MLB Rumors: Left-Handed Trade Options for New York Yankees Instead of Cliff Lee

Joseph DelGrippoAnalyst IDecember 12, 2010

MLB Rumors: Left-Handed Trade Options for New York Yankees Instead of Cliff Lee

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    What? Me worry? In a few days I can buy the biggest house in Benton, AR!Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Quite a few reports are saying that Cliff Lee has looked over the New York Yankees' seven-year, $161 million offer and the several offers made by the Texas Rangers.

    One offer made by Texas is generally a six-year deal with an option, which could easily be construed as a seven-year deal.

    It may be for a little less money than the Yankees offer, but the comfort level Lee has with the Rangers must weigh pretty heavily in the small-town Lee's psyche.

    One of Lee's friends from Benton, Ark., came out and said Lee has pretty much picked Texas over New York. If you feel that money and the years were the overriding factors, then Lee would have already chosen the Yankees offer and moved on.

    Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, played this one perfectly.

    While many people thought Lee would set the market, Braunecker let other "lesser" free agents sign to set the bench mark. Now the Yankees and Rangers are both willing to spend gobs of cash to the 32-year-old left-handed hurler, the only truly impact free agent left on the market.

    I have always thought that Lee would stay in Texas.

    First, Lee would be near his roots. Second, Lee likes being a mentor to the other young pitchers the Rangers have, especially lefties C.J. Wilson, a virtual Lee clone, and Derek Holland, who I feel will be a star. He will be a star because the Rangers will allow him the opportunity to pitch in the majors.

    With the Boston Red Sox trading for Adrian Gonzalez and signing free agent Carl Crawford, the Red Sox lineup is now predominantly left-handed. Now there is more pressure than ever for the Yankees to sign Lee, a left-handed ace.

    Another reason why it might be extremely important for the Yankees to sign Lee is that Andy Pettitte has yet to decide whether he wants to return for his 17th major league season.

    Pettitte would likely return if he feels the Yankees have a good chance at making the World Series run. If the Yankees do not sign Lee, Pettitte might feel the Yankees chance of getting to the World Series is lessened, and Andy could retire instead.

    So getting Lee in the fold could be doubly beneficial with the Yankees going up against the Sox. While you feel the Yankees and Red Sox both will beat up on most of the AL, it is vitally important now how they do head to head.

    With several other AL teams (White Sox, Tigers, Orioles) getting better, there is no guarantee that the Yankees make the postseason with Lee and Pettitte, as the wild card battle would be fierce.

    But it will be a much tougher road without one or both.  

    The Yankees will probably get really nervous Monday and will up their offer, but in the end Lee goes back to Texas.

    In case Lee heads south, the Yankees should promote from within with guys already in their system like Ivan Nova, David Phelps and Hector Noesi. Adam Warren and Manuel Banuelos should be major league ready by 2012, too.

    But they won't promote from within, so here are some left-handed arms who they could obtain via trade.

John Danks

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    Near perfect mechanics lessens chances for injury. And Danks is clutch, too!Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    John Danks is one of the most consistent starting pitchers in the American League, averaging 13-plus wins, a 3.60 ERA (a high of 3.77) and 200-plus innings over the last three seasons. His WHIP and other peripheral numbers such as strikeout and walk rates are consistent year to year.

    And he is clutch, too. Danks went eight shutout innings in Game 163 against the Minnesota Twins in 2008, winning the game 1-0 and pitching his team into the postseason. Danks recorded the only win for Chicago in that ALDS versus Tampa Bay.

    Then why in the world would a team looking to win the AL Central this season trade its 26-year-old left-handed ace?

    One word: money.

    Danks made just over $3 million in 2010, his first arbitration season. Entering his second arbitration year for 2011, Danks is looking to maybe get a raise to $5-6 million.

    But the White Sox could sign Danks to an extension, buying out his last two arbitration seasons plus one (or two) years of free agency. That would be similar to deals made with Dan Haren, Josh Johnson and Zach Greinke, who had extensions buying out four years ranging from $39 to $41 million.

    An option year would probably be included. The overall dollars would likely be a little lower, maybe $30-35 million for Danks.

    No brainer, right? Well, the Sox did spend money this winter in signing free agents Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn, and their current payroll looks to be in the neighborhood of $106 million before arbitration raises.

