Yankees Rumors: Only “Mild” Trade Interest in Gardner and Headley

The New York Yankees continue to search for trade partners for veterans Brett Gardner and Chase Headley but haven’t found a great fit as of yet.

According to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball, the Yankees are indeed discussing left fielder Brett Gardner and third baseman Chase Headley with other clubs as previously reported, but he hears that “the interest is relatively mild.”

The lack of interest in Gardner is especially surprising to me as plenty of teams are in the market for outfield help this winter. In the past, I’ve speculated that the Cardinals, Mariners, Nationals, Rangers, and Phillies could be potential trade partners, as could the Orioles and Blue Jays on the off-chance that New York would deal within the division.

There are fewer contenders with vacancies at third base this winter, and with Justin Turner available for just cash on the free agent market, no one’s top priority will be Headley.

As with Brian McCann, Gardy is probably slightly overpaid with $24 million owed to him over the next year plus a $2 million buyout on a $12.5 million buyout for 2019. Even with his power and speed beginning to decline, Gardner is still a very productive player, accumulating an average of 3.8 wins above replacement per year over the last four seasons, including 3.4 WAR in 2016 according to Baseball-Reference.

The reason Gardner seems like the more realistic trade piece from that Yankees point of view is that there are both financial and baseball reasons to trade him. New York wants to get under the luxury tax by 2018, so they are unloading all of the big contracts they can. In addition, they will soon need an outfield corner open for top prospect Clint Frazier and have plenty of talented options to keep left field warm in the meantime.

With Headley, however, the motivation for dealing him seems to be purely financial unless the Yankees plan on turning around and signing Justin Turner, which seems like a longshot. Miguel Andujar is their most advanced third base prospect, and he will need at least one more year of minor league seasoning before he’s ready.

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Maybe the Yankees would be comfortable rolling with Rob Refsnyder at second and Starlin Castro at third? Cheaper free agent options like Steve Pearce or Luis Valbuena would also be interesting. I’m not opposed to trading Headley as long as the team isn’t suddenly deciding to punt the on-field product in 2017 for financial reasons.

Although both Headley and Gardner are useful players and are not terribly overpaid, they are not tremendous bargains, and I can see why teams are not lining up to acquire them. The Yankees could presumably find a taker for either one in a straight salary dump with a token prospect or two in return, but they might decide that these two are more useful to the club than anything they would get in return.

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