3 mock trades to upgrade the Yankees’ pitching this offseason

mlb: milwaukee brewers at cleveland guardians, shane bieber, yankees
Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees could look to the trade market to acquire starting pitching. The rotation seems set for now, but the proposition goes that the Yankees can add more insurance to their rotation if they acquire an additional starter.

As of now, Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, Marcus Stroman, Nestor Cortes, and Clarke Schmidt complete the rotation, but out of these arms, two have injury questions and one is entering his second full year as a starter.

The Yankees also have a lot of prospect capital, with Baseball America ranking six Yankees prospects in the Top 100. With the uncertainty of a Juan Soto extension, the time to strike is now. Here are three trades the Yankees could make that could have an immediate impact on their rotation.

Buying low and selling low for Shane Bieber

2020 Cy Young Shane Bieber has not been himself since an injury in 2021, ranking in the bottom 2% in the league in average exit velocity allowed along with a 47.8% Hard Hit%. Bieber has also seen a big hit to his fastball velocity, down over three miles per hour since 2020.

But there is an upside to Bieber; he doesn’t walk batters and posts a 47.5% ground ball percentage, and a slider that had hitters average .182 at the plate.

Mock Trade: Shane Bieber for No. 3 prospect Everson Pereria

The proposition here is buying and selling low on both players. Pereria had a 23 wRC+ in his 103 plate appearances, undoubtedly lowering his value due to horrid production in the majors. But Pereria’s problem was mostly whiffs, with an abysmal 43.3% whiff percentage in his limited sample in the majors, and when he made contact, he had a 54% Hard Hit rate and an average exit velocity of 91.7 miles per hour. Pairing a prospect like Pereria in a very shallow outfield, along with an organization that ranked second in contact percentage last year, there could be a good fit for him.

As for Bieber, the Yankees give up a prospect that wouldn’t fit in their organization for essentially an insurance policy for their rotation. The biggest problem for the Yankees’ pitching staff in 2023 was their durability, losing Rodon to injury before he could pitch a single inning, an extended absence of Cortes and Frankie Montas only pitching in the last game of the season left a rotation with lots of options down to mostly Gerrit Cole.

Bieber as a No. 3 or No. 4 pitcher serves as insurance for a rotation that may not need Clarke Schmidt to be a starter, but rather a long inning relief option, or more rest for players like Rodon or Cortes. It would also round out the rotation as an experienced one with a bucket load of upside.

The Yankees could try a young prospect swap

The best option for the Yankees to pursue a trade with the Marlins is to trade for former No. 2 prospect Edward Cabrera.

The price on Cabrera may be higher for a young pitcher with only one full season at the major league level. Cabrera had a 4.24 ERA in his first 99 innings in the majors but has excelled at the minor league level. Cabrera also comes with the benefit of having five years of control, which is beneficial to the Yankees, who have capital interests in several other areas, including an extension of Juan Soto.

Mock Trade: Edward Cabrera for Oswald Peraza and No. 23 prospect Yoendrys Gómez

It’s unclear if Cabrera and Peraza is a one-for-one swap, so adding Gómez to the deal could solidify it without overpaying. The pitch here is simple, a young controllable player for another young controllable player. Peraza doesn’t even have a full year of service time under his belt yet and has raked every time he’s been in Triple-A.

While losing Cabrera thins the Marlins rotation, it unblocks No. 3 prospect Max Meyer to come up at take the No. 5 spot on the rotation rather than keep him in the minors. Peraza also would be a needed option at shortstop almost immediately, competing with Jacob Amaya and Jon Berti.

Gómez would offer depth in the bullpen for the Marlins, something that may be needed with Tanner Scott in his final year of arbitration. Gómez has no minor league options with the Yankees and may open up a path for Clayton Beeter, Will Warren, or Luis Gil to act as long-inning relievers. This move would also force the Yankees to pursue a long-term extension with Gleyber Torres, who has been one of the best offensive weapons for the Yankees in the past three years.

This price is also relatively low compared to the trade market at large, with a haul needed for Dylan Cease or Corbin Burnes, the Yankees would miss Peraza but it wouldn’t affect them as much as a Spencer Jones or Jasson Dominguez would. Cabrea might not be an ace like Cease or Corbin on day one but gives the Yankees depth in the starting rotation barring a Carlos Rodon or Nestor Cortes injury like in 2023.

Corbin Burnes blockbuster

A trade for Corbin Burnes with the Milwaukee Brewers would take a lot, but the Yankees have the prospect capital and depth to do so.

Mock Trade: Corbin Burnes and Devin Williams for Clarke Schmidt, Oswald Peraza, Ian Hamilton, and No. 5 prospect Chase Hampton

Going out would be a lot of youth from the Yankees organization. Losing Peraza will not be easy depth-wise, along with Hampton as the Yankees’ best pitching prospect. What would also be costly is losing a high-upside starter in Schmidt and a relief pitcher in Hamilton with five years of team control.

In return, the Yankees get two players that could make them favorites in the AL. 2021 Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes has an obvious ace upside, with a 1.63 FIP and 35% strikeout percentage in 2021 carrying a lot of his price. But approaching his final year of arbitration, Burnes has regressed in his overall averages but increased his production in innings in both 2022 and 2023.

Williams, known as “The Airbender” could be a dominant force in the Yankee bullpen, and swapping out Hamilton for Williams after losing Michael King would be key. Williams has flirted with a 40% strikeout percentage every year since 2021, with his changeup having a 14-run value according to Baseball Savant along with a 42% whiff percentage.

The reasoning behind this trade is the Brewers’ reluctance to extend either player. The Brewers moved on from Josh Hader in his second last year of arbitration, and have not yet extended Williams this offseason. The Brewers’ feud with Burnes is documented through their previous arbitration hearing and criticism of the team. But the downside is that they are getting a possible one-year and two-year rental for Burnes and Willams respectively.

This last trade is probably unlikely for several reasons, including that the Yankees would want to invest in a Juan Soto, and may not be able to extend Burnes, but it is worth putting out there the Yankees have the prospect capital to get both Burnes and Williams with a team that is unwilling to extend either of these players. But to get Burnes, the Yankees will likely need to trade one of Hampton, Jones, or Dominguez for a high-end pitcher.

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