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If Yanks trade for SP, here are some options

Ray, Samardzija, Cueto, Archer, Smith could draw interest in the Bronx
@RichardJustice
February 26, 2020

For now, the Yankees will do nothing to replace injured Luis Severino. For one thing, Yanks general manager Brian Cashman prides himself on his organizational depth, a strategy that worked nicely last season when Severino missed the first five months of the regular season. For another, this isn’t trading season.

For now, the Yankees will do nothing to replace injured Luis Severino. For one thing, Yanks general manager Brian Cashman prides himself on his organizational depth, a strategy that worked nicely last season when Severino missed the first five months of the regular season. For another, this isn’t trading season. Virtually every team is reluctant to make a trade that gives the appearance of pulling the plug on a new season.

Besides, the Yankees’ front three of Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ should be good enough to get them through the early part of the schedule. And if James Paxton (recovering from back surgery) and Domingo Germán (eligible to rejoin the Yanks’ roster after his suspension as of June 5) return in the first half, the team may not need to look outside for a veteran arm.

In addition, Cashman has four highly regarded young arms in Jordan Montgomery, Jonathan Loaisiga, Mike King and Deivi Garcia, and all of them could pitch Major League innings in 2020.

Still, there are options available on the trade market, and virtually all of them could be available immediately if the Yankees decide to go in that direction. Let’s rank them in order of impact and cost, beginning with the biggest impact and highest cost:

1. Robbie Ray, LHP, D-backs
Robbie Ray is where every pursuit of starting pitching now begins. But why would an Arizona team with legitimate postseason hopes even entertain the idea of dealing its No. 2 starter? First, Ray, 28, is in his final season before free agency. Second, in Madison Bumgarner, Luke Weaver, Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and others, the D-backs have enviable pitching depth. Executive vice president and general manager Mike Hazen plays the long game better than almost anyone, and dealing Ray for a coveted prospect would make sense. However, Hazen would like to see more of his young pitchers before any Ray trade, meaning the Yankees likely would have to seriously overpay.

2. Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Giants
The Giants are rebuilding, and San Francisco president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi knows he has a potential hot midsummer commodity in Jeff Samardzija, the 35-year-old right-hander coming off a solid 2019 season (1.11 WHIP) and headed into his free-agent walk year. There’s some leverage on both sides in this negotiation since Samardzija’s value may be at its highest point before Opening Day. If the Yankees decide to acquire someone, this might be Cashman’s first telephone call.

3. Johnny Cueto, RHP, Giants
Johnny Cueto appears to be healthy for the first time since 2017, and he’s optimistic: “I feel like the arm is a baby.” He’s also 34 years old, has made just 13 starts in the past two seasons and will make $21.8 million in each of the next two seasons (with a $5 million buyout for 2022). In short, Cueto is a huge gamble with a potentially huge payoff. It’s possible the Giants would consider paying some of that salary to get a better prospect package.

4. Chris Archer, RHP, Pirates
The Yankees probably could get Chris Archer today, and he is an intriguing possibility after a nightmarish 2019 season in which he had a 5.19 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP. The good news is that his strikeout rate (39.5%) was in line with his career norms, and the whiff rate on his slider (42.2%) was still elite. In other words, the Yanks’ analytics department would have plenty to work with. Archer has a very modest contract: He’s due $9 million for this season, with an $11 million club option for 2021. Archer was acquired in a divisive 2018 Deadline deal by former Pirates general manager Neil Huntington, but new GM Ben Cherington doesn’t have any attachment to Archer, making him a prime trade candidate.

5. Caleb Smith, LHP, Marlins
Caleb Smith is 28 years old and about to become eligible for salary arbitration. He’s also coming off a breakthrough of sorts in 2019, with 28 starts, 153 1/3 innings, a 4.52 ERA and a 26.0% strikeout rate. Smith, who was drafted by the Yankees in '13 and made his MLB debut with New York in '17 before being dealt to Miami in November of that year, is more of a back-end option. However, he is under club control through '23, which means he’d be more than just a rental. And as we saw with the Giancarlo Stanton trade two years ago, Derek Jeter’s Marlins are not afraid to swing creative deals with the Yankees.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.