Top Five Yankees Trade Chips

The Yankees haven't just been promoting prospects from within to help the big club, they've used them as trade chips to get more established players. Austin Jackson [and others] to Detroit for Curtis Granderson near the 2009 Winter Meetings comes to mind, as does the Jesus Montero trade in 2012. Here's a list of the top five trades chips down on the farm heading into the Winter Meetings.

These aren't necessarily the players who just bring back the highest return. They are, however, the ones who should bring back the best value while not hurting the organization's depth or long-term positional plans too much.

1. C, Gary Sanchez: With a serious dearth of quality catching at the big league level and with players who can actually hit at the position even more scarce, the Yankees find themselves in a strong selling position, especially after signing free agent Brian McCann last offseason. With four more years left remaining on his contract at $17 million per season and a even a vesting option for the 2019 season at $15 million, McCann seemingly isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Enter Gary Sanchez.

Disregarding Sanchez's wildly overblown defensive shortcomings just for a moment, the fact is he can play the position in an everyday capacity in more than serviceable fashion [he threw out 38.9 percent of would-be base stealers] and he's regarded as one of the better hitting catcher prospects in the game. He is also entering his second full season on the 40-man roster and despite his very high ceiling he might be a luxury the Yankees simply can't afford roster-wise going forward.

He might not only bring back the most value in a trade but losing Sanchez via trade wouldn't crush the catching plans of the team now that they have McCann in the fold and the Yankees have another hot-shot catching prospect at the lower levels in Luis Torrens, a catching prospect some scouts consider to be at least on the Sanchez level, perhaps even better.

2. C, J.R. Murphy: The same theory applies here as it does with Sanchez -- the Yankees still have too many catchers on the 40-man roster [don't forget Austin Romine is still on the roster] even after dealing Francisco Cervelli to the Pittsburgh Pirates this offseason -- and one more should be expendable to fill other team needs. While Sanchez would arguably bring back the highest return in a trade, Murphy, who garners more respect from baseball insiders than the media and is widely regarded as the better defensive option, could net something of value too.

He's a high makeup, above average defensive catcher who has very little swing and miss in his game and had a pretty strong showing in the big leagues this past season [.284 in 32 games]. Throw in a pretty consistent bat and bilingual abilities, he has hardly any weaknesses in his game and could prove to be a great, cheap backup catcher for somebody short-term while giving some viable long-term ceiling too.

Like Sanchez he'll also be entering his second full season on the 40-man roster so the Yankees have to decide if he will be in their long-term plans, otherwise having him keep a valuable roster spot doesn't make much sense. The Yankees have to either use him or lose him, and with a quite a bit more trade value than Romine at the current time, he would bring back a bit more in a trade and with Torrens around, nearly a Murphy clone with arguably a bit higher upside, the depth at the position wouldn't be hurt too much.

3. OF, Jake Cave: Not on the 40-man roster yet, this former sixth round pick has seen his stock soaring the past two years after leading the Yankee farm system in hits in both seasons. He has proven very capable of playing at least an average centerfield too and shown flashes of being a bit better than that defensively, and he brings a non-stop motor and high makeup to the field everyday.

A left-handed batter without the requisite above average or better power potential to slide into one of the corner outfield spots long-term, and thus offensively a better centerfield option, he has quickly become a superfluous option for the Yankees with both Brett Gardner [signed through 2018 with a 2019 team option] and Jacoby Ellsbury [signed for six more years] around for the foreseeable future. Cave isn't quite on their level speed-wise either.

The bottom line? He doesn't really fit into the Yankees' long-term plans as they're currently constructed and thus becomes a very tradeable asset, one which allows the Yankees to deal from a position of strength. And throw in the presence of Dustin Fowler at the lower levels, a Cave-like player tools-wise with a bit more power potential, losing Cave wouldn't destroy the organization's outfield depth too much.

4. UT, Jose Pirela: Going on the premise that Rob Refsnyder is more in the team's long-term plans as a potential starting second baseman for the ball club, Pirela, whose best defensive position is clearly second base, has quickly become a very serviceable trade chip for the Yankees after another strong showing in 2014 [.305 with 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases in Triple-A, and a .333 showing in 24 big league at-bats]. Throw in the utility presence of Martin Prado on the big league roster who is under contract for two more seasons, if Pirela is not going to be the everyday second baseman it might make more sense to trade him now while his value is at its highest point.

He can hit, he shows a nice combination of average power and speed, he can play a few different positions, and his youth, exuberance, and high-energy style of play could be very admirable traits for a team looking for some cheap infield depth. He might not bring back a ton of big league ready talent but he could bring back a high-ceiling, lower level talent to add to the organization's depth while saving a 40-man roster spot.

5. OF, Tyler Austin: Austin gets listed last here simply because he has what the Yankees need the most right now; a young right-handed bat with power potential who can play a corner outfield spot. But he also gets listed here because a year from now he too could become a bit superfluous for the Yankees if hot-shot slugging prospect Aaron Judge continues to emerge. Both play essentially the same position [right field] and Judge offers a bit more power potential so he might fit into the team's plans a bit better.

Possessing tremendous makeup, power, solid defensive abilities, and proving he is once again healthy after a near 1.000 OPS in the second half in Double-A Trenton this past season, while his stock might not be at an all-time high, it might be high enough again to getting something of value back in a potential trade. Losing Austin would sting short-term but the Yankees have some depth coming up behind him where it wouldn't be too costly long-term.

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