10.1% walk rate, and a 21.8% strikeout rate in 91 games. He’s doing that while being nearly four years younger than the average Carolina League player. Torres was 27th on Baseball America’s midseason top 100 list.

Scouting Report: “He has a quick right-handed swing and a mature approach, recognizing pitches well and using the entire field. Once Torres gets stronger and learns to pull pitches more often, he could produce 15 or more homers per season … Torres seemed a half-step quicker in 2015, enhancing his chances of staying at shortstop  … While Torres’ range may be just average, his instincts and strong arm allow him to make plays.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Not counting players on the big league roster, Torres is the best the Cubs have to offer. He projects to be an above-average two-way shortstop who hits for average, gets on base, steals some bases, and hits for some power. Players with that offensive skill set are hard to find at any position, so Gleyber’s potential to do it at short makes him a potential star.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? There aren’t many reasons, really. It’s not set in stone that Torres will remain at short, but he has the defensive skills to handle second or third, which are fine alternatives. The big thing is that this is a 19-year-old kid in Single-A. He’s not going to be MLB ready anytime soon and teenagers always carry a ton of risk. Torres is not an immediate payoff player. He’s more of a long-term project.

RHP Duane Underwood

Background: The 22-year-old Underwood was a second round pick back in 2012. He reached Double-A for the first time this season, and he has a 4.91 ERA (5.10 FIP) with a 16.8% strikeout rate and an 11.3% walk rate in only 58.2 innings due to forearm soreness. Underwood has had all sorts of injuries over the years, but nothing was torn and he hasn’t had surgery. Just a lot of soreness and inflammation.

Scouting Report: “Underwood’s fastball is notable for both its 92-96 mph velocity and its late life, which makes it difficult to square up for hitters. Both his curveball and changeup show signs of becoming plus pitches but neither is fully reliable yet … Underwood doesn’t miss as many bats as his stuff indicates he should, demonstrating his need to get more consistent with his secondary pitches and his command.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Underwood does have premium stuff, led by his lively fastball. He’s also shown promise with two secondary pitches. The stuff is why you want him. The big fastball is an untouchable skill.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? The injury history is scary — Underwood is out with the sore forearm right now, and he’s had all sorts of elbow soreness in the past — and his control and command are a long way from being big league ready. You’re buying the stuff and hoping to develop the command and get him to stay on the field. That’s a lot to ask.

LHP Rob Zastryzny

Background: Zastryzny, 24, is a personal favorite and no longer a top prospect. Heck, neither Baseball America nor MLB.com considered him one of the top 30 prospects in Chicago’s system coming into the season. So far this year Zastryzny has a 4.59 ERA (4.42 FIP) with a 19.1% strikeout rate and a 9.1% walk rate in 113.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. He was a second round pick back in 2013.

Scouting Report (from me, not MLB.com): At his best, Zastryzny pitches at 91-95 mph from the left side and can spin two breaking balls: an upper-80s slider and an upper-70s curveball. He also throws a low-80s changeup. Control has been a bit of a problem over the years, but the hope is Zastryzny can keep his walk rate where it is going forward. He’s healthy this year after being limited to 15 starts last season, when he was hit by a comebacker and suffered a broken bone in his foot.

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? A top prospect Zastryzny is not, but lefties with low-90s gas and a bat-missing breaking ball (curve) are never a bad trade target. I think the Cubs are wasting their time with Zastryzny as a starter (career 4.71 ERA and 4.12 FIP). I say put him in the bullpen, let him focus on his two best pitches, and really air it out. Zastryzny obviously should not be the center piece in any trade, but as a third or fourth piece, I think you can do worse.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Well, Zastryzny’s performance has not been good, and his control is probably never going to be above-average. It might never be even average, in fact. He’s also seen his velocity fluctuate over the years, sometimes sitting in the low-90s and other times the upper-80s. This is a low-90s year.

