In the wake of the Michael Morse trade sweepstakes, the New York Yankees are entering the second half of January without a right-handed hitting outfielder or DH. There aren’t many Free Agents left who can satisfy New York’s need to replace Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez and Russell Martin‘s power (Ichiro and a full season of Gardner are sure to recoup some of the value lost, but not the power), so the trade market may be the best bet. Here are three trades the Yankees can still make to improve the team.
1. Prospects for Hector Sanchez
The Giants and Yankees have a history of catcher swapping. New York previously traded reliever, George Kontos, for backup catcher, Chris Stewart. Stewart will spend this spring competing for playing time behind the plate with Francisco Cervelli (who will play for team Italy in the World Baseball Classic) and Austin Romine. Unless Romine develops a bat and stays healthy, the odds aren’t promising at catcher for New York in 2013.
Eli Whiteside was a fourth option before the Yankees designated him for assignment, and he too, came from San Francisco. Suffice it to say Brian Sabean and Brian Cashman aren’t afraid to do business together as many of San Francisco’s players, coaches and front office members have ties to the Yankees in one way or another.
In San Francisco, Buster Posey represents one of the best young catchers in the game today, if not the best. It remains to be seen if he stays as a catcher long-term (if he gets hurt again, the Giants might be more comfortable with Posey at first) but his bat provides extreme value behind the plate, he figures to be with the team long-term, and for now, Gregor Blanco, mans left field and Brandon Belt is playing first, so there’s not a definitive spot for Posey to move in the forseeable future.
Enter: Hector Sanchez.
Sanchez is the more than capable backup, switch-hitting catcher in San Francisco, a luxury in the event of a Posey injury but someone who can post the .280 batting average and 34 RBI he delivered in 218 at bats as a 22 year old. Sanchez will be 23 all season and would represent the highest ceiling of Major League talent ready catchers the Yankees could have if they acquired him.
The Giants, meanwhile, have a catching surplus with another highly touted prospect, Andrew Susac also in the system behind Posey, who is just 25 years old. It’s unclear what it would take to pry Sanchez away from the bay area, but New York would be wise to pull the trigger to add Major League ready catching depth and someone to compete with Gary Sanchez when he is Major League ready in a couple of years.
2. Some spare parts for Jason Kubel
Kubel is 30 years old and though not a perfect fit for the Yankees since he bats lefty, he can still fill a need at DH, offers a strong bat and can add power to the lineup while playing corner outfield if need be. Kevin Towers, the Diamondbacks’ GM, formerly spent a year in the Yankees’ front office and the Diamondbacks have a surplus of outfielders. It’s not the greatest fit because it’s unclear what the D-Backs want and Kubel doesn’t hit righty, but it’s something worth kicking the tires on if the price is right. Would Eduardo Nunez do the trick to add depth to a position currently manned by Cliff Pennington?
Is Boone Logan a better option as a lefty out of the bullpen than either Arizona option, both of whom were not terribly impressive last season? Would both players be paying too much for someone with a maximum of two years of control? Arizona is rumored to prefer young pitching for any deal involving its surplus of outfielders. Would an Adam Warren or Brett Marshall type get it done? If not, the Yankees should probably stay away.
Kubel could place as a 2014 placeholder in right field with Gardner in center and Ichiro Suzuki in left, allowing Curtis Granderson to walk at the end of the season and an extra year for the Yankees’ big prospects to develop in the outfield. Kubel is owed $7.5 million in 2013 and has a one million dollar buyout in 2014 if the Yankees do not want to renew $7.5 million due to the 2014 payroll ceiling, so the cost is right. Depending on what Arizona is valuing a legitimate fourth outfielder with upside at could determine if New York pursues this further.
3. Low level prospect for Ty Wigginton
Ty Wigginton was signed to a 2 year, $5 million dollar deal by the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason, so any deal to the Yankees would have to wait until the season develops a little bit. With Alex Rodriguez out until the All-Star break and Kevin Youkilis injury prone and starting at third base, the Yankees could use a reliable bat against lefties who can play third base. If that player could also backup first and second base, even better. Wigginton fits all of those needs and only those needs. For the Cardinals, he was a depth signing and trading him away wouldn’t lose any major need in St. Louis.
Wigginton hit 11 HR and drove in just 43 RBI to go with a .235 BA in 315 plate appearances in Philadelphia last season and at the age of 35 doesn’t figure to be a full-time bat any more. However Wigginton managed a .360 OBP and .771 OPS against lefties last season. With Nunez, Wigginton, a backup catcher and Diaz on the bench, it wouldn’t be the worst outcome for the Yankees and Wigginton could DH against lefties. A low level prospect or a reliever should be plenty to acquire Wigginton.