An increasingly competitive American League East division will no doubt make things harder for the New York Yankees. As a result, their chances of missing the playoffs are growing by the day.
Combine the stiff competition with the fact that the Yanks haven't made any improvements to their aging roster during the offseason, and you have a potential scenario where New York could be on the outside looking in when the trade deadline approaches.
Such a scenario would certainly be an interesting one, and it isn't something the Yankees and their fans are used to. But if in that spot, the Yanks will likely be selling off some of their more valuable assets.
The Bombers have some key free agents looking for long-term deals next offseason, and with the Yanks' goal of decreasing payroll to $189 million in order to avoid a stiff luxury tax (per David Waldstein of the New York Times), the Bombers could actually trade some of those valuable assets if those potential deals figure to be too lucrative.
Two of the first names that come to mind are Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson. Cano will likely garner the more expensive, longer-term contract of the two.
Cano is arguably the best second baseman in baseball and is one of the best hitters in the game today. His unique set of skills and overall talent are exactly the types of qualities that will help get Cano paid.
Time to go out on a limb: Will the Yanks be sellers at the trade deadline?
However, thanks to dreams of an Alex Rodriguez-like payday, Cano's demands could get him shipped out of New York before the season ends. Those dreams will likely consist of a contract similar to A-Rod's—in the ballpark of 10 years and $275 million.
A report from Mark Feinsand and Christian Red of the New York Daily News gave us the info on Cano's potential demands:
Another baseball source suggested that Cano will seek a deal similar to A-Rod’s, one that has become an albatross for the Bombers, who might be hesitant to tie up that much money and that many years in Cano, 30.
As alluded to in the Daily News piece, there is no way on earth the Bombers give Cano anywhere near that type of money and years on a contract. Cano would be 32 at the end of the first year of such a deal, which means the star second baseman would be getting paid very well long after his best years are behind him.
Does that sound familiar, Yankees fans? A-Rod's enormous contract will likely be the last of its kind on the Yanks' payroll for quite some, and maybe forever.
The type of haul the Yanks could get in a deal for Cano would be limitless. Other teams would be tripping over one another to get the All-Star on their respective rosters.
Not only could the Bombers stack themselves with a ton of top prospects in return for Cano's services, but general manager Brian Cashman could land himself a young, major-league ready impact player who can help the team right away, whether in the batter's box or on the mound.
Granderson is a slightly different case than Cano.
While in pinstripes, Granderson has belted over 40 homers and driven in more than 100 runs in each of the last two seasons. The downside of the Grandy Man is the fact that his bat misses the ball more times than not.
Strikeouts have been a huge issue with the outfielder, and his .232 average is nothing to write home about. Adding to that, Granderson has been lackluster in the playoffs for the Bombers, as evidenced by his .100 average during the 2012 October campaign.
Still, there will be competition for the left-handed bat and that would drive up the price on the free-agent market, likely cancelling the Yankees out of any contract talks with their center fielder during the offseason.
Despite his flaws, Granderson would be a perfect fit for a team in contention who looking for some extra pop in their lineup for a late-season and October run. In return, the Yanks could land themselves some more young players, whether they are minor- or major-league ready.
There are other potential names to throw out there whom the Yanks could deal, depending on what the team thinks their value will be on the open market. Phil Hughes could be one of those guys, but it's likely the Yanks will look to hold onto him if he proves to be successful in 2013, thanks to his youth.
At the end of the day, if the Yanks are out of contention, you could see quite the fire sale in the Bronx.
If the team is serious about getting under the luxury tax threshold and don't plan on handing out big deals to guys like Cano and Granderson, it would make the most sense to deal them and avoid losing two key players with next to nothing to show for it.
A new era is beginning in the Bronx, and while the veterans on the Yankees' roster aren't ready to call it a career yet, it's never too early to start looking to the future for this aging club, and a few big trades could ensure the Yanks are set up for years to come.