I don't agree with Bowden's take on the Yankees farm but here you go:
Yankees have the prospects for a big deal.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The New York Yankees are famous for signing big-name free agents. And when you sign big-name free agents, you usually have to forfeit top draft picks. As a result, the Yankees have been criticized within the baseball circles for having a relatively weak farm system, which will make it impossible for them to add impact players before the trade deadline.
However, I've spoken to several general managers in recent weeks who disagree with this sentiment and believe the Yankees have what it takes to make a big deal (or two) this summer if they decide to give team captain Derek Jeter one more shot at October.
With injuries and ineffectiveness plaguing much of their starting rotation, the Yankees need a top-of-the-rotation starter to complement Masahiro Tanaka, as none among CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda or Michael Pineda can be counted on to fill that role at this point.
Of the big-name starters with a chance to be traded this summer, the most appealing are Jeff Samardzija, David Price and Cliff Lee, because they are all signed beyond this year and would not simply be rentals. The problem is that the Yankees don't match up perfectly with those three clubs. The Cubs will want top-end starting pitching prospects, which is not the Yankees' strength, the Rays will be hesitant to deal within their division even if they are out of the race and Lee is currently on the DL, and his timetable for return is uncertain.
Among "rental" pitchers, the names that come to mind are James Shields (assuming the Royals fall out of the race) and Justin Masterson (if he starts pitching better).
There is a second tier of pitchers who aren't rentals who could also be in play: Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and Bartolo Colon, though the latter three might be a stretch, as the Mets and Yankees rarely make trades featuring prominent big leaguers.
When you hear the Yankees are in the market for a starter between now and July 31, these will likely be the names in play. And here are the players they can use to get them.
While relievers are rarely centerpieces of major deals, you can be sure teams will be asking about Dellin Betances and Adam Warren. Both are 26 years old, cost-controlled and have been dominant this year, with Warren whiffing a batter per inning and Betances striking out 51 in just 30.2 innings pitched. Besides, the Yankees' farm system is strong enough that they won't have to trade off the major league club.
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Betances has been excellent thus far for the big league club this season.
The Yankees' best prospect -- and biggest trade chip -- should be 21-year-old catcher Gary Sanchez, who has been rushed through their system but still has a career OBP of .339 and is holding his own at Double-A Trenton with a .723 OPS. He still needs to work on blocking balls, but he has an excellent arm and projects to hit for power. The Yankees gave free-agent catcher Brian McCann a five-year, $85 million dollar pact last winter, and Sanchez became their best trade chip the moment they did that.
After Sanchez, the Yankees can also shop Pete O'Brien, a catcher whose future is probably elsewhere, and right-handed pitcher Luis Severino. O'Brien, 23, is a power bat who was termed a "beast" by a respected GM who saw him recently. He earned a promotion to Trenton after putting up a .321/.353/.688 for high Class A Tampa.
Severino, 20, is quickly coming into his own at low Class A Charleston. He has punched out 47 and walked just 10 in 44 ⅓ innings this year. He gets good downward plane on his fastball despite his 6-foot frame.
A year ago, you would have thought the Yankees' best trade chips would be outfield prospects such as Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams, but they haven't progressed as well as many hoped. That said, New York could shop one of their three first-round picks of a year ago, such as third baseman Eric Jagielo -- slugging .500 for Tampa -- or Aaron Judge, who is hitting .310/.411/.454 at Charleston. Of course, neither one of them can be traded until exactly one year from when they signed, but they could be included as a "player to be named later" until the legal date is reached.
Other secondary trade assets include Dante Bichette Jr., who has significantly improved his approach at Tampa, and his high Class A teammate, center fielder Jake Cave, who is opening eyes with his rapid development. The Yankees also have some power arms other than Severino who could be used in a blockbuster package, including right-handers Jose Campos, Rafael De Paula and Bryan Mitchell, all of whom will end up pitching in the major leagues in time.
What will it take?
If the Yankees are to swing a deal for an elite arm, we can get a good sense of what they would need to give up by looking at last summer's Matt Garza trade. In that deal, the Texas Rangers gave up one elite prospect (right-hander C.J. Edwards) and two "B" prospects in third baseman Mike Olt and righty Justin Grimm to acquire Garza.
So let's say New York were to swing a deal for Shields -- again, assuming K.C. is out of the race -- it would probably need to surrender a similar kind of package. Of course, under the new collective bargaining agreement, the Yankees could not give Shields (or any rent-a-player) a qualifying offer, and thus could not reap a draft pick if he signs elsewhere, but that's the risk they would have to take, just as Texas did last year.
A deal for Samardzija, who wouldn't be a rental, would cost a little more, probably two elite prospects of the Sanchez/Severino level, as well as a throw-in from the lower levels.
You can criticize the Yankees if you'd like, but the Steinbrenners have never been afraid to make "win-now" moves. As Hal Steinbrenner said at the recent owners meetings, "We're always willing to look at options come July ... We're going to do what we need to do to stay in."
The Yankees have quietly amassed the assets needed to make a pennant-changing trade, and I expect them to be active this summer.