    At the winter meetings press conference announcing the Paul Konerko deal, White Sox GM Kenny Williams said the White Sox were "tapped out." And after the Red Sox signed Carl Crawford, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf was heard lamenting the league salary structure.  

    That is why they are shopping left-handed pitcher Mark Buehrle and OF Carlos Quentin. Buehrle will earn $14 million in 2011 and will be a free agent in 2012. Quentin is arbitration eligible for the second time this season and can be a free agent in 2013.

    Both are good players but have their issues, too. Buehrle is a contact pitcher who does not strike anyone out, and Quentin can hit for power but is limited on defense and often hits the disabled list.

    The White Sox will not get much in trades for those guys and will command much more in dangling Danks.

    Yankees would have to start with Manny Banuelos, plus two others and go from there.

Wandy Rodriguez

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    this wont take the caption i had writtenBob Levey/Getty Images

    Wandy Rodriguez is very underrated.

    Toiling for the last few seasons for the lowly Houston Astros, Rodriguez has won 14 and 11 games over the last two seasons, with ERAs at 3.02 and 3.60.

    All his peripherals, including H/9, K/9 and BB/9, are consistent each of the last three seasons.

    He also has pretty decent numbers in a dozen plate appearances against new Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, but Carl Crawford belted him around.

    Rodriguez made $5 million last year and is arbitration eligible for the last time in 2011. He can be a free agent in 2012.

    Rodriguez turns 32 in January, and since he likely will not return and the Astros have no shot at contending this year, he will be marketed near the deadline. He probably can be had for two Non-Killer B second-tiered prospects such as David Phelps and Brandon Laird this offseason, but even less in July.

    Rodriguez would be a good fit in Yankee Stadium, and, depending on the results, he could sign a lucrative three-year contract.

Jonathan Sanchez

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    Improved performance, strikeout stuff intriguing despite command issuesRonald Martinez/Getty Images

    Jonathan Sanchez had a pretty good year in 2010. He won 13 games with a low-octane offense behind him and had a 3.07 ERA.

    Sanchez struck out 205 hitters in 193 innings pitched and improved his win total and ERA over the last three seasons.

    However, he walked a league-leading 96 batters (4.5 per 9 IP), and due to command issues was also pulled early by manager Bruce Bochy in Game 4 of the NLCS.

    Sanchez does have tremendous quality of pitches, including an explosive fastball and biting slider.

    In 43 plate appearances, new Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has hit .231/302/.385 versus Sanchez with one HR and 12 strikeouts.

    The San Francisco Giants have a wealth of starting pitchers including Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito and rookie Madison Bumgarner.

    But there is nothing of quality in the system on the near horizon, so it might be tough prying Sanchez away.

    Since Sanchez is an established starting pitcher with two controllable years before he hits free agency in 2013, it would take Banuelos and two others.

Francisco Liriano

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    Liriano's arm action bothers me.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Throughout the winter meetings there were inquiries as to the availability of Liriano. Even the Yankees had asked about ace lefty of the Twins.

    The Twins let everyone know that he was not going to be traded, but at the right price, shouldn't everyone be available?

    Liriano is the Twins version of the ace, with the team not having a true No. 1 starter since they traded John Santana, and he was only an ace for a few seasons before being traded.

    Liriano made only $1.6 million last year and cannot become a free agent until 2013, so it will cost two top pitching prospects at the minimum to get him.

    Think Joba, Banuelos and/or Dellin Betances, and even that will not be enough. Throw in another arm, too, such as a Sean Black or Shaeffer Hall.

    The Twins have always been able to develop their pitching prospects and have a few others, such as Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers, who are near major league-ready. They are the two top picks each of the last two years and are typical Twins high-command guys.

    So while Liriano is said not to be available, depth of pitching in the system and a tremendous need by the Yankees could make it worthwhile for the Twins in dealing Liriano.

    However, I do not like Liriano's high walk rates and his arm action. I feel he is headed down the path like his former teammate, Santana, toward future shoulder issues.

Scott Kazmir

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Scott Kazmir was viewed as the second coming of Steve Carlton. Armed with good left-handed heat and a plus slider, Kazmir started his major league at age 20 in 2005.

    Since Kazmir's coming out party in 2007 when he went 13-9, 3.48 ERA and 239 strikeouts in 206 innings, the 26-year-old has steadily declined. His 2010 season was by far his worst, as all his peripherals were terrible.

