Matt Imbrogno touched on this briefly yesterday, but there was one thing that Cash said the other day when speaking the media at the GM meetings that really stood out to me. When asked if he had been engaged in trade talks with any other teams, Cash mentioned that teams had called asking about four specific players: Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner, Russell Martin, and A.J. Burnett. While he didn't say who the teams were, or what, if any, players they were offering up as hypothetical return trade pieces, the fact that there are teams out there interested in those four guys got me thinking. And the more I think about it, the more I think I could live with any or all of them being traded.
Swish was really no surprise to read about. There had been all kinds of rumblings about whether or not the Yankees should and would pick up his 2012 option, and you can't come across many Yankee blogs that haven't included Swish as potential trade bait to bring in a pitcher. For what he brings to the table, Swish would be a valuable addition to almost any team. He gets on base, he hits for power, hits from both sides of the plate, plays a good outfield, and can even be a backup option at first base if needed. And he's in the last year of a contract, so wherever he plays this coming season you know he's going to be motivated to perform at a high level so he can earn a big pay day.
Brett Gardner, on the other hand, was one of the names that I was surprised to read, even though I probably shouldn't have been. With his speed and ability to make contact, Gardner would be an ideal leadoff candidate for plenty of teams out there. You throw in the good defense and the team-friendly salary and you could probably start a discussion with Billy Beane about one of his young pitchers around Gardner. As valuable as he's been the last 2 years, the reality is that Gardner is the Yankees' #9 hitter and won't be leading off for them until Derek Jeter finally does fall off the offensive cliff. Would you really say no to trading the team's #9 hitter and a prospect or two for Gio Gonzalez if that would get it done?
The fact that both Swish and Gardner have reasonable salaries with the Yankees makes them less likely to be traded, but it also explains why so many other teams would be interested in them. And with the Yankees' deep pockets, having to fill a corner outfield spot wouldn't be that hard. It makes it a lot easier to justify going after Carlos Beltran when there's actually a spot for him. And with the Yankees' rumored heavy involvement in the upcoming Yoenis Cespedes sweepstakes, they could already be looking for their next right fielder to replace Swish after his contract is up.
Along with Gardner, Russell Martin was the other name that surprised me initially. But once again, the more I thought about it the more I realized that it makes perfect sense. Martin's value is on the rise again after this past season. He stayed healthy for the first time in a few years and was productive both at and behind the plate. This isn't exactly the Golden Age of Catchers right now, so Martin showing that he can still get the job done probably opened more than a few eyes. The Yankees are holding onto a small army of young catching prospects in the Minors, other teams know that, and so why wouldn't they be calling to inquire about Russell's services? And knowing he has all those prospects waiting in the wings, why wouldn't Cash listen if there's a pitcher on the other team that he likes?
As far as A.J. goes, I think any GM willing to put in a call to Cash about him deserves to at least have Cash buy him a drink at the winter meetings for being such a funny guy. A.J. sucks, period. And with the money left on that contract, he sucks even more because he's next to impossible to move. I know the Yankees are looking to add starting pitching, not give it away, but if teams are truly interested in talking about A.J., Cash would be a fool not to listen. I have no problem getting a season's worth of rough outings and a FIP in the 5's from Phelps, Warren, Mitchell, or Noesi in A.J.'s place in 2012. In fact, I'd welcome it. At least they could play the rookie card to explain their mediocrity. One man's trash is another man's treasure, and maybe Cash could get a diamond in the rough back for A.J. since we know he won't be getting anybody on Baseball America's Top 100.
Now I, like Cash, am really not interested in actively pursuing a trade involving any of these four guys. Well except A.J. I'd trade him for a Gatorade cooler, some athletic tape, and a filled out scorecard, but that's just me. But considering their situations with the Yankees, and the fact that none of them would be overly difficult to replace, you have to be open to scenarios, especially ones that could bring back starting pitching. The Yankees likely aren't going to pull a Gardner-for-John Danks heist on the White Sox (although with Kenny Williams you never know), but it's not unreasonable to think that one of either Gardner, Swish, or Martin and a pair of young guys from the bevy of prospects the Yankees have in their farm system could bring in a solid arm for the rotation. It certainly wouldn't be the first time Cash came out of nowhere with a deal, right?
Think about it...