Speculation across the baseball industry is that the Yankees are still in the market for starting pitching even after re-signing C.C. Sabathia and J.A. Happ, and trading for James Paxton. Trading for an ace such as Corey Kluber would turn what has been seen as a weakness in recent years into an absolute juggernaut.
During the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas earlier this month Cashman referred to the Yankees’ front office as “a fully operational Death Star.”
The main target of Cashman’s Death Star right now is twenty-six-year-old SS/3B Manny Machado. According to a Tweet from Fancred’s Jon Heyman, Machado’s decision—between the White Sox, Phillies, and Yankees—will not come until after the New Year. That said, expect the trade and free agent markets to stall until Machado picks his team. Machado’s choice will not only set the market for other position players but also define the outlooks of many teams for the rest of the offseason.
The Yankees, one of the three finalists for Machado’s services, will surely use his decision as a gauge for their remaining offseason moves. This post will explore a potential three-team trade the Yankees might explore IF Machado decides to take his talents to the Bronx.
The Yankees, Indians, and Padres are all at different junctures of contention. The Indians, defending champions of a weak American League Central are in the process of restructuring and replenishing their roster in an effort to cut payroll and prolong their reign atop the division. Conversely, the Padres are continuing their rebuild with hopes of contending sometime in the next few years. Both teams are familiar with each other’s systems from the trade that sent reliever Brad Hand to the Indians this July.
If the Yankees sign Machado, current third-basemen Miguel Andújar will surely be available via trade. The Yanks are currently in the market for pitching—both starting and bullpen—options as well as middle infield help as they await Didi Gregorius’ return from offseason Tommy John surgery.
Below is the base of a potential trade between the three teams that would send Andújar to the Padres and Kluber to the Yankees.
New York Yankees Get
1. Corey Kluber (From CLE) 2. C Luis Torrens (From SD) 3. RHP Phil Maton (From SD)
Cleveland Indians Get
1. OF Manuel Margot (From CLE) 2. RHP Kirby Yates (From SD) 3. LHP Matt Strahm (From SD) 4. 2B/SS Thairo Estrada (From NYY)
San Diego Padres Get
1. 3B Miguel Andújar (From NYY) 2. RHP Chance Adams (From NYY) 3. RHP Juan Then (From NYY)
In this scenario, the Yankees are dealing from their depth while solidifying their starting rotation. It will come at a steep price, however, as the Yankees will be giving up more than just Andújar. Let’s start with what New York will receive in this scenario.
The Yanks receive a legitimate ace and two-time Cy Young Award winner in Kluber. Additionally, they would get back former top catching prospect, Luis Torrens, who they lost to the Padres in the Rule 5 Draft two years ago. The acquisition of Torrens would help replenish a rather barren catching position that currently contains 2018 first-rounder Anthony Siegler as its only high-level prospect.
The Yankees would also receive Phil Maton, a right-handed reliever. Maton, 25, appeared in 45 games in 2018 while pitching to a 4.37 ERA. The Yankees, like other organizations, are enamored by high spin-rate pitchers and Maton’s fastball is just that. Maton gives the Yankees a controllable, cost-effective reliever with high upside that has minor league options in the case of 2019 struggles.
These three additions help the Yankees in three different areas of need:
1. Solidifying an already strong starting rotation
2. Replenishing a position of weakness within the organization
3. Piecing together the back end of the bullpen
The cost of this haul will not be cheap. Besides Andújar, the Yankees will also give up Chance Adams, Thairo Estrada, and Juan Then. Adams, who some regard as a back-end starter or future reliever, has a higher value in the pitcher-friendly Petco Park than in the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. The Yankees would be comfortable moving Adams because of the addition of Kluber.
In Estrada, the Indians receive a middle-infielder on the cusp of the majors. With Jason Kipnis being eligible for free agency after the 2019 season, Estrada could slot into second base or a potential bench role sometime in 2019 or 2020.
Then, the Yankees 21st best prospect would go to San Diego. Then’s inclusion is based on San Diego’s willingness to send cash considerations to the Yankees to help offset Kluber’s high salary through the 2021 season. After taking on as much as $30 million a year in a Manny Machado mega-deal, it is unlikely the Yankees could manage Kluber’s expensive contract.
This deal makes sense for each team based off of their organization’s standing in terms of contention in 2019. The Yanks solidify their pitching depth for 2019 and beyond while adding a high-upside catching prospect. The Indians continue to shed payroll, add two arms to a weak bullpen, and acquire a potential long-term center-fielder. San Diego gets their desired third basemen while adding a back-end starter and a low-risk, high-reward prospect.
Some looking at this deal from Cleveland’s perspective might argue that the return for Kluber seems somewhat low. Solely based on the player return, yes, it is a bit light.
But one aspect to consider is that Cleveland would be shedding over $10 million in payroll in each of the next three seasons. This would give them the flexibility to explore free agent relievers while also having the capability to take on money at the 2019 Trade Deadline if need be.
The likelihood of this deal materializing is slim, mostly because of Cleveland’s reluctance to deal their ace to an American League rival. One possible alternative is San Diego trading for Kluber in exchange for a group of top prospects then flipping Kluber to the Yankees for a package built around 3B Miguel Andújar.
By no means are the Yankees done making moves this offseason. Expect Brian Cashman’s Death Star to stay fully operational even after the potential signing of Manny Machado.