    Lowest K rate, highest walk rate, highest hit and HR rate, and highest overall WHIP of his career.

    Kazmir is also guaranteed $12 million in 2011 with a $13.5 million team option in 2012 (of $2.5 million buyout). The Angels have a plethora of starting pitchers and would love nothing more to dump him.

    Why would the Yankees want or need Kazmir? Well, a change of scenery could prove fruitful, and Kazmir could be motivated to learn new things in his walk year.

    Also, Kazmir has pitched very well against the Red Sox in his career, including an under 4.00 ERA in Fenway.

    Although results are mixed against RHH Kevin Youkilis (good) and Dustin Pedroia (terrible), Kazmir has dominated David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury and JD Drew. Other Red Sox such as Jed Lowrie and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are a combined 0-19. Even Gonzalez has an 0-3 with two whiffs against Kazmir.

    The Yankees would not have to give up much to get Kazmir, and the Angels could likely pay a portion of the minimum $14.5 million owed and get back a better prospect in return.

Barry Zito

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    I DO NOT like this arm action, but it has not bothered Zito during his careerStephen Dunn/Getty Images

    I asked a Yankee blogger at the winter meetings if the Yankees signed Lee, would you trade A.J. Burnett straight up for Barry Zito if the money evened out.

    After a minute of dissecting remaining money and other things, he said no, because A.J. can be better but he didn't think Zito was as good a pitcher on his best day.

    I disagreed and would do that trade in a second. I think A.J. stinks and his issues are in his head and that he has no heart on the mound.

    Both are signed through 2013, but with the buyout for $7 million in 2014 ($18 million option), Zito is owed $64.5 million while A.J. is owed a paltry $49.5 million over the same time period

    But if the Yankees do not sign Lee, and the Giants would be unwilling to trade Jonathan Sanchez, Zito might be a good bet in a trade for some prospects. However, with the money involved the pitching prospects might be low on the Yankee food chain, like current Low A types.

    That is funny, as most Yankee pitching prospects can be considered low on the food chain because they won't get a chance to pitch in the Bronx.

    The Giants would have to kick in money, and the more money they kick in, the better the players they receive in return. I do not like Zito's arm action, but it has yet to bother him during his 11-year career, having never missed a start due to injury.

    Zito started well last season and had a decent July, but struggled late and did not appear in any of the Giants postseason games. Despite his struggles, all his peripherals for 2010 are almost exact to his career marks.

    If the Giants pay a large portion of the contract, I would make the trade, but if all the cash is borne by New York, forget it.

Mark Buehrle

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Mark Buehrle is durable, throwing 200-plus innings in each of his 10 full seasons in the majors. He also has a no-hitter and perfect game, works quick, throws strikes and keeps his fielders in the game.

    These are all strong pitching factors, but over the last two seasons his K rate has been 4.4 and 4.2, two of the lowest marks of his career.

    Combining a reduced strikeout rate and the aging left side of the infield does not play well for the Yankees.

    Buehrle is owed $14 million for 2011 and is a free agent after the season. He is also being shopped by the Chicago White Sox, so he's available.  

    This trade would not work well for the Yankees, as Buehrle would give up too many hits through the left side. Buehrle also has gotten hit relatively hard by the Red Sox during his career.

    The Yankees would be better off paying more in talent to try and get John Danks from the White Sox.

Dallas Braden

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    This is my mound!Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Dallas Braden is another former perfect game artist, and the genuine Alex Rodriguez hater is arbitration eligible for the second time in 2011 and is eligible to be a free agent in 2014.

    As he did with most of his other young promising pitchers, Billy Beane will eventually trade Braden for a couple propsects who will further the cycle of helping the Oakland A's not win a postseason series.

    Too bad that 2002 Money Ball draft was such a bust for the A's.

    Anyway, Braden is an exact clone of the other perfect game guy, Mark Buerhle, a ground ball strike thrower who benefits from the above-average A's middle infield. Braden would likely give up too many hits with the Yankees left side of infield and would allow quite a few more homers in Yankee Stadium.

    He would be booed off the mound.

    This trade would never happen.

    But I would love to have his teammate, Gio Gonzalez, who is two years younger than Braden and a better strikeout pitcher, though he also has less control and command. However, he is cost-controlled for the next five years and would not be available for at least three seasons.