Tuesday, February 12, 2013
The Yankees' plan could include trades
By Jason A. Churchill
Not that trying to break the luxury tax cache and preferring one-year contracts is a bad or unwise approach, but the New York Yankees appear as if they are setting themselves up for a run at the free agent classes following the 2014 and 2015 seasons. ESPN Insider's Jim Bowden writes about the starting pitching that may be available during those offseasons -- Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, David Price and Clayton Kershaw, included -- but the baseball world shouldn't bank on GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner ownership to put all their eggs in that basket.
Because by the time the 2014 seasons ends, Verlander, Kershaw and Hernandez are likely to have been locked up to long-term deals with their current clubs. Hernandez finalized his new deal with Seattle Tuesday. The market, in a scenario where those three signed extensions, still could be flush with options, but not a lot of ace-like choices. Price might be the only legitimate No. 1 ace that reaches the open market, suggesting the club could makes trades to supplement their rebuild of the pitching staff.
Others that could hit free agency after '14 and '15 include James Shields, Cliff Lee, Josh Johnson, Matt Garza, Yovani Gallardo and Johnny Cueto. Lee and Johnson have been aces in the past -- will they be healthy and at the top of their games in two or three years? The smart bet is against them, considering Lee's age and Johnson's injury history.
Perhaps the Yankees look to intercept one or two of these arms by way of trade, get them with a year or two left on their contracts and then try to re-sign them to long-term deals, extracting more value out of them, and getting some of that value sooner. The one obstacle is staying under the luxury tax threshold while doing so, but the contracts of Curtis Granderson, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Hiroki Kuroda all come off the books after 2013, which should allow Cashman the flexibility to make major moves and keep the payroll in line. These moves could include trades, likely beginning next offseason.
The organization's farm system is improving, too, which could allow them to utilize some inexpensive production as well as send some of it away for proven players. Catcher Gary Sanchez may be the one prospect the Yankees hold onto, considering the dearth of catching in baseball, but outfielders Mason Williams, Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott could be valuable trade bait moving forward.
For now, the Yankees will start the season with what they have. Of course, all of that could change of they are able to void the contract of Alex Rodriguez. If that occurs, the team's plan could be put into play a little sooner than originally expected. Just don't rule out the trade route as if the Yankees are going to get a shot at all of the potential free agent starting pitchers. They may have to trade for one or two, and appear to have the young talent to get it done for the first time in years.