So the Yankees didn’t get Gerrit Cole, who was traded to the Astros Saturday, but the package the Pirates received was underwhelming enough to make me think Brian Cashman has a bigger deal in mind.
Yes, Yu Darvish.
Two sources on Saturday night said Cashman’s interest in signing Darvish, which he essentially made public during a WFAN interview on Thursday, is very real, largely because he believes this stalled free-agent market gives the Yankees a chance to get the Japanese star pitcher at a “reasonable” price.
What’s reasonable? Not seven years and $160 million, which sources say the Yankees never offered to Darvish, contrary to what Michael Kay said on his ESPN radio show on Thursday.
That might be Darvish’s asking price, but with teams throughout baseball determined to limit the length of long-term contracts, and the righthander coming off that poor World Series performance, the Yankees seem to think it’s possible they could get him for five years, $80-$90 million.
At that price it would be hard to argue with the move, as Darvish, at age 31, has such elite stuff that he ought to be able to pitch at a high level into his mid-30s.
But even at $16-$18 million a year, the cost would put the Yankees over the luxury-tax threshold, and as Cashman said on the radio, barring a change of mind by ownership, they’re not going there.
The Yankees are far from desperate for a starting pitcher, but for the right price would get Yu Darvish.
So they’d have to move significant salary in a trade, and the only guy they want to deal at this point is Jacoby Ellsbury, who is still owed three years and $68 million, including a $5 million buyout on his 2021 option year.
Ellsbury has a no-trade clause, which complicates matters, but even if he’s willing to waive it for the chance to play regularly somewhere, the Yankees would have to eat more than half the remaining contract to have any hope of making a deal with someone like the Giants, who need a center fielder.
Otherwise they’d have to trade either David Robertson or Brett Gardner to create payroll room, and I don’t think Cashman wants to do that.
In any case, there is clearly some optimism on the Yankee GM’s part that he can find a way to make all of this work with Darvish, or I have to believe he would have put together a package to get Cole from the Pirates.
As it turned out, the Astros didn’t give up any of their most highly-regarded prospects, most notably outfielder Kyle Tucker or pitcher Forrest Whitley.
Instead they traded four players, including pitcher Joe Musgrove, who pitched well out of the bullpen for the Astros last season after failing as a starter; major-league reliever Michael Feliz; 25-year old third baseman Colin Moran, ranked the Astros’ No. 9 prospect by Baseball America; and outfielder Jason Martin, considered a fringe prospect.
Brian Cashman wanted Gerrit Cole only at his price.
(Justin Berl/Getty Images)
All of which had baseball people scratching their heads.
“I’d rather have (Clint) Frazier and anybody else I could get from the Yankees than that package,” an AL scout said Saturday night. “I don’t get it.”
All indications were that Cashman was willing to trade Frazier, and it was thought he’d be willing to include pitching prospect Chance Adams, but perhaps he grew to feel strongly enough about the Darvish opportunity that he held tighter to his prospects than expected.
Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington’s cryptic quote to the Pittsburgh media after the trade became official added to such speculation.
“There was a lot of fiction out there about who we were asking for, who we were stuck on, who was available,” Huntington said. “There’s a lot of nonfiction that’s not out there about who wasn’t available.”
There were reports that the Pirates wanted Miguel Andujar in any package from the Yankees, which would make sense since Moran, a third baseman, was perhaps the key player in the Astros’ package for them, and Cashman wouldn’t include him.
(Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Whatever the reason, Cashman wanted Cole only at his price, and that made sense. Though the Yankees thought he still had ace-like potential, he hasn’t pitched at that level since 2015, and he can be a free agent after two more seasons.
Meanwhile, the Yankees are far from desperate for a starting pitcher. They have a very solid rotation, with some blue-chip pitching prospects coming in the next couple of years.
However, they have championship-or-bust expectations now, and while beating out the Red Sox in the AL East is their primary concern, they have to be mindful that the Cole trade gives the Astros an imposing starting rotation in 2018, joining Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers, and Charlie Morton.
Cashman can always wait until July to trade for more pitching, as he did last summer, but he clearly wants another dominant starter.
If he can get Darvish and hold onto Frazier and his other top prospects, all the better. More to the point, if he can get the Japanese star for less than $100 million and still get under the luxury-tax threshhold by trading Ellsbury, he’ll be the early favorite to win Executive of the Year honors for the second straight year.
Source: Ny Daily News