New York Yankees: 5 Potential Trade Options to Bolster Struggling Rotation

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterMay 24, 2017

New York Yankees: 5 Potential Trade Options to Bolster Struggling Rotation

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The New York Yankees are sitting pretty at first place in the AL East, but staying there will likely require doing something about a starting rotation that ranks 18th in the majors in ERA.

    Fortunately for them, the summer trade market is starting to come into focus.

    There are all sorts of trade options the Yankees could pursue between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. But rather than sort through all of them, let's focus on the top five.

Jeremy Hellickson, Philadelphia Phillies

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    As much as the Yankees' winning feels like a return to normalcy, it's not a given that they're ready to scrap the rebuilding process they started last year.

    According to the Associated Press, owner Hal Steinrebnner indicated last week that he's willing to buy at the deadline but less willing to deal top prospects to do so. If this can be interpreted as a mandate rather than a suggestion, then the Yankees are most likely to target affordable rentals.

    Jeremy Hellickson fits the bill.

    The right-hander reestablished his long-dead value with a solid season in 2016, posting a 3.71 ERA in 189 innings. He's keeping it up this year with a 3.44 ERA in 49.2 innings. And while his peripherals—his strikeout rate in particular—raise alarms, his penchant for limiting hard contact helps quiet them.

    At 15-28, the Philadelphia Phillies are once again going nowhere fast. It's no surprise that, per Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, they're willing to listen on Hellickson. But due to his $17.2 million salary, his market could be limited enough for the Yankees to nab him without surrendering any of the seven prospects they have within MLB.com's top 100.

    Or, they could aim higher by putting in a call to the Kansas City Royals...

Jason Vargas, Kansas City Royals

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    World Series champions just two years ago, the Royals are another team that's now going nowhere fast. Many of their top players are gradually turning into trade bait. Perhaps none more so than Jason Vargas.

    The veteran left-hander has a 2.30 ERA in 12 starts since his return from Tommy John surgery last season. Good stuff for a guy with an average fastball of 86.1 miles per hour, and it passes the believability test.

    It's enough to argue that Vargas, 34, is a better rental option for the Yankees than Hellickson. To boot, his $8 million salary is less than half of what Hellickson is on the books for.

    The catch is that other teams can see these things, too.

    "Jason Vargas has a chance to become one of the most coveted pitchers of the summer market," wrote ESPN's Buster Olney earlier in May.

    In a vacuum, a veteran starter with Vargas' credentials isn't worth an arm and a leg in a trade. But since he's an ideal candidate for a bidding war, the market could push his price tag in that direction.

    That wouldn't necessarily put the Yankees out of the running for him. But they could find themselves turning their attention to a different AL Central lefty...

Derek Holland, Chicago White Sox

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    With a major rebuild already underway, it was obvious at the moment the Chicago White Sox signed Derek Holland to a one-year deal last December that he was a future trade candidate.

    All he had to do was rebuild his value following three injury-marred seasons with the Texas Rangers. He's doing so with a 2.47 ERA through nine starts, a turnaround that he credits to the magic touch of White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.

    “I really have to give a lot of credit to Coop," the 30-year-old said in April, per Daryl Von Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. “For getting me in the right position. I’m back to where I feel comfortable, putting less stress on the shoulder. I feel very good out there on the mound."

    With a salary of just $6 million, Holland is even more affordable than Vargas from a financial perspective.

    And while they'll probably bear similar price tags in prospect terms, Holland's extra appeal is that he's younger and with better stuff. He still has a low-90s heater with a sharp slider.

    Of course, the Yankees could dive into the Yu Darvish sweepstakes if they want something more like an ace. But if they're going to pay a big price for an ace, they're more likely to target one of Holland's teammates...

Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

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    There may be no more obvious trade candidate in MLB than Jose Quintana. There may also be no more obvious fit for him than the Yankees.

    Given the amount of turmoil in their rotation, the Yankees sure could use a good, solid, dependable starter. Quintana is exactly that. He averaged 204 innings and a 3.35 ERA between 2013 and 2016. He got off to a slow start this year, but his ERA over his last seven starts is—drum roll—3.35.

    Just as appealing is Quintana's contract. He's earning $7 million this year and set for $8.35 million in 2018, with options for 2019 and 2020 worth a total of $20 million.

    These are mere pennies for a pitcher of Quintana's caliber. This, of course, means his price tag in a trade would be huge.

    A good guess is that the first name the White Sox would mention is shortstop Gleyber Torres, who ranks as MLB.com's No. 2 prospect. Another good guess is that the Yankees would immediately say no.

    However, they have enough depth elsewhere in their system to keep the White Sox enticed. A deal could be built around outfielder Clint Frazier, for example. Or perhaps fellow outfielder Blake Rutherford.

    Alternatively, the Yankees could take those prospects and target a guy with ace upside...

Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    The disclaimer here is that the Pittsburgh Pirates needn't rush to trade Gerrit Cole.

    He's under their control through 2019. And although the Pirates are mired in a rough patch, they don't need to rebuild to acquire young talent to build around. They already have it.

    Still, a note like this from Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports is hard to ignore:

    Rivals believe Gerrit Cole could hit the trade market. The Yankees have always loved him so they’d make sense. New York drafted him out of high school as a late first rounder, but Cole’s father told them then that there was no offer that could keep him away from UCLA.

    Especially when compared to a pitcher like Quintana, it's hard to ignore the injuries and inconsistency in Cole's track record.

    But it's also hard to ignore his upside. He has one of the top power arms in the league, and an idea how to use his stuff to boot. He peaked as a Cy Young contender with a 2.60 ERA over 208 innings in 2015. As long as he stays healthy, the 26-year-old could easily reach that peak again.

    If the Yankees really want to go for it on the trade market, Cole could be their guy.

    Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs. Contract data courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.