* * *

To me, Happ is the guy to target as the headliner in any trade package with the Cubs. Torres and Jimenez are super exciting as well, but I love Happ’s all around ability and close to MLB readiness. The Yankees wouldn’t be wrong to ask for Happ plus Torres or Jimenez plus more in a Miller trade, though who knows if the Cubs would go for that. Probably not.

Either way, all three of those guys are premium prospects, and the Yankees couldn’t trade with Chicago without getting at least one of them. Too many other teams want Miller to settle for something less than the best. The Montgomery trade gives the Cubs an alternative, and if they pass on Miller or Chapman because of him, then that’s their mistake.

Scouting the Trade Market: Cleveland Indians

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Even after losing three of four to the Yankees before the All-Star break, the Indians own the best record in the AL (55-38) and have a comfortable 6.5-game lead in the AL Central. That’s not insurmountable by any means, but it is a nice lead at this point of the season. Cleveland has been to the postseason just once since beating the Yankees in the 2007 ALDS, and that was a wildcard game loss to the Rays in 2013. You know they want to do better this year.

It’s no surprise then Jerry Crasnick reported yesterday that folks within the game believe the Indians are more willing to make a blockbuster trade at the deadline this year than they have been in quite some time. Their rotation is still young and cheap, their core veterans (Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, etc.) are still in their prime, and they’re in position to make the postseason. They have a great chance to win this year and they want to capitalize.

The Indians could really use another late-game reliever to lighten the load on setup man Bryan Shaw and closer Cody Allen, and preferably that reliever would be a lefty. Somehow the Tribe has gotten only 22.1 innings from lefty relievers this season. Crazy, right? Chasen Shreve alone has thrown 22 innings for the Yankees. Anyway, Cleveland is said to have interest in Andrew Miller, who’s pretty much the best possible solution for that late-inning lefty role. Someone like Carlos Beltran could be of interest too since Brantley’s shoulder keeps barking.

The Yankees reportedly had two scouts watching the Indians’ High Class-A affiliate yesterday, which happens to house many of their top prospects. Cleveland has a loaded farm system — they landed seven players on Baseball America’s midseason top 100 list — so they have the motivation and wherewithal to make a big trade. Which prospects should the Yankees target in a potential Miller (or Beltran) trade? That’s what we’re here to discuss. Here are a handful of candidates. The players are listed alphabetically and the scouting report blurbs are from MLB.com.

LHP Brady Aiken

Background: Aiken, 19, was the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, but he didn’t sign with the Astros after they found something in his physical. He blew out his elbow the following spring and the Indians picked him 17th overall in the 2015 draft anyway. Aiken has completed his Tommy John surgery rehab and is currently pitching in rookie ball, where he’s allowed 15 runs on 18 hits and nine walks in 14.2 innings. He’s struck out 22. Baseball America ranked him 59th on their midseason top 100.

Scouting Report: “The left-hander spots his fastball to both sides of the plate, working at 92-94 mph and touching 97 with late life, and he can throw his curveball for a strike or take it out of the zone to induce whiffs. Aiken’s changeup gives him a third weapon, thrown with good deception and tumble, and his athleticism and smooth, repeatable delivery bode well for his command profile … If Aiken can regain and then build on his pre-surgery form, he could develop into a front-of-the-rotation starter.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? When right, Aiken has true top of the rotation upside and that is very hard to find. The term “future ace” gets thrown around way too often these days but Aiken absolutely fits the bill. He had command of three above-average pitches before getting hurt and his competitiveness and makeup are considered pluses. That’s an ace starter kit all the way.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Aiken did not have a routine Tommy John surgery. There was apparently some other stuff going on in his elbow as well, though no one seems to know what, exactly. His performance hasn’t been good since finishing his rehab, and while you can attribute that to rust, it’s a reminder of just how far Aiken has to go to reach that ace ceiling. He’s very far away from MLB and very high risk.

