It is no secret that the New York Yankees were hoping that their 2011 starting rotation would include the names of Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte.
Moving forward, the Yankees have to fill the fourth and fifth spots, at least temporarily, until they make a trade for a legit arm before the July All-Star break.
Of course, this is contingent on a few factors:
Who is available?
Will A.J. Burnett right himself back to being a viable starter again?
What players are the Yankees willing to part with midseason?
And the biggest factor of all: Is the team is winning or losing?
No one can know for certain, but rumors are flying around about which players the Yankee will dangle in front of other teams.
Unlike in the past, the Yankees have talent down on the farm—in particular, a trio of catching prospects led by Yankees top prospect Jesus Montero.
This is a nice cushion to have a if the rotation needs a boost, as my bet is the Yankees make a go at King Felix again.
Let’s look at 10 Yankee players rumored to be potential trade bait if the price is right.
Jesus Montero not only sits atop the Yankees prospect list but is also the top catcher in the minors.
Scouts refer to Montero as having a “Mike Piazza” swing, but unfortunately Montero also struggles on defense like Piazza.
At 6'5", Montero’s days behind the plate could be numbered, as he has yet to prove he can catch every day.
Still, his monster and mature bat is enough to make other teams drool. If the Yankees need another starter by midseason, Montero could command a nice return.
What Montero lacks behind the plate, Austin Romine surely does not.
Another top catching prospect throughout the minors, Romine doesn’t have the huge bat, but he is no slump either. Romine’s swing is improving nicely, and that should continue to improve over time.
Romine is an everyday catcher with a strong throwing arm that can get out a ton of baserunners.
With the Red Sox getting Carl Crawford, Romine's arm might prove more valuable than Montero’s bat, but only time will tell.
Gary Sanchez is the youngest of the Yankees' stellar catching trio, and probably the most coveted.
In 2009 the Yankees paid the then-16-year-old a record $3 million, and so far the money looks to be paying off.
Sanchez has the best of both Montero’s bat and Romaine’s defense.
Now, at age 18, Sanchez will play in his first full professional season either in Charleston (Low-A), as his age is too young for High-A Tampa just yet.
Nothing is set in stone, but so far Sanchez is on the path to becoming superstar. It makes trading Montero a whole lot easier for the Yankees to swallow because of this kid’s potential.
Andrew Brackman is a 6'10" pitcher who had scouts drooling over him when he first appeared back in 2007. Since then, Brackman has had Tommy John surgery, and he is only now starting to show flashes of that brilliance again.
Brackman has a wicked, mid 90s fastball that strikes out batters. Much of his success is attributed to his 6'10" height, which gives him the advantage of getting on top of the ball and employing his long reach for superior extension.
Brackman also has a curveball that is considered unhittable when it drops late and is located correctly. He also features a decent change-up.
Since the Yankees already have an overcrowded bullpen, look for Brackman to most definitely be a key ingredient in a package deal to pick up a midseason ace.
Adam Warren is a 23-year-old who pales physically compared to other Yankee prospects.
Still, Warren has moved quickly through the minors, relying heavily on his change-up, cutter, curve and sinker to make up for what he lacks in his fastball. Warren is not a strikeout pitcher, but he generates a lot of grounders and is also an innings eater.
2010 marked Warren’s first full season, where he finished with an 11-7 record and an 2.59 ERA over 135 innings. His last 54 of the 135 innings were pitched in Triple-A ball; the prior innings were in Double-A.
Warren, plus another solid prospect like Montero, will lure in teams who crave some talented youth.
With the way Manny Banuelos pitches, throwing for strikes with a 93-plus mph fastball, a solid curve and a lethal change-up, it would seem unlikely the Yankees would be trading him this year.
Banuelos is also a lefty with exceptional command, which makes his value spike. This young 20-year-old has front-end starter stuff, and he keeps getting better.
I have seen Banuelos pitch twice, and trust me, this kid is worth keeping—at least for two seasons up in the bigs to see what he develops into. The upside has the potential of ace written all over it.
