Options abound for Yanks on trade market

GM Cashman must decide whether to make push for postseason or build for future

June 20th, 2017

The Yankees' season has been something of a fairy tale, with their combination of veterans and Baby Bombers combining for a surprising start that has had them atop the American League East for most of 2017.

Last week was the first true hiccup for manager Joe Girardi's club, which followed up a six-game winning streak with a similar skid, dropping six straight to finish a nightmarish 1-6 West Coast swing.

That surely has general manager Brian Cashman thinking about potential moves, especially as the schedule enters the final 10 days of June. The non-waiver Trade Deadline is only six weeks away, and with so many teams in contention for postseason spots, the Yankees could find themselves competing for players as hard off the field as they're competing for wins on the diamond.

Cashman worked very hard over the past year or two in building a strong farm system with an eye toward the future, so while it's difficult to imagine him dealing away any of his top prospects -- Torres (No. 1), (6), (2), Blake Rutherford (3) and Chance Adams (7), for instance -- the system is deep, meaning youngsters such as , Dustin Fowler or Tyler Wade could be made available in the right deal.

"They're a good team, but they have flaws," one industry source said. "There are moves Cashman can make that would put them in good position for the postseason. The question is whether he's willing to part with the prospects."

The most pressing area appears to be first base, where the Yankees have gotten less production than every team in the AL except the Angels. While nine clubs have a first-base OPS of .818 or higher; the Yankees' group -- six players have taken at-bats at the position this season, though Chris Carter and Greg Bird have accounted for 236 of the team's 279 plate appearances -- entered the week with a combined .653 OPS as first basemen in 2017.

Bird, who appeared primed for a monster season after hitting .451/.556/1.098 with eight home runs in 51 at-bats this spring, got off to a dreadful start (6-for-60, one home run) during the first month before landing on the disabled list on May 2 with a bruised right ankle.

Carter has been underwhelming since taking over, hitting .203/.307/.398 with seven homers and 52 strikeouts in 118 at-bats during Bird's absence. Bird appeared to be on his way back to reclaim his position, but his 12-game rehab assignment was cut short due to a knee issue.

So now what? There will be plenty of first-base options available on the trade market, though some will come with higher price tags than others.

Hosmer is one of five key Royals headed for free agency, though he's considered the least likely to sign back with Kansas City. Hosmer bounced back from a rough April (.225/.281/.292) with seven great weeks (.351/.407/.557 since May 1) and would give the Yankees another lefty bat in their lineup.

Alonso has said publicly that he would like to remain in Oakland, but history tells us the Athletics will move their first baseman -- a free agent in the fall -- before the Deadline. Like Hosmer, Alonso would add a solid lefty bat that could take aim at the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium.

Duda -- yet another lefty-swinging first baseman -- has eight homers and a robust .924 OPS in his last 24 games. But the Yankees and Mets rarely do business -- they've made only one minor deal since 2004 -- making Duda-to-the-Bronx an unlikely scenario.

Third base has been nearly as unproductive for the Yankees, whose .668 OPS at the position ranks 13th in the AL, ahead of only the Angels and Red Sox.

Plenty of people around the league had expected 20-year-old uber-prospect to replace at third base at some point this season if the veteran continued to struggle, but that option is now off the table after Torres suffered a torn UCL in his left (non-throwing) elbow over the weekend and is headed for Tommy John surgery.

That could set up an interesting battle between New York and Boston as they look at potential third-base trade targets, though there are more than enough candidates to fill holes at the hot corner for both teams -- and others.

It's possible the Yankees could add a third baseman and move Headley to first base; that would seem to be the more logical fix as both Girardi and Cashman have an affinity for Headley, who helped the team jump out to a good start with a solid April.

Mike Moustakas

Moustakas is having his finest offensive season with 18 home runs, only four shy of his career high. His .276/.315/.544 slash line is considerably higher than his career averages, and with the 28-year-old headed for free agency, the Royals could decide to deal him for future assets.

Frazier's trade value took a major hit during the first six weeks of the season, when he posted a .609 OPS with only three home runs. But he's gone deep eight times in 30 games since May 18, with his .837 OPS representing a major upgrade. The White Sox, who began their rebuild this past offseason, have very little incentive not to trade the 31-year-old.

San Francisco's season is all but lost, but Nunez is one of its few free agents, making it likely that he'll be dealt. The former Yankees utility infielder has thrived over the past season and a half, earning a spot on the All-Star team a year ago and hitting .299 with 17 stolen bases in his first 64 games this season. Nunez has appeared at third base, shortstop and in the outfield for the Giants, but most of his playing time has been at the hot corner.

Aside from their corner-infield spots, the Yankees are likely to look for a rotation reinforcement or two. is on the DL with a hamstring injury and rookie has not thrown more than 139 1/3 innings in a season as a pro. Then there's , the team's theoretical ace who has pitched more like a No. 5 starter for all but a few starts this season. Without giving away the farm -- literally -- it's unlikely that the Yankees will be in the market for arms such as , or , but there are plenty of available starters to go around.

Cueto's opt-out clause complicates any potential trade, though a strong second half with a contender would likely result in him hitting free agency. The biggest question: Would Cueto cut his hair if he was dealt to New York?

The 34-year-old lefty is headed for free agency at the end of the season, and while he's excelled in Kansas City, a big second-half run for a contender -- especially in a high-profile place such as New York -- would boost his market value.

Another left-hander set to become a free agent after the season, Garcia has pitched well over the past month (2.57 ERA in six starts) for the struggling Braves. A ground-ball pitcher, Garcia would be a good fit in Yankee Stadium.

Holland is on a one-year deal with the White Sox as he looks to prove he can stay healthy. Chicago is in the midst of a rebuild, so dealing Holland seems like an obvious move. Holland had two brilliant months to open 2017, but he was hit hard in his first two June starts before holding the Orioles to one run over six innings in his last outing.