OF Greg Allen

Background: The Indians selected the 23-year-old Allen in the sixth round of the 2014 draft and he’s been a hitting machine as a pro. So far this season he’s authored a .298/.425/.398 (140 wRC+) line with three homers, 37 steals in 40 attempts, a 13.8% walk rate, and a 12.3% strikeout rate in 85 High-A games. Allen is a bit old for his level, so just keep that in mind.

Scouting Report: “Allen knows how to use his above-average speed, as he’s a disciplined hitter with advanced on-base skills who consistently puts the ball in play from both sides of the plate … He has below-average power overall … Allen’s wheels also serve him well in center field, where he gets good jumps consistently and covers a lot of ground … Allen shows the makings of becoming a top-of-the-order hitter who also offers value with his baserunning and defense.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Allen is not a top prospect — MLB.com ranks him 22nd in Cleveland’s system — but he’s a high-contact hitter from both sides of the plate with plate discipline and speed and center field defensive chops. That profile is a pretty good bet to amount to something in the big leagues, even if it’s only a fourth outfielder. Allen shouldn’t be the center piece of any trade, but he would be a fine third or fourth piece.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Guys with minimal power like Allen are always at risk of getting beat with fastballs in the zone at the upper levels. Pitchers don’t worry about being taken deep, so they challenge these guys. Low minors walk rates are not very predictive and Allen’s ability to get on base via the free pass may evaporate as he climbs the ladder.

1B Bobby Bradley

Background: Since being a third round pick two years ago, Bradley has punished minor league pitching, and he currently owns a .257/.377/.484 (137 wRC+) batting line with 16 homers and a 14.8% walk rate in 83 High-A games as a 20-year-old. He’s nearly three years younger than the average Carolina League player. Baseball America ranked Bradley as the 64th best prospect in baseball in their midseason update.

Scouting Report: “Bradley has all the ingredients needed to be an impact hitter, with plus bat speed, huge power and feel for using the entire field at a young age … (He has a) raw approach, and there are some scouts who worry about his capacity to make consistent contact at higher levels … Bradley faces an uphill battle due to his profile as first-base-only prospect, but his combination of power and hitting ability is plenty good enough to overcome those odds.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Despite his defensive and positional limitations, Bradley projects to be an impact player thanks to his offensive profile from the left side of the plate. He has the potential to hit for average and power down the line, and that’s someone who can hit in the middle of a lineup. Bradley’s more than holding his own despite being young for his level this year.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Those defensive and positional limitations do exist. Bradley is a first baseman only and not a particularly good one either. He also offers nothing on the bases. Bradley has to hit and hit big to have value, and it should be noted he’s struck out 31.4% of the time this year and 29.6% of the time in over 1,000 minor league plate appearances. There are real contact concerns here.

RHP Mike Clevinger

Background: The Indians straight up stole Clevinger two years ago, when they got him from the Angels for Vinnie Pestano. The 25-year-old righty has since blossomed into a very good pitching prospect, one with a 2.82 ERA (3.23 FIP) in 83 Triple-A innings this year. He has a 26.5% strikeout rate and a 9.0% walk rate as well. Clevinger made his MLB debut earlier this season and it didn’t go to well (14 runs in 16.1 innings), but that’s okay. Lots of guys struggle in their first taste of the show. Clevinger was 71st on Baseball America’s midseason top 100, and it’s worth noting the Yankees had at least three scouts on hand to see his most recent Triple-A start, according to Mark Feinsand.

Scouting Report: “Clevinger usually operates at 92-95 mph with his fastball but has touched 97. His slider is his best secondary offering and projects to be above average, thrown with power and depth, and he knows how to keep hitters off balance using his curveball and changeup, though neither pitch is better than fringe average at the moment … There’s still room for improvement, but Clevinger isn’t far away from making an impact in the Major Leagues.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Clevinger is basically big league ready right now. He misses bats with two pitches and has the makings of two others, so he has no doubt starter stuff and control. Is the upside sky high? No, but Clevinger has the tools to hold down a spot in the middle of the rotation for the next several years. The Yankees have been looking for pitching controllable behind 2017 and Clevinger definitely fits the bill.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? There aren’t many reasons to stay away, really. Clevinger had Tommy John surgery in 2012, so his medical history isn’t clean, and he struggled with his mechanics big time in 2014. He had a 4.41 ERA (4.56 FIP) in Single-A that year, which is why the Tribe was able to get him for Pestano. He’s been healthy and his mechanics have been fine since then though, so yeah. Clevinger is a quality MLB ready starting pitching prospect.

