Yankees finally have prospects to make something happen

GM Brian Cashman has built up the Yankees' farm system to the point he can make some major moves if he chooses.

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The Yankees are unlikely to trade for Cole Hamels. But you know what? At this point, they probably could.

They’ve got Didi Gregorius, a young shortstop the Phillies like. They’ve got catchers, premium young arms, some intriguing bats.

“We’re much deeper now,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “We’re much more flexible. We’re younger, more diverse.”

Of course, the Yankees should have taken this approach years ago, but better late than never. For once, they’re actually getting more players back than they’re giving up in certain trades. Their farm system, ranked 18th by Baseball America last season, probably has ascended to the top 15 and could be nearing the top 10.

So, why wouldn’t Cashman use his newfound prospect power to go get Hamels, particularly when the Yankees’ rotation remains full of questions?

For one thing, Cashman would need to replace Gregorius, whom he acquired to be his new shortstop. For another, the GM probably is reluctant to sacrifice the rest of what it would take to get Hamels, particularly at a time when he finally is operating from a position of strength.

Remember, the Yankees under Cashman balked at trading right-hander Phil Hughes, outfielder Melky Cabrera and two others for lefty Johan Santana after the 2007 season. They then signed free-agent lefty CC Sabathia the following winter and went on to win the ’09 World Series.

Hamels or no Hamels, Cashman may not be done maneuvering, even after making six trades between Nov. 12 and Jan. 1. Right-hander Luis Severino, the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect according to Baseball America, is close to untouchable; the Yankees believe that he could make an impact in the majors this season. But, Cashman, speaking generally about future acquisitions, said, “I’m open to anything.”

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Open, and capable of making something happen.

Maybe the Yankees can find a more experienced second baseman than Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela, the two rookies expected to compete at the position. 

Maybe they can acquire another starting pitcher without splurging on free-agent righty Max Scherzer; if the Yankees were going to spend $200 million on a player, they probably would have spent it on their own second baseman, Robinson Cano, a year ago.

Then again, maybe Cashman has something else in mind. The three-team Gregorius trade was a surprise. The five-player deal involving Martin Prado and Nathan Eovaldi was a surprise. The New Year’s Day trade of Manny Banuelos for relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve was a surprise.

The point is, Cashman no longer is in a box. 

His moves have left the Yankees with a powerful bullpen, particularly from the left side, where the club’s surplus extends even into the minors. The increased depth will enable the Yankees to work pitchers such as righties Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell as starters in spring training.

AROUND THE HORN

The Yankees still could move a catcher such as John Ryan Murphy or Gary Sanchez, even after trading Francisco Cervelli to the Pirates for lefty Justin Wilson. First baseman Greg Bird was MVP of the Arizona Fall League. The 2013 draft yielded two of the Yankees’ top six prospects, according to BA — outfielder Aaron Judge and lefty Ian Clarkin.

A number of the Yankees’ newly acquired major leaguers — Eovaldi, Carpenter, Gregorius — also are well-regarded by other clubs. Which isn’t to say the Yankees will move any of them, or a popular trade target such as left fielder Brett Gardner. But Eovaldi, for example, is a more valuable chip entering his age 25 season than Prado is at 31.

Heck, the Yankees even gained a draft pick for losing free-agent closer David Robertson without losing one for free-agent left-hander Andrew Miller, who was ineligible for a qualifying offer after getting traded at midseason.

Again, the team is a long way from where it needs to be, particularly with a rotation that may crumble quickly. But without doubt, the Yankees’ foundation is stronger than it was two months ago. That will only help them going forward.