How the Yankees Can Come out of the Winter Meetings as Surprise Winners

Danny KnoblerMLB Lead WriterDecember 7, 2015

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, center, speaks to member of the media as he attends the baseball general managers' meetings, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Boca Raton, Fla. The Yankees have traded infielder Jose Pirela to the San Diego Padres for right-hander Ronald Herrera in the first deal of the general managers' meetings. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

For years, the New York Yankees won the winter the traditional way.

They bought it.

The Yankees are different now, and if you didn't believe it when they wouldn't enter the bidding for David Price or Zack Greinke, perhaps you will when you hear (per Joel Sherman of the New York Post) that they never bid on Jeff Samardzija, either. Maybe they're saving all their money to sign Jason Heyward—but don't count on it.

No, if the Yankees are going to come out of this week as winter-meetings winners, they're going to do it the hard way. They're going to need to be more persistent and more creative.

They're going to need to convince the Cleveland Indians that they really should trade Carlos Carrasco in some form of deal for Brett Gardner, oreven bettertalk Oakland A's boss Billy Beane out of his pledge not to deal Sonny Gray.

"Sooner or later, he trades everybody," said one rival executive.

The Toronto Blue Jays got an MVP third baseman because Alex Anthopoulos kept asking and eventually gave Beane what he wanted. Could the Yankees get a potential Cy Young winner if Brian Cashman keeps asking? And if not Gray, what about Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins?

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Gray or Fernandez would make any team a winter-meetings winner, but what if it really is true that neither will be available this week? What if Cashman decides Shelby Miller isn't enough of a sure thing to trade his most prized prospects?

Enough of the questions. You came here for answers.

The Yankees didn't seem to like our last bit of advice, which was to take advantage of the unusually pitching-heavy top of the free-agent market. So this time, we'll try to keep things a little cheaper.

After all, talk is cheap, right? The suggestion here is for Cashman to do plenty of talking.

Is Sonny Gray available? "Sooner or later, [Billy Beane] trades everyone," said one rival exec.
Is Sonny Gray available? "Sooner or later, [Billy Beane] trades everyone," said one rival exec.Ben Margot/Associated Press

Talk to the A's about Gray, and even if Beane is serious about not moving him now, lay the groundwork for whenever he eventually does move him. Do the same with the Marlins about Fernandez.

Revive the efforts to deal Gardner. Cashman told George A. King III of the Post that it's now more likely he keeps Gardner and closer Andrew Miller, perhaps because there's more of a glut on the outfield and reliever markets than there was a month ago. But Gardner's defensive skills and his ability to play center field should still make him valuable, particularly if the Yankees pay down some of the $38 million remaining on his contract.

The Indians are a natural fit, because they have pitchers the Yankees could use (Carrasco or Danny Salazar) and because with Michael Brantley hurt, they could use an outfielder. But as Nick Cafardo pointed out in Sunday's Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Angels could really use a left-handed hitting outfielder. New Angels general manager Billy Eppler was Cashman's assistant in New York (and seems to love players who excel on defense).

The Yankees could also trade Ivan Nova, especially if they acquire a starting pitcher elsewhere. They could still trade Miller, perhaps to the Houston Astros since they have reportedly lost out on Aroldis Chapman (the Yankees and Astros have talked, according to league sources).

Brett Gardner's defensive skills could make him attractive on the trade market.
Brett Gardner's defensive skills could make him attractive on the trade market.Kathy Willens/Associated Press/Associated Press

If he does trade Miller—and even if he doesn't—Cashman will need to add relief pitchers. The Yankees went heavy on bullpen arms last winter, trading for Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve, but by the end of the season, manager Joe Girardi barely seemed to trust anyone but Miller and Dellin Betances.

Adding bullpen help doesn't even need to be expensive. The Kansas City Royals signed Ryan Madson to a minor league contract last winter, and he pitched so well that he just agreed to a $22 million deal with the A's (according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com).

You might have noticed that every suggestion so far has involved pitching. The Yankees do have one open spot in their lineup, at second base. They might be able to reacquire Martin Prado, whom they dealt to the Marlins last winter for Nathan Eovaldi, or sign free agent Howie Kendrick, who has a .342 career batting average against them.

A recent report by Fox Sports' Jon Morosi also links the Yankees to former All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera, though he cites budget concerns as a potential roadblock.

That probably wouldn't be enough to make the Yankees a winter meetings winner, though. Maybe none of this would be enoughunless the Yankees could somehow come away with Sonny Gray or Jose Fernandez.

Keep talking.

Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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