UTIL Yandy Diaz

Background: Diaz, 24, was a lower profile Cuban signing a few years back ($300,000 bonus) and he’s been very productive in the minors. This season he’s hitting .311/.413/.438 (148 wRC+) with six homers, ten steals, a 14.8% walk rate, and a 15.6% strikeout rate in 83 games split between Double-A and Triple-A. That’s split into a 145 wRC+ in 26 Double-A games and a 148 wRC+ in 56 Triple-A games. Diaz is primarily a third baseman, though he played second in Cuba and has seen time in the outfield corners this year.

Scouting Report: “Diaz is a truly disciplined hitter who never tries to do too much and rarely expands his zone. He makes a lot of contact with his compact right-handed swing, while his flat path through the zone produces line drives across the whole field … (Some) scouts question whether he has the necessary bat speed to generate usable pop in games … Diaz has quickly developed into an above-average defender at third base, where his range, soft hands and strong arm are all clean fits.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Even without much power, Yandy makes enough contact and draws enough walks to be an asset at the plate. The Yankees could also use a long-term third base solution — Miguel Andujar is awesome, but you shouldn’t bank on any one guy to be the answer — and Diaz can not only play the position, but play it well. And he can even fill in at second and in the corner outfield spots. That’s a nice little player for the bottom of the lineup.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? I like Yandy but I feel like his upside is the current version of Chase Headley. Good defense and a bunch of walks, but not much power or speed. Diaz is a bit of a ‘tweener because he doesn’t have the kind of pop expected from a corner spot. Playing some second and outfield will help because at least then you can put him on the bench. As a regular though, Diaz seems like someone who won’t kill you while you look for someone better, and that’s not very exciting.

LHP Rob Kaminsky

Background: The Yankees were connected to the 21-year-old Kaminsky, a New Jersey native, prior to the 2013 draft, but he was off the board before their extra picks came around. The Cardinals traded him to the Indians for Brandon Moss last summer, and so far this year Kaminsky has a 3.86 ERA (4.10 FIP) with a 15.0% strikeout rate and an 8.7% walk rate in 81.2 Double-A innings.

Scouting Report: “His fastball sat 86-92 mph with decent arm-side run and sink, and he showed feel for adding and subtracting with the pitch. His plus curveball is a true bat-misser, thrown with outstanding 12-to-6 shape and downer action, and it’s been his greatest weapon since high school … (he has a) changeup and below-average slider … Kaminsky’s advanced command allows him to throw strikes with his entire repertoire … the Indians love his competitiveness and high baseball IQ on the mound.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? The Yankees have a lot of big stuff/poor command guys in the organization and Kaminsky is pretty much the opposite. To use an old cliche, he’s a pitcher, not a thrower. Kaminsky is not a future ace like Aiken, but he projects to be a solid mid-to-back-end starter who gets by on smarts more than blow-you-away stuff. Cheap rotation help is always a plus, especially lefties in Yankee Stadium.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Kaminsky’s stuff has taken a pretty big step back since the 2013 draft. His fastball no longer consistently sits in the low-90s and both his changeup and slider have taken a step back because he falls in love with his curveball too easily and doesn’t throw his other pitches enough. (To be fair, it’s a great curveball.) The Cardinals know pitching as well as anyone. When they deal a former first rounder two years later for a guy like Brandon Moss, that’s a red flag to me. They must think the current version of Kaminsky is here to stay. The old version ain’t coming back.

