The outfield situation has been alleviated by the surprise acquisition of Ichiro Suzuki from the Seattle Mariners. There’s one problem though. The relief this trade brings is very temporary, ending after this season. With Nick Swisher‘s contract up after this season, the Yankees will have to sign someone to replace him or make a trade in the off-season. Any and all of the Yankees prospects that even have a chance to contribute in the near future won’t arrive until the 2014 season unless something accelerates their development significantly. That said, there are a few trade targets the Yankees could go after that would benefit the team through the 2013 season.
Surprisingly Hunter Pence and Jason Kubel have not come up much in trade talks, yet both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies appear to be sellers at this stage of the game. Both have contracts that expire after the 2013 season, which actually fits perfectly with the Yankees’ austerity budget. Both are prolific players in the midst of excellent seasons. Both are still in the prime of their career, with contracts that end before the decline phase usually starts.
Let’s look at my favorite player first. The unheralded Jason Kubel is putting up one of the best seasons of his career. He’s hitting for a monstrous quadruple slash of .300/.372/.585/.956, and has 21 homeruns and 71 RBI. He is exactly what the Yankees need this season to compete for a title. Kubel plays most of his innings in left field, but is capable of playing right field as well. He fills a need definitively, and he’s a power lefty bat. The contract is two years, $16 million. It’s both cheap and short. Kubel fits in perfectly with the Yankees philosophy, which is patience and power. He’s not known for his defense, which is something Cashman has shown he values recently. In fact, he’s actually known to be a poor defender, but he more than makes up for it with the bat.
With players like Zoilo Almonte, Ramon Flores, Mason Williams, and Tyler Austin coming up through the system, he could be the perfect stop gap to replace Nick Swisher after this season to give those players another year to develop. He also falls into the plan to get under $189 million by 2014. He may not be available, as it appears that Justin Upton is the only one the Diamondbacks are currently shopping. He also may be too expensive, but if he’s cheaper than Upton he’d be a better fit.
Next up is Hunter Pence. We’ve seen this year that the Phillies are willing to shop most of their players, even if they are on multi-year deals. Hunter Pence is another player whose contract expires after the 2013 season. He’s still just 29 years old, and in the prime of his career. Pence is having a down year, with a .271/.338/.457/.796 quadruple slash, but his career numbers would indicate he’s in for a regression to the mean (.290/.342/.482/.824). It also couldn’t hurt to move from the anemic Philadelphia Phillies offense to the booming New York Yankees lineup.
He already has 17 homeruns on the season, with 57 RBIs. He’s stolen four bases. He is alrso a very patient hitter, which would again fit in with the Yankees. His contract is still pretty good, but more expensive than Kubel’s ($10.4 million this season, then arbitration). More importantly, it ends after the 2013 season which would give New York flexibility. His name hasn’t come up in any trade rumors yet, but the Phillies are shopping Shane Victorino, who actually has more years left of team control.
Unfortunately, neither the Phillies or the Diamondbacks have given any indication that they are shopping these players. It can’t hurt to inquire about their availability though, especially if something should change and they should become available. It would stand to reason that the cost for either one of these guys would be hefty, but one would expect them to be less than the price for Justin Upton. I also wonder if Nick Swisher could be included in the deal to make it happen. I’d hate to see him go, but it wouldn’t kill me send off a guy who has struggled mightily in the playoffs and has a contract that expires after this season anyway.
To me, these two players would represent a happy medium, where the Yankees gave up good players, but not the haul it would take for Justin Upton, while still getting extremely talented players in return.
Hopefully, Cashman has at least checked in on them, and I’m sure he has. It would be real nice to see either one of these two in pinstripes, and in my opinion could make the difference between making the playoffs and competing for a world series.