Should Yankees Consider Trading Veterans Brett Gardner, Chase Headley?
The word is out. The New York Yankees have a loaded farm system. They have several prospects widely considered to be among the 100 best in all of Major League Baseball, and their system, on the whole, is as good as any.
It’s a healthy mix of quality and quantity. There’s talent at every level of the farm system and depth at every position — except catcher. But before Gary Sanchez made his ascent, catcher was the Yankees deepest system-wide position.
Sanchez has been a top prospect in the system since he signed as an international free agent as a teenager, and general manager Brian Cashman hung onto him despite various setbacks and trade offers. It paid off. His impressive showing last season lead to the Brian McCann trade and the same principle could apply elsewhere on the Yankees’ roster.
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In the same way Sanchez and Aaron Judge replaced their Major League counterparts last season, there are a few Baby Bombers who could be knocking on the door this season. In that event, let’s take stock of two Yankee veterans in particular who stand to lose playing time or be dealt.
Gardner is due $25 million in the last two years of his contract. Over the last three seasons (since the Jacoby Ellsbury signing), Gardner has been worth 8.5 WAR, which is 1.5 more than Ellsbury in the same timespan.
Though Gardner’s stolen base totals have been steadily declining, he is still a solid leadoff hitter who gets on base and provides a bit of pop at the top of the order. At age 33, Gardner seems to be more valuable to the Yankees by staying put. Plus, NJ.com quoted Cashman saying something very telling about the trade rumors surrounding his left fielder:
“I think the teams that had the interest took their best shot.”
Cashman basically confirmed Gardner was on the block at one point but didn’t field any enticing offers. This could certainly mean that Gardner could go back on the block, especially if a team in contention has a big enough need for an experienced outfielder. There’s also Clint Frazier, who is only one step away from the Bronx at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Like Gardner, Headley is only under contract for two more seasons at a (somewhat) reasonable annual salary. He’s still an above-average defender at third, but his offense has been somewhere just below average for the last couple seasons. Headley has shown that an offensive turnaround isn’t out of the question, so he could be a valuable trade asset if that were to happen.
The only problem for the Yankees is the heir apparent at third base, Miguel Andujar, just got his first taste of Double-A ball last season. The more likely scenario for Headley is that the Yankees will keep him on the books for these next two seasons and have him personally pass the torch to Andujar.
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Andujar, however, has been shooting up the list of the team’s top prospects. Scouts have praised his mature, disciplined approach at the plate and his physical tools that should play well at third base. Make no mistake, Andujar is not likely to make the majors in 2017, but he’s one call-up away from the next highest level.