LHP Justus Sheffield

Background: Sheffield, 20, was the 31st overall pick in 2014, and so far this year he has a 3.53 ERA (3.77 FIP) with a 22.9% strikeout rate and a 9.7% walk rate in 89.1 innings at High-A. Baseball America ranked him No. 69 in their midseason top 100 list. It’s worth noting Keith Law said the Yankees had two scouts at Sheffield’s start yesterday, when he struck out eight in 6.2 scoreless innings.

Scouting Report: “He’s hit 96 mph with his fastball but usually sits in the 92-93 mph range with late, arm-side life and some sink. His curveball flashes plus and projects as a swing-and-miss offering at the highest level, and he made strides developing his changeup in 2015 … Both his secondary pitches and his command require further refinement, but the southpaw has all the tools necessary to develop into a quality mid-rotation starting pitcher.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Sheffield has premium stuff and I think he is Cleveland’s best perfectly healthy pitching prospect (Aiken’s coming back from elbow reconstruction), so he’s pretty much the best they have to offer on the mound. Lefties who can miss bats are always in demand, especially in Yankee Stadium given the short porch. The history of the Yankees is loaded with quality southpaws, after all.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Sheffield is listed at 5-foot-10 and there’s always a question about whether a short pitcher can get enough downhill plane on his fastball to avoid being fly ball and home run prone. Also, his location has not been as good this year as last year, when he had a 6.9% walk rate. Sheffield is also a 20-year-old in High-A too. He’s not exactly big league ready. There’s a long way to go to get from where he is now to that mid-rotation ceiling.

* * *

I’m assuming the Indians will make their top two prospects, outfielders Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier, completely off limits in a Miller (or Beltran) trade. I know I would. Miller’s awesome but those guys are potential difference-makers who are knocking on the door. Depending on how you feel about Aiken after Tommy John surgery, he’s the best the Indians have to offer after Zimmer and Frazier. Clevinger, Sheffield, and Bradley are the next tier.

The Indians are loaded with prospects, so these guys listed above are hardly all they have to offer. I could definitely see the Yankees pushing for both Clevinger (the MLB ready guy) and Sheffield (the higher upside guy) in a Miller trade, if not more. Remember, they’re going to have to be blown away to trade Miller. Clevinger and Sheffield is a real nice start, though I’m not sure those two alone will be enough to get the Yankees to budge. The Indians definitely have the pieces to get a deal done though.

Scouting The Trade Market: Wil Myers

Bat flips are a plus. (Denis Poroy/Getty)
Bat flips are a plus. (Denis Poroy/Getty)

The Yankees are in an unfamiliar place right now. They’re under .500 halfway through the season and contention seems like a long shot at best. FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at 8.8% as of this writing. At the very least, the Yankees have to seriously consider selling rental veterans like Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran at the deadline. Moving guys with years of control remaining like Andrew Miller and Brett Gardner has to be on the table too.

Brian Cashman recently floated the idea of the Yankees being both buyers and sellers, which seem like conflicting ideas, but they’re really not. Ultimately, the goal is to get better, and both buying and selling help accomplish that goal. Does that mean the Yankees should go out and add a rental veteran like, say, Rich Hill? No. That doesn’t make sense. Buying a younger player who can stick around for a few years would be a smart move, however.

One such player is Padres first baseman Wil Myers, who is enjoying a breakout year at the plate. Myers has packed an awful lot into his four big league seasons. He’s been an elite prospect, the 2013 Rookie of the Year, injured, disappointing, involved in two blockbuster trades, and a breakout star. Myers is still only 25, so even with the Padres in a deep rebuild, keeping him makes sense. He can be part of the solution. At the same time, trading him for a boatload of prospects could be a smart move too. Does Myers make sense for the Yankees? Let’s look.

Offensive Performance

Prior to the 2013, the last time he was prospect eligible, Baseball America called Myers “an eventual No. 3 hitter in the lineup because of his batting eye and power potential.” They ranked him the No. 4 prospect in baseball that season after ranking him No. 28 in 2012 and No. 10 in 2011. Myers was on the prospect radar for a long time. He was a big deal.

