Thursday, June 10, 2010

Which Yankee Has The Highest Trade Value?

In the hours following Stephen Strasburg's Brendan-Fraser-in-The-Scout -level debut for the Nationals on Tuesday, my buddy Howie posed this question to me (@danhanzus ) via Twitter:

Most trade value: Mauer, Hanley, Pujols or Strasburg? I say #Strasburg easy.

I said I thought Mauer may be the most valuable of the group, but the size of the catcher's contract (eight years, $184 million) combined with Strasburg's age (21) made the Nats right-hander the easy choice.

That got me thinking about which one of the Yankees had the most trade value. Hmmmm...

First some ground rules:

  • I'm only concerning myself with the 25-man roster and a couple of the DL stashees right now. The downside, of course, is that I can't use the eight to 10 stellar Kei Igawa jokes I had lined up.
  • Money and age matter. Who would be more attractive to a prospective suitor: A-Rod, 34, with $170 million remaining on his contract, or Robinson Cano, 27, with $15 million left on his?
  • I'm going to keep the Core Four out of the mix here. Even within the confines of a completely hypothetical blog post, it would be ridiculous to discuss the trade value of Jeter/Mo/Po/Pettitte. Those old dogs are staying on the porch.

Let's get started...


22) Alex Rodriguez, 3B: A-Rod is smack in the middle of the most untradeable contract in the history of professional sports (10 years, up to $300 million with escalators, signed back in 2007).

You want insanity? The Yankees owe him $150 million in the next five seasons alone and are on the hook to pay him through his 42nd birthday in 2017.

The Yankees could offer to eat half of the remaining dollars, and I bet they still wouldn't find a taker. It's no surprise that the Rodriguez contract re-up also doubled as Hank Steinbrenner's final act of defined power in the organization.

21) Nick Johnson, DH: Let's face it, baseball's Mr. Glass has zero trade value in his current state. He's playing out a one-year, $5.5 million deal and he's already on the shelf until at least September following wrist surgery. May this be a warning, not just to Brian Cashman, but to all decision-makers around the league: If the player walks with a limp, do not give him a multi-million dollar contract.

20) Chad Gaudin, RP: Money obviously isn't the roadblock to dealing Gaudin so much as a consistent ability to not be crappy. The A's already cut him loose this season, so that should tell you something.

19) Chan Ho Park, RP: Park had his moments with the Phillies last season, but he hasn't shown much in pinstripes, other than a propensity to overshare regarding his gastrointestinal problems.

He's playing out a one-year, $1.2 million deal and Brian Cashman would probably drive him to his next destination himself if he could get any real value back.

18) Kevin Russo, INF/OF

17) Ramiro Pena, INF

16) Marcus Thames, OF

Kevin Russo and Ramiro Pena are basically interchangeable—a couple of career reserves destined for a spot on the Long Island Ducks team bus in 2012.

Marcus Thames can actually hit, but he possesses the defensive skills of my seven-year-old cousin. Buyers beware.

15) Sergio Mitre, RP: The one-time Marlins prospect is now two years removed from Tommy John surgery and is playing out a one-year, $850,000 deal. He can start or come out of the 'pen with intensely average results. That's the hardest I can sell the dude.

14) Alfredo Aceves, RP: The Ace Man had been a major piece of the Yankees' bullpen for two years, but he's stuck with a back only Don Mattingly could love. If you don't mind your setup men in traction, Aceves is the guy for you. Interested?

13) Damaso Marte, RP: Left-handed relief pitchers are always in demand, unless they're Marte, who is in the second year of an unnecessarily gaudy three-year, $12 million deal.

Postseason heroics aside, Marte has been an enigma in pinstripes, and it's still hard to justify why Cashman was so eager to lock him up.

12) David Robertson, RP: Don't tell him I said this, but there are thousands of Dave Robertsons in the world. Every big league bullpen has at least three: a hard-throwing right-hander who misses bats but can't consistently pitch clean innings.

Robertson's K/9 rate may make him desirable when viewed in the right context, but the Yanks shouldn't hold their breath on that Strasburg-for-Robertson offer.

11) CC Sabathia, SP: Obviously on a much smaller scale than A-Rod's, but the size of Sabathia's deal (seven years, $161 million, signed in 2009) makes the big man difficult to move in more ways than one. If you have the resources, trading for an ace left-hander in the prime of his career is certainly tempting.

But, then again, you'll also be paying for Sabathia's 2015 season, when a then-35-year-old Carsten Charles may need a crane to leave his house.

