The first sure-fire sign of any good, impending mid-season selling frenzy is upper-management coming out and insisting to the public, “Who, us? No, no way. We’re definitely not selling. Which, that’s fine. Makes sense. Job of upper-management is to make money, and letting all the fans know a month in advance that the team is throwing in the weol of the now for a towel of the future isn’t a great way to keep fannies in the seats, even while the team’s still intact. Despite those claims, though, word always gets out, and the second sure-fire sign of any good, impending mid-season selling frenzy is the resignation that, “Yeah, OK, you caught us; we’re probably sellers.” The third sign is the sale itself.
The New York Yankees have exhibited the first two symptoms of fire-sale fever. After dropping the first series out of the All-Star break to the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees are now 45-46, fourth place in the American League East, and owners of a 6.1% chance to make the postseason, according to our playoff odds. The last three days have represented the club’s lowest points of the season.
And, given the unique construction of the Yankees’ roster, the club seems poised for a rare sell-off, one that, if executed to the fullest extent, could have the second-half version of the team appearing unrecognizable to the first. It seems likely that very few players of the next good Yankees team currently exist on this one. The Yankees are going to make some moves. The question is: how many? Let’s take the lever and push it all the way up. Just for fun, let’s imagine what a complete Yankees teardown looks like.
Of course, we move the obvious pieces. At this point, Aroldis Chapman seems like a near-guarantee to be traded. Carlos Beltran should be on the go, too. We’ve all heard the Andrew Miller speculation, and he’s the Yankees’ most valuable chip, so let’s call him a goner, as well. The Brett Gardner rumors started in the offseason and have persisted, so we’ll be finding him a new home, and let’s go ahead and do the same with Brian McCann, who for the sake of this exercise will agree to lift his no-trade clause. Hell, while we’re here, let’s see if we can’t find anyone interested in CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, too. That’s our list. Everything must go.
We’ll work our way down that last paragraph, starting with Chapman. He’s long been the most likely piece to be moved, and at this point, it seems inevitable. We begin with the asking price. Chapman was just recently acquired in a trade over the offseason from Cincinnati, which cost the Yankees a quartet of mostly insignificant prospects, but of course will now command a higher cost. The Yankees bought low on Chapman while a suspension of an undetermined length loomed, and that was before we saw how pricey relievers got over the offseason. So, the most recent Chapman trade isn’t a good example of his current value.
To get a better idea, maybe we go back a couple years to when his teammate, Andrew Miller, was dealt to the Red Sox at the deadline. That move cost Baltimore Eduardo Rodriguez, who that year was ranked as the No. 65 prospect in the game by Baseball America. Miller, like Chapman, was an impending free agent — and was putting up comparable numbers to Chapman’s typical year. The price tag for elite relievers has gone up, though Chapman’s off-field concerns likely depress his cost somewhat. A team isn’t getting Chapman without giving up a top-100-type prospect, but it might be able to hold onto its top guy.
Chapman’s suitors? Plenty. The Dodgers just went after him seven months ago, and they could still be interested now. The Cubs are looking for relief help, as are the Nationals. Texas is a contender with the American League’s worst bullpen. The Indians have been singled out as a sleeper candidate to land a Yankees reliever.
The Indians wouldn’t want to part with top prospects Clint Frazier or Bradley Zimmer for half a year of Chapman, but they’ve got more than enough guys in the Rodriguez range, like Brady Aiken (No. 59 in BA’s mid-season top-100 update), Bobby Bradley (No. 64), Justus Sheffield (69), Francisco Mejia (70), and Michael Clevinger (71), to work something out while holding onto their top chips. Maybe the Cubs build a package around Eloy Jimenez (46), the Dodgers with Grant Holmes (60), the Nationals with Erick Fedde (61), the Rangers with Luis Ortiz (74) or Dillon Tate.
Want Miller? Those same teams are likely all interested, but the prospect tier goes up a notch. Look at what Craig Kimbrel commanded over the offseason with his multiple years of control. Miller’s got even more value than Kimbrel, and the Yankees would rightfully want their own Manuel Margot and Javier Guerra. The Indians aren’t getting away without Frazier (21) or Zimmer (26). The Yankees would want a Gleyber Torres (27) or Ian Happ (37) from Chicago, a Lewis Brinson (30) from Texas, a Jose De Leon (25) or Alex Verdugo (44) from Los Angeles, a Reynaldo Lopez (48) from Washington. And then some. It’s a fool’s errand to come up with specific prospect names in fake trade proposals, but these are the tiers of guys required to land a Chapman and a Miller. Pick a name from the Miller paragraph and a name or two from the Chapman paragraph, imagine a couple low-minors prospects or near-major-league-ready fringe guys tossed in, and that’s your most likely Chapman/Miller return for New York.
Beltran seems likely to go, and a recent rumor linked the Royals to him, with Luke Hochevar’s name invoked. With the Yankees out of contention and Hochevar an impending free agent, that specific framework seems unlikely, but that’s the type of guy the Yankees are getting for Beltran. He’s rebuilt his value with a resurgent offensive performance, but it’s still three months of a 39-year-old designated hitter. That gets an MLB-ready middle reliever or a 19-year-old.
McCann and Gardner have their value, though perhaps not much in the way of surplus value; McCann is owed $34 million in 2017-18, Gardner owed $26 million over those same years with a buy-out factored in. The Yankees wouldn’t have to part with talent of their own to get teams to take these two, but they likely wouldn’t fetch much in return, other than some fringy prospects and, more importantly, the ability to more quickly rebuild themselves through free agency and the offseason trade market with some more financial freedom.
Teixeira’s just fallen too far to be anything more than an August waiver salary dump. Sabathia’s most recent starts may have done the same to his value.
But we’ve done a lot here! We’ve netted the Yankees several top-100 prospects, including a top-50 guy or two, for Chapman and Miller. We’ve got a bullpen arm or a utility bat for Beltran. We’ve cleared plenty of salary in the coming years by moving McCann and Gardner, while paving the way for top prospects Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge in the process. And we’ve filled out the low minors with some lottery ticket 19-year-olds along the way. Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances are still there. Ditto Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi. Didi Gregorius and Jacoby Ellsbury are still up the middle, and Greg Bird and Luis Severino will be ready to make an impact in 2017. Plus, there’s the money. All that Yankee money.
For a complete teardown, the Yankees still have quite a bit left. And quite a bit yet to gain. It’s an unfamiliar feeling for New York, being in the position of a seller, but one that’s made itself inevitable. The fire-sale option is here for the Yankees, if they want it. Now, we just see how far they go with it.
August used to cover the Indians for MLB and ohio.com, but now he's here and thinks writing these in the third person is weird. So you can reach me on Twitter @AugustFG_ or e-mail at email@example.com.