In the four years since, Myers has had three above-average offensive seasons and one disappointing season. He’s yet to actually play a full season — he was called up halfway through 2013 and battled injuries in 2014 and 2015 — but is on track to do that this summer. Here are his career numbers:

PA AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ HR BB% K% wRC+ vs. RHP wRC+ vs. LHP
2013 373 .293/.354/.478 129 13 8.8% 24.4% 131 127
2014 361 .222/.294/.320 77 6 9.4% 24.9% 87 52
2015 253 .253/.336/.428 116 8 10.7% 21.7% 110 135
2016 351 .282/.350/.529 137 19 10.0% 19.9% 131 152
Total 1,338 .263/.333/.439 115 46 9.6% 22.9% 115 113

Outside of that 2014 season, when he was hampered by a wrist injury (more on that in a bit), Myers has always hit for a lot of power. His .173 ISO in 2015 is his lowest among his three good seasons, and during those three seasons he averaged 24.6 homers per 600 plate appearances despite playing in pitcher friendly parks. We can’t just wipe away that 2014 season. It did happen. The two years since have been promising though.

Going under the hood, there are some underlying trends in Myers’ plate discipline and batted ball profile that suggest his breakout is for real, and that he is truly developing into a top tier hitter.

O-Swing% Whiff% GB% LD+FB% Pull% Oppo%
2013 29.2% 11.5% 46.0% 54.1% 44.8% 20.6%
2014 27.8% 10.3% 48.1% 51.9% 48.9% 22.8%
2015 25.1% 9.9% 47.6% 52.4% 44.1% 28.2%
2016 24.5% 7.9% 44.3% 55.8% 36.3% 24.1%
Total 26.7% 9.9% 46.4% 53.6% 43.4% 21.7%

Myers has swung at fewer pitches out of the strike zone (O-Swing%) with each passing season. He’s also swinging and missing (Whiff%) less each year. Those are two very positive trends. Furthermore, Myers is hitting the ball on the ground less often than ever before, and he isn’t pulling the ball nearly as much as he did the past three years. Hitting the ball in the air to all fields sure is a great recipe for success.

Pulling the ball has a negative connotation these days because of the shift, but it’s not inherently a bad thing. Most hitters do their most damage — meaning hit for the most power — when they pull the ball. That said, using the entire field is an obviously valuable skill. Myers is doing that this year and he’s not only retained his power, he’s hitting for more power than ever before. An all-fields power hitter? Gimme gimme gimme. We saw firsthand what Myers can do this past weekend:

That is as impressive as any homer you’ll see this season. The FOX Sports San Diego folks did us a favor by cramming all the pertinent information into their little strike zone graphic:

Wil Myers Nathan Eovaldi

Myers inside-outed a 97 mph fastball for an opposite field home run. In spacious Petco Park, no less. There are not many hitters in baseball who can do that. He has a lot of natural power and now he’s learning how to fully tap into. Myers isn’t chasing out of the zone or swinging and missing as much as he has in the past, and he’s getting the ball airborne to all fields. Good things are happening.

Oh, and as an added bonus, Myers is a pretty good baserunner too. He’s gone 13-for-15 (87%) in steal attempts this year and 29-for-36 (81%) in his career. Myers has also taken the extra base — first-to-third on a single, etc. — a whopping 61% of the time this year and 52% of the time in his career. The MLB average is 40%. So not only are you getting the impressive all-fields power, you’re getting value on the bases too. Pretty cool.

Defensive Ability

Since being drafted in 2009, Myers has moved from catcher to the outfield to third base to back to the outfield to first base. He’s now a full-time first baseman in San Diego and has been solid there, especially when you consider his general lack of experience at the position. Myers has spent most of his career as an outfielder (right field, specifically) and boy, he was not good out there. Both the stats and the eye test say he was well-below-average. He’s never going to live down his misplay in Game One of the 2013 ALDS, which led to a five-run inning:

Going forward, I think you have to consider Myers a full-time first baseman who can handle the outfield in a pinch. I’m not sure putting him back in the outfield full-time is a good idea at this point of his career. Myers has moved around an awful lot in his career and it seems he’s finally found a comfortable home at first base.

