The Yankees And Torii Hunter

In my April 6th post "The Torii Hunter Situation," I didn’t mention that Yankees as a potential suitor.  I figured Johnny Damon was cemented as the team’s center fielder.  But now Damon says he’d be willing to move to right field for Hunter.  Such a switch could push Gary Sheffield to DH, not a bad thing. 

If Damon’s arm is not good enough for center field, I don’t know how it would suffice in right.  But let’s put that little problem aside for a moment and try to determine whether the Yanks have the goods on the farm to get a deal done.

I think New York most certainly has the players to make this type of trade.  They may see starting pitching as more of a concern, but some combination of these players is likely to be traded this summer.

Philip Hughes – Would the Yanks trade their one bona fide pitching prospect?  If the past is any indication, yes.  The 19 year-old righty ranks as the 12th best pitching prospect in the game, according to Baseball Prospectus. 

Hughes has drawn some Mark Prior comparisons, and that includes the injury proclivities.  PECOTA, however, considers Jake Peavy his #1 comp.  The kid has had his way with the Florida State League so far (high class A ball).  He’s got ten scoreless innings under his belt for the Tampa Yankees this year, and could find himself in the Trenton Thunder rotation in a couple of months.  If the Yanks want one of those marquee Marlins, Hughes will be a requirement.  Could they get Hunter without trading Hughes?  Maybe.

Robinson Cano – You know him, you love him.  The Rennie Stennett wannabe burst onto the Major League scene last year with a .297/.320/.458 line in 544 plate appearances.  PECOTA sees a dip to a .726 OPS this year from the 23 year-old second baseman.  That’s OK, though some would say that he defense pushes him towards the bottom half of the 2B rankings

Cano’s trade value is sky-high, and the Twins have a $5.75MM option for 2007 on Luis Castillo.  Given that a Hunter trade would be a white flag, the Twins would likely ship Castillo elsewhere as well.  Maybe even in the same package.

Jose Tabata – For a team in rebuilding mode, Tabata would be quite a prize to pluck from the Yankees’ system.  Tabata is a 17 year-old outfielder for the Charleston RiverDogs (low class A).  He’s dominated the South Atlantic League so far with a .390/.395/.537 line in 10 games.  He’s a five-tool player with a huge ceiling, though he hasn’t been nearly as difficult to strike out this year as he was in the past.  A perfect fit for the Marlins, though he could make a Hunter trade pay off in a big way for the Twins in 2008 and beyond.

Eric Duncan – He makes for an interesting prospect, and the Yankees have been aggressive in promoting him.  The 21 year-old struggled in Double A last year but begins this season at Columbus anyway.  He’ll be a corner infielder in the bigs.  Duncan has been involved in trade rumors for a while now, but so far the accelerated schedule hasn’t helped his prospect status.      

With major questions in the last two rotation spots, the Yankees are doing to need to make a major deal or two.  To fire off their best bullets to acquire Hunter doesn’t make much sense, even if Damon likes the idea.

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