The Yankees have received trade inquiries about both third baseman Chase Headley and left fielder Brett Gardner, GM Brian Cashman told reporters (including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch). “They’re still here and they’re here for a reason, but we’ll see,” Cashman said. “We have our interest in getting younger and stronger and more flexible, and improve our present and our future. If all that provides that opportunity, then I think I’ll be talking to our owner and see if he’ll consider it.”
The switch-hitting Headley hit .253/.331/.385 with 14 homers over 529 PA last season, as he sandwiched four months of pretty good hitting between a dreadful April and a mediocre September. While he posted below-average numbers at the plate (92 wRC+) for the second consecutive year, Headley rebounded from a poor defensive year in 2015 to deliver his usual strong performance at the hot corner in 2016, with +7 Defensive Runs Runs Saved and 8.6 UZR/150.
Powered by his defense and a tremendous year on the basepaths (3.9 on Fangraphs’ Baserunning metric), Headley was worth 2.6 fWAR in 2016, which made him more than worth his $13MM salary. The veteran will earn $13MM in each of the next two seasons and turns 33 in May, however, so it makes sense that New York is at least open to listening to offers for Headley’s services as part of the club’s continuing effort to get both younger and cheaper. Since the Yankees don’t have another obvious third base option immediately ready to step in, trading Headley could be a precursor to another move to adding a third baseman.
Gardner is also entering his age-33 season, and is guaranteed $25MM over the next two seasons (counting the $2MM buyout of his $12.5MM club option for 2019). The veteran outfielder hit .261/.351/.362 with seven home runs over 634 PA and ended up with a pretty similar season to Headley — 2.4 fWAR built on excellent defense and baserunning moreso than hitting. Aside from his injury-shortened 2012, Gardner has produced at least 2.3 fWAR in every season since 2009, so it’s no surprise that teams looking for an outfield upgrade have been in touch with Cashman.
If Gardner is dealt, the Yankees could replace him in a big way in left field with Yoenis Cespedes. Cashman confirmed that he had spoken to Cespedes’ representatives and that he expects more talks to take place now that the Yankees have freed up some payroll by dealing Brian McCann.
Signing the 31-year-old Cespedes (MLBTR’s top-rated free agent on the market) would obviously cost the Yankees over $100MM and commit them to a deal well into Cespedes’ mid-30’s, which may not jibe with the team’s overall desire to get younger. Cespedes is quite a bit younger and probably more likely to remain productive in 2017 than veterans like Carlos Beltran or Jose Bautista, though those older players would also be available on much shorter contracts. Cespedes in particular would be able to replace Gardner’s defense as well, while Beltran or Bautista have defensive limitations.
“I’m going to be open-minded to what’s available,” Cashman said. “We now will pursue bats, but we’ll see if it takes us anywhere. It could be a DH-only situation; obviously the preference always is going to be someone that can provide positional ability so you have more flexibility on your roster. We’ll see where it takes us.”
The general manager acknowledged interest in reunions with Beltran and Aroldis Chapman, both dealt by the Yankees in the leadup to last year’s trade deadline.
Hoch also reports that “the Yankees have started the information-gathering process” in regards to both Rich Hill and Jason Hammel. Hill was already known to be a potential New York target this winter, while this is the first time Hammel has been linked to the Yankees (or any team) since the Cubs surprisingly declined his option after the World Series. The 34-year-old Hammel is a reliable and productive innings-eater who would be a good fit in the Yankees rotation, though his price tag could be driven up since free agent pitching is so scarce this offseason.