The only concern is that Banuelos does lack physical size, as he stands at 5'10" and is listed at 155 lbs., though most scouts say 175 lbs. is more accurate. He is a stocky kid, so as he gets older Banuelos will have to stay in tip-top shape to improve his range on the mound and remain flexible.
So would the Yankees trade this gem? It would have to be for an ace—King Felix or bust.
This is a long shot, as Brett Gardner has become an asset to the Yankees.
What makes a Gardner trade so doubtful?
Gardner is a cheaper version of Carl Crawford on the basepaths. Stealing 47 bases in 2010, while getting caught just nine times, makes Gardner hard to part with. Especially since the team only stole 103 total last season, it would mean losing half our speed.
Gardner also just turned 27 years old, so he is still young, and in Yankee years he is a toddler.
If it ever happened, Gardner would command a top arm in return for sure.
Trading Gardner would only leave the Yankees with another hole to fill, just now it’s in the outfield.
Plus, who is going to make up for Gardner’s 50 steals?
With the influx of relievers making for a crowded bullpen, rumors are flying about the Yankees trading Joba Chamberlain.
The reality is that Chamberlain has lost a lot of his trade value since 2007, but not completely on his own merit.
With the Yankees' rotation in disarray, Chamberlain is the best option over Sergio Mitre for sure.
If he succeeds, his trade value will shoot up, and it also fills a void for the 2011 team.
If that were not the case, then Chamberlain would be boxed in with some minor leaguers for a mid-level pitcher because that is all he is worth right now.
Rumors did swirl briefly this offseason that Nick Swisher could be packaged in a deal, but that talk died fast.
Swisher had a great season in 2010, but once again he collapsed at the plate in the postseason.
Regardless of his value, Swisher has become a fan favorite, and a riot might break out if the Yankees allowed any other player in right field.
He also brings great energy to the clubhouse, which is essential in the Bronx.
Swisher had a solid 2010 regular season, posting 89 RBI, 29 home runs and 33 doubles. Swish needs to get his strikeout numbers down from 138, and without a doubt the number will be lower in 2011.
Swisher will be in pinstripes through 2012, but if the right player is on the block and Swish is requested, it could be possible.
Still, it is highly unlikely with his $9 million salary this season that another team would want to pay it or that the Yankees would want to eat it.
Swisher just celebrated his 30th birthday, and he has the right attitude, works hard and came through in the clutch many times in 2010...but with the Yankees, never say never.
The name Eduardo Nunez is probably unfamiliar to most, as it is not on the top 10 Yankees prospects list, and there is no reason the 23-year-old should be.
Nunez has been hailed as captain Derek Jeter's replacement at shortstop, which is actually quite shocking, taking into consideration that Nunez committed 33 errors in 2009, showing a slight sign of improvement in 2010 with 14.
The media has built up the hype for Nunez, who is a player that might never be able to back up all the expectations already on him or any player that takes over and follows in Jeter's footsteps.
Nunez does have a solid throwing arm, but he has been known to get wild at times when throwing to first base. He also anticipates runners coming way too quickly.
All of these flaws can be straightened out, but whether Nunez is an everyday shortstop is a whole different question, as Jeter's shoes are big ones to fill.
Nunez might work better on another ball club, and he might want to eventually if he starts to feel like he is cracking under the pressure.
Fact is, whoever is going to be the "new Jeter" better be mentally tough, because it won't matter what talent Nunez is. If he crumbles, it could cost him his career.
Brian Cashman was hesitant to part ways with Nunez last season in the infamous Cliff Lee trade with the Seattle Mariners. With the way Jeter was looking in 2010, the Yankees GM had good reason to hang on to Nunez just in case.
If King Felix were a serious possibility, I would see no reason why Cashman would be as cautious about packaging a trade that would include both Montero and Nunez.
Ramiro Pena can easily take over if Jeter implodes, which is highly unlikely to happen. Pena is a better defender than Nunez anyway.
Fact is the Yankees need another formidable starter unless some youngster shoots up to phenom level.