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The Yankees’ prospect pool isn’t good enough to land David Price from the Rays, especially if the Mariners ultimately cave and offer right-hander Taijuan Walker in a blockbuster deal.
However, left-hander Cliff Lee could be a more realistic trade target for the Yankees this offseason should the Phillies make him available.
Though the Phillies’ system has several noteworthy prospects, it lacks depth at most positions and is generally thin on projectable hitters.
In a hypothetical deal for Lee, the Yankees presumably would include top prospect Gary Sanchez, who was recently displaced from the organization’s long-term plans with the Brian McCann signing.
This past season—his age-20 season—Sanchez hit .253/.324/.412 with 42 extra-base hits (15 home runs) and a 87-41 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 509 plate appearances. He spent most of the year (94 games) at High-A Tampa in the Florida State League before moving up to Double-A Trenton (24 games) for the final month of the regular season.
Sanchez, is a bat-first catcher with above-average power and improving plate discipline. Despite making strides defensively over the past two seasons, he’s still inconsistent and raw behind the plate. However, Sanchez’s rocket arm gives him the ability to compensate for some of his shortcomings.
If he can’t stick behind the plate, Sanchez would be relegated to a strict role as a first baseman and designated hitter, which in turn would detract from his overall value. The bat is promising, but less so at a position other than catcher.
The Phillies also would ask for one of the Yankees’ outfield prospects in return for Lee.
While they’re no longer viewed as potential impact players, center fielders Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams still have intriguing upside despite up-and-down careers with injuries. However, the Phillies might be more interested in trading for Tyler Austin, who doesn’t have a high ceiling but projects to be league-average outfielder.
Austin only played 83 games with Double-A Trenton this year, as he suffered a wrist injury in the middle of July that resulted in roughly six weeks on the disabled list. Overall, the 21-year-old had a down year in Trenton, hitting .257/.344/.373 with 24 extra-base hits (six home runs) and a 79-41 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 366 plate appearances.
In his breakout full-season debut in 2012, Austin posted a .960 OPS with 35 doubles, 17 home runs and 23 stolen bases while playing in 110 games across four levels including Double-A.
Is it a sexy prospect package? Not particularly. But for a team such as the Phillies, who desperately need projectable hitters in the upper levels of their farm system, it may be worth the game.