Injury History

Injuries, specifically injuries to both wrists, limited Myers to only 147 of 324 possible games in 2014 and 2015. Wrist injuries are a pretty big deal. They’re known to sap offensive production — you can’t hit if you can’t grip the bat properly — even after the player is given the green light to return to game action. Here are Myers’ notable injuries:

2011: Missed a month with a knee infection in the minors.
2014: Missed close to three months with a fractured right wrist.
2015: Missed close to four months with left wrist inflammation and later surgery.

That’s the big stuff. Myers has missed a few days here and there because he was sore after getting hit by a pitch, stuff like that, but every player deals with that. I’m not sure what brought about the knee infection, though it hasn’t given him any problems since. The 2014 wrist fracture was the result of a full speed outfield collision …

… which is sort of a dumb fluky thing, but it happened and it did real damage to his wrist. The 2015 wrist injury is a bit more complicated. According to Dennis Lin, Myers missed a month because a tendon became inflamed after rubbing up against a bone spur he’d had since high school. After a month on the shelf, Myers returned, played three games, felt renewed discomfort in the wrist, then landed back on the DL. He had surgery to remove the bone spur in June and was able to return to the field in September.

It can be easy to dismiss this stuff — the fracture was the result of a collision and the bone spur was taken out, so what’s the big deal? — but again, this is real damage to his wrists. Myers is mashing this season and is presumably healthy, but will he be prone to nagging wrist issues in the future? Does the fracture and/or surgery mean he’ll have to deal with some inflammation from time to time? These are the kind of questions teams will ask themselves before agreeing to a trade.

Contract Status

It feels like Myers has been around forever, but he started this season with only two years and 104 days of service time time. The Rays did what they do and kept Myers in the minors long enough in 2013 that they not only delayed his free agency, they made sure he won’t be Super Two eligible either. Now the Padres or some other team will benefit.

Myers is under team control through 2019 and he’ll be arbitration-eligible every year from 2017-19, so while he will still be relatively cheap, he’s not going to be making the league minimum either. Jason Heyward and Dexter Fowler made $15.95M and $21.1M, respectively, during their three arbitration years. They’re not perfect comps for Myers but they at least give us a ballpark idea of what he’ll earn from 2017-19.

The Rays called Myers up and added him to the 40-man roster in 2013, and he’s never been back to the minors since other than for injury rehab assignments. He has all three minor league options remaining. That also means nothing as far as I’m concerned. If you trade for Myers and have to use one of his minor league options, something has gone wrong. The goal is to trade for this guy and make him one of the center pieces of your lineup right away.

What Would It Take?

Myers has already been involved in two blockbuster trades, and yet neither of them provides any context for his current trade value. He was dealt as a prospect as part of the package for James Shields back in the day, and two years ago he was part of a big four-for-five trade, when he still had five years of control remaining and was coming off the broken wrist. Now Myers is healthy and producing with three years of control left.

Jon Heyman recently reported the Padres want four top tier prospects for Myers, and that’s just not going to happen. As good as he is and as bright as his future looks, Myers has a recent history of wrist injuries and he has “only” three years of team control remaining. I don’t blame the Padres for wanting four high-end prospects. There’s no harm in asking. But that figures to be their initial ask, from which they’re willing to come down.

The list of young first basemen/outfielders traded three years prior to free agency is not particularly long. I went back a few years and found only two who might work as comparables:

  • Justin Upton: Traded from the Diamondbacks to the Braves with Chris Johnson for Martin Prado and four prospects, only one of whom (Randall Delgado) was a top 100 guy. Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury, and Zeke Spruill were the others.
  • Mark Trumbo: Traded from the Angels to the D’Backs with A.J. Schugel for Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs. Baseball America rated Skaggs as the 12th best prospect in baseball a year earlier.

