Much of the modern day trade speculation starts like this: you find a team that has no chance at making the playoffs and a list of decent players who aren’t signed longer than one year or two years in the future, then a good match on a playoff contender for that player. Because of this, there have been rumors abound surrounding the Yankees, most often around Carlos Beltran and Aroldis Chapman, who are free agents at the end of the year, and Andrew Miller, who is signed through 2018 at $9 million per year.
The Yankees barely scraped into the playoffs last year after missing each of the two previous seasons, beating out Los Angeles for a Wild Card by just two games and losing the Wild Card contest to Houston. This year, they are currently in fourth in the East and 11th of 15 teams in the AL at 40-42. While the record isn’t terrible, chasing three teams has greatly affected their playoff odds and FanGraphs says they have just a 7% chance of making the Postseason.
It’s safe to say that the Yankees have almost no chance of making the Postseason and while they appear to have embraced a slightly smaller market mindset by not signing any free agents this offseason, they also haven’t quite grabbed onto the way that most small market teams have built themselves into sustainable contention, trading stars without much team control left for the future.
In addition to Beltran and Chapman, the Yankees have Mark Teixeira and Ivan Nova who will become free agents at the end of the season along with C.C. Sabathia (who has a vesting option for 2017 that will activate as long as he doesn’t hurt his left shoulder), Alex Rodriguez, Nate Eovaldi and Dustin Ackley, whose years of team control end after 2017.
Of course, even if the Yankees wanted to trade any players, they have two problems. First, many of the players listed above, notably Ackley, Nova, Teixeira, and Eovaldi, are in the middle of terrible seasons, so they will likely lack in suitors. Secondly, most teams can’t afford to take on the type of contracts that Yankees hand out to free agents and Beltran ($15 million for 2016), Chapman ($11.3 million for 2016), Teixeira ($23.1 million for 2016), Sabathia ($50 million through 2017), and Rodriguez ($42 million through 2017) are all being paid more than $10 million for 2017. Making matters more complicated is that most of these players have been with the Yankees long enough to earn a no trade clause, while others, like Beltran, had them in their contract to begin with.
Because of the financial burden, if the Yankees were to deal some of these players, they would either have to eat a large percentage of the salary or would not be able to return much in the way of prospects. With nearly no shot at the playoffs this year and an aging roster, moving onto the next generation as soon as possible would be smart, although it wouldn’t stand well with their fan base.
If they were going to move on to the future, the Yankees would be interested first in returning anything of value and the top left-handed set up man in baseball would certainly return quite a bit. Seeing that Miller is on a fairly team friendly contract for the next two seasons after this one, it makes sense that the Yankees want to keep him, but it is arguably the least important position on the team for a non-contender. However, just a few days ago Miller said this about the possibility of being traded.
“The media has been throwing a few things out there, but I’ve had reassurances from them at the times I’ve talked to them that it’s something that hasn’t been discussed or planned for or anything like that,” he said. “I think that’s kind of nice.”
Given their recent history, it’s unlikely that the Yankees will agree with anyone saying they won’t contend next year or even are out of it right now. They will almost certainly hold on to Miller, the one expendable player who could actually bring back much in return.
There is still a decent chance that the Yankees will move Beltran or Chapman, but there is one other thing they will have to weigh – the qualifying offer. Beltran is currently destroying the ball like he hasn’t in years, hitting .296/.337/.567 with 19 home runs and 53 RBI, and the Yankees would almost certainly make him a qualifying offer at the end of the season to ensure they would get an extra 2017 draft pick. The same is true for Chapman, although they are interesting in bringing back the closer on a long term deal, so they would be more interested in bringing back the player than the pick.
Because they can return some value at the end of the season for these players, there is less incentive to trade them. Not only would the Yankees be abandoning the fantasy of contention in 2017, but they would also need to return the value of at least a first round pick in 2017. While they could certainly do this, Chapman’s legal issues and Beltran’s partial no trade clause complicate the situation and the Yankees may be happier just keeping everyone.