COMMENTARY | The New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds seem like perfect trading partners as Major League Baseball’s winter meetings wind down.
There’s been talk that the two teams are ready to deal, so I thought I’d float this potential trade: New York trades Brett Gardner, Vernon Wells, and J.R. Murphy to Cincinnati for Brandon Phillips and Homer Bailey.
Why It Works for the Yankees
After Brian Cashman signed Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran, the three Yankees (Murphy, Gardner, and Wells) all became expendable.
In addition to McCann, the Yankees have four other catchers on their 40-man roster — Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez, and Murphy. (Sanchez is a few years away from reaching the major leagues.)
As far as the outfield is concerned, New York already has Alfonso Soriano to complement Ellsbury and Beltran. Gardner is the team’s most valuable trading chip and Wells could be traded as a cheap right-handed bat. (The Los Angeles Angels will be paying $18.6 million of his $21 million contract next season.) That leaves the Yankees with the seemingly untradeable Ichiro Suzuki, as ESPN reported, as the team’s extra outfielder.
New York Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner.
As for Phillips, who will turn 33 next season, the four-time Gold Glove winner would be able to take over second base from Robinson Cano, who recently signed a 10-year deal with the Seattle Mariners.
If they are unable to win the rights to negotiate with Japanese pitching ace Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees will need to search hard to find relatively inexpensive starting pitching. The arbitration-eligible Bailey is expected to earn about $9 million next season. (He can become a free agent in 2015.) Bailey, who had 199 strikeouts last season, could easily serve as the Yankees’ third or fourth starting pitching, behind C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda.
Why It Works for the Reds
Cincinnati seems ready to lose center fielder Shin-Soo Choo to free agency this offseason, leaving Jay Bruce as the team’s only outfielder with power. The Reds’ 2009 second-round draft pick — the speedster Billy Hamilton — may be able to take over center field. (He batted .368 in 13 games while stealing 13 out of 14 bases.) However, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s C. Trent Rosecrans, Reds GM Walt Jocketty may be looking to trade for a player that could be a bridge to Hamilton earning the position full-time.
Rosecrans suggests that Gardner would fit the bill. However, I think Gardner could fill the Reds’ hole in left field. Seven different Reds played left field last season. Chris Heisey, who played a majority of the Reds’ games in left field, batted .237 in his fourth big-league season while driving in only 23 runs in 87 games. Xavier Paul played 59 games in left field and, for the season, batting .244 with 2 home runs and 32 RBIs. If they want to slowly develop Hamilton as the starting center fielder, I think the Reds could supplement him with Paul or Derrick Robinson and use Wells as an outfielder/pinch-hitter off the bench.
The Reds’ starting catcher, Devin Mesoraco batted .238 (.287 OBP) last season. After trading the team’s backup catcher earlier this month, Jocketty told the Enquirer that Mesoraco will have the opportunity to become the team’s front-line catcher. However, the team’s 2007 first-round draft pick has yet to live up to his big league expectations. Insurance in the form of Murphy — a 2009 second-round pick — would serve the team well.
Finally, although a team can never have too much starting pitching, if Reds traded Bailey, their starting staff next season would still include Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Mat Latos.
Why It May Not Happen – Money
According to MLB.com, Jocketty said that although the Yankees have inquired about Bailey, the Reds are not interested in trading him. “I told them we’re not trading him,” Jocketty said. “We’re trying to sign him.” However, if the Reds are unable to sign Bailey to a long-term deal, Jocketty may have to rethink his position.
Meanwhile, for the Yankees to remain on track for keeping next season’s payroll under $189 million, they cannot take on large chunks of new salary. Although he’d fill the Yankees’ tremendous hole at second base, Phillips has four years and $50 million remaining on his contract.