Colby Rasmus was also traded three years prior to free agency, but that was a very weird trade that involved Rasmus, rental Edwin Jackson, and four relievers. The Cardinals were trying to fill specific needs in an effort to win the 2011 World Series, and hey, it worked. They won the title.

Upton was traded as part of ex-D’Backs GM Kevin Towers’ crusade against strikeouts. He traded away Upton, Chris Young, Mark Reynolds, Adam LaRoche, and Stephen Drew all in a relatively short period of time because he felt his team struck out too much. Trumbo was traded because the Angels needed pitching and had no real place to play him. Albert Pujols was at first, Pujols and Josh Hamilton were going to need time at DH, and C.J. Cron was on the way.

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Myers is more Upton than Trumbo because he’s a formerly high-end prospect tagged with a ton of expectations. Trumbo has had a nice career, but he didn’t play his first full MLB season until age 25. Myers is 25 now and Upton was traded at 25. He had a very different career path than the other two guys. The Upton trade seems like the best trade benchmark we have, though the inclusion of Johnson, who was a pretty good player back then, complicates things.

Padres GM A.J. Preller is an international players guy. That was his specialty when he was in the Rangers front office and it’s no coincidence he traded Craig Kimbrel for a package headlined by three international prospects. Preller also convinced ownership to spend big in international free agency this summer, which they’ve done. San Diego has gone on a spending spree last week akin to the Yankees’ 2014-15 spending spree.

That’s good, because the Yankees have a ton of international prospects to offer, led by Gary Sanchez and Jorge Mateo. Remember, the Yankees reportedly offered Mateo for Kimbrel last year at the deadline, though that didn’t work out. You’re not going to get a guy like Myers without trading a top prospect like Sanchez or Mateo, and if you ask me, moving Mateo makes more sense. The Yankees have a ton of shortstops in the minors, but they only have one Triple-A catcher who looks like a future middle of the order bat.

Keeping Sanchez might be possible too, since the Padres already have their catcher of the future in defensive wiz Austin Hedges, who is hitting .407/.456/.841 (235 wRC+) in 32 Triple-A games around a broken wrist. I’m getting into your trade proposal sucks territory here, but a package of Mateo plus secondary pieces like Miguel Andujar and Domingo Acevedo could pique Preller’s interest. That’s one top 50 prospect plus two other strong prospects plus whatever else (one of the spare Triple-A outfielders?).

I know that seems like a lot to give up, but it’s really not. Mateo and Acevedo are still in High Class-A and Andujar just got to Double-A last month. Preller would probably want guys closer to the big leagues for Myers, who is pretty damn good and could be the center piece of their rebuild. Mateo plus Andujar plus Acevedo seems like a best case scenario for the Yankees, now that I think about it. Anyway, yeah, it’s going to hurt to get this guy. Young middle of the order bats don’t come cheap.

Wrapping Up

Right now, first base is a question long-term because of Greg Bird‘s shoulder surgery. We all hope and want him to come back and be the guy going forward, but until he gets back out onto the field, it’s tough to know how he’ll perform post-surgery. That’s a serious injury and surgery he had.

Adding Myers and having to figure out how he and Bird could co-exist on the same roster — assuming Bird isn’t traded for Myers, of course — would be one of those problems that isn’t really a problem. First base is open long-term and there’s always the DH spot too. Alex Rodriguez won’t be around forever. There’s always the option of playing Myers in the outfield too. I don’t love that idea, but it’s doable.

The Yankees should be selling at the deadline. They have to start planning for the future and use their veteran assets like Chapman and Beltran to get younger. Myers is one of the few cases where it makes sense to buy and give up young players in a trade. He’s young himself, he offers several years of control, and he’s a legitimate middle of the order thumper with positive plate discipline and batted ball trends. The Yankees sorely lack someone like Myers and pursuing him would be a very smart move in the opinion of this idiot blogger.