3 Trade Ideas for the New York Yankees to Fix Starting Rotation

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterDecember 21, 2013

3 Trade Ideas for the New York Yankees to Fix Starting Rotation

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    Michael Pineda currently is slated as the Yankees' No. 5 starter for the 2014 season.
    Michael Pineda currently is slated as the Yankees' No. 5 starter for the 2014 season.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    The New York Yankees bolstered their lineup in a big way this offseason by signing top-tier free agents Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann. As for the pitching aspect of the equation—well, the organization still has work to do if it plans on contending next year. 

    At the time of this writing, the Yankees are set to open the 2014 season with a starting rotation of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, David Phelps and Michael Pineda. Suffice it to say their Nos. 4 and 5 starters leave something to be desired. Furthermore, because the organization lacks major league-ready arms at the Double- and Triple-A levels, they’re unlikely to address the issue by promoting from within.

    With that said, the Yankees are expected to pursue Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka—if he’s made available—and potentially could still sign a free-agent starter such as Bronson Arroyo, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana. However, given the projected market for the aforementioned hurlers, it may be in the team’s best interest to upgrade the starting rotation through a trade.

    Here are three trade ideas for the New York Yankees to improve their 2014 starting rotation.

Trade for Jeff Samardzija

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    Cubs’ right-hander Jeff Samardzija is one of the more appealing trade targets this offseason, with two years of control left on his contract before hitting free agency after the 2015 season. 

    This past season, the 28-year-old set new career highs with 213.2 innings pitched and 33 games started. Although Samardzija’s 4.34 ERA left something to be desired, his 3.45 xFIP actually suggests he was better than that. Meanwhile, the right-hander once again posted excellent strikeout and walk rates of 23.4 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively.

    Samardzija and the Cubs have been discussing a potential long-term extension for what seems like an eternity. So, if he is in fact traded this offseason, expect the acquiring team to lock him up through his prime years.

    In return for the right-hander, the Cubs will want pitching prospects with major league upsides.

    Though he missed the entire 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and will likely spend at least half the 2014 season on the shelf as well, 23-year-old Manny Banuelos is still an intriguing prospect with a strong track record in the minor leagues. However, the left-hander's inclusion in a deal obviously depends on whether the interested team believes he can overcome the injuries.

    Because Banuelos will require considerable time to get back to where he was pre-surgery, the Yankees could sweeten the deal by throwing in right-hander Jose Campos.

    Campos, who was acquired from the Mariners in the Michael Pineda trade, also spent time on the disabled list with an elbow injury, missing the final four months of the 2012 season. However, the 21-year-old rebounded this past season at Low-A Charleston, posting a 3.41 ERA and stellar 77-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 87 innings.

Trade for Cliff Lee

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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.

Trade for Robbie Erlin

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    After outlining two potential Yankee trades for impact starting pitchers, I thought I’d take a different approach and look at a deal that could improve the back end of the team’s rotation.

    San Diego Padres’ left-hander Robbie Erlin is ready to take on a bigger role in 2014 after logging 54.1 innings last season in the major leagues.

    Though he spent a majority of the 2013 season at Triple-A Tucson in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, the 23-year-old still appeared in 11 games (nine starts) with the Padres, posting a 4.12 ERA and 40-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio while holding opposing hitters to a .255 batting average.

    At 5’11”, 190 pounds, Erlin is a pitchability left-hander who compensates for a lack of a plus offering with an aggressive approach and advanced feel for a deep arsenal.

    Erlin floods the zone with a fastball in the upper-80s/low-90s, aggressively attacking both sides of the plate, and he knows how to keep hitters off-balance with his changeup and curveball.

    Though the southpaw lacks long-term upside, he has the potential to carve out a solid career as a No. 5 starter in the major leagues.

    In return for Erlin, the Yankees likely would part with one of their outfielders; my best guess is Tyler Austin, due to his potential to hit for a respectable batting average while offering moderate power.