10) A.J. Burnett, SP: Burnett is more or less exactly the pitcher the Yankees thought they were getting when they signed the right-hander to a five-year, $82.5 million deal prior to the '09 season.

Is he worth the $16.5 million annual rate his contract commands through 2013? Probably not, but his high upside, coupled with his ability to stay healthy for the past two-and-a-half years, would make him at least an intriguing thought for GMs around the league.

9) Mark Teixeira, 1B: The good news? Put aside the struggles that have accompanied his 2010 season, Teixeira is a 30-year-old, Gold Glove-winning first baseman who doubles as a virtual lock for 35+ homers and 120 RBIs every season.

The bad news? He's in the second year of an eight-year, $180 million deal. If you have the scratch, he has immense trade value. But how many teams can even entertain that thought?

8) Francisco Cervelli, C: Cervelli remains an intriguing figure in the Yankees' landscape. He was a prospect who couldn't hit in the minors, then he got called up into emergency duty in 2009 and transformed himself into a .300 hitter at the big league level.

Cervelli's sizzling start to 2010 was equally as impressive, though he seems to be in the midst of a stiff market correction (hitting .132 since May 25).

With the Yankees loaded at the catcher position in the farm system, it's possible that Cervelli will become offseason trade bait. His defense, speed, youth, and enthusiasm would undoubtedly make him an attractive option to many teams.

7) Brett Gardner, LF: It's hard to say what Gardner's ceiling is at this point. Best-case scenario, he's an evolutionary Brett Butler with a bigger head. Worst-case scenario, he's a vagrant man's Jacoby Ellsbury without the female fanclub. His blazing speed cannot be denied, however, and his league-minimum salary helps as well.

6) Nick Swisher, RF: The White Sox obviously didn't think Swisher had much trade value, having dealt away the gregarious outfielder for the immortal Wilson Betemit, a move that ranks amongst Cashman's very best.

Swisher has made Ozzie & Co. pay ever since, returning to the form that put him on the map with the Athletics in the mid-2000s.

The five-year, $26.75 million deal signed in 2007 seems like a steal for a consistent producer in the middle of the Yankees lineup and an all-around swell guy.

5) Javier Vazquez, SP: Now that Vazquez seems to have put his slow start behind him, he can once again be viewed as a welcome piece to any team's pitching staff. He's also in the walk year of a very reasonable three-year, $34.5 million deal.

If the Yankees were ever sellers in late July, Vazquez would be at the top of many lists.

4) Curtis Granderson, CF: A groin injury wiped out a month of his first half, so Yankees fans still haven't gotten the full Granderson Effect.

But the speedy center fielder was a coveted player on Brian Cashman's wish list for some time, and his five-tool abilities, good-guy reputation, and reasonable salary ($5.5 million in '10, $8.25 million in '11, $10 million in '12) make him a desirable asset to many teams.

3) Joba Chamberlain, RP: Make no mistake, if the Yankees ever put Joba on the block, there would be interest.

Yankees fans—not to mention the Yankees themselves—are still trying to recalibrate Chamberlain's upside following his electric 2007 debut, but you can imagine teams would line up at the thought of making the 25-year-old their next closer.

Couple his potential with his affordability—he's earning just over the Major League minimum right now and becomes arbitration-eligible in 2011—and he's one sexy carrot. Please don't tell him I said that. In fact, let's just move on ...

2) Phil Hughes, SP: After three years of build up, Hughes has emerged as a Cy Young candidate in 2010. He's just 23 years old. He's essentially making the league minimum with three more years before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Yes, I'd say Mr. Hughes has a rather high trade value.

Brian Cashman resisted the temptation of shipping Hughes to the Twins in exchange for Johan Santana back in 2007, and the team is reaping the benefits of that decision now. It was the type of restraint the Yankees are famous for not having, and hopefully the organization learned an important lesson in the process.

1) Robinson Cano, 2B: For all the good things Cano had done in his previous five seasons in New York, he always seemed to leave fans expecting more. That's changed in 2010, with Cano in the midst of legitimate MVP-level campaign.

Just entering his prime at age 27, Cano is in the third year of an increasingly reasonable four-year, $30 million deal, which includes club options for 2011 and 2012.

When you factor in his production, upside, and affordability, Robbie is easily the Yankee with the highest trade value. And somewhere in an underground club in Atlanta, Melky hoists up a glow stick in his best friend's honor.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at dhanzus@gmail.com. Follow Dan on Twitter at danhanzus.