After making a giant splash in free agency for Gerrit Cole, the New York Yankees could add another superstar in Nolan Arenado.
So far this winter, the New York Yankees have already, arguably, won the baseball offseason. But come on… these are the Yankees. There’s a way for general manager Brian Cashman to further improve his team in a major way.
Since Miguel Andujar is expected to be fully healthy at the start of spring training, Cashman and his staff will need to have an idea of who they’ll want to pencil in as the starting third baseman.
Currently, both Gio Urshela and Andujar are expected to compete for the starting position later this spring. If the Yankees are unsure about Andujar’s long-term health, then they should definitely consider trading their young third baseman this offseason.
With the Yankees shopping Andujar, that would mean Urshela would be considered as the favorite to win the starting gig this spring. But, there are some concerns within the organization regarding his ability to replicate his 2019 performance, where he recorded 21 home runs, 74 RBI, .889 OPS, 132 wRC+ along with a 3.1 fWAR.
So, the Yankees would probably prefer to receive a reliable and experienced third baseman in exchange for Andujar. Meaning, Cashman could approach the Rockies about acquiring five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner, Nolan Arenado.
Earlier this offseason, the Rockies placed the superstar third baseman on the trading block per his request. The 28-year-old also owns a full no-trade clause and he can opt-out after the 2021 season as well.
While it would require a massive package to pry Arenado away from Colorado, New York certainly owns the resources to accomplish that feat.
Starting with Arenado’s contract, Cashman and the Yankees will need to absorb somewhere around 70% of the remaining $234 million left on his current seven-year deal. For the sake of this article, let’s say the Yankees take on $164 million of Arenado’s salary.
So, that means the Rockies would have to pay just $70 million over the next seven seasons. For the Yankees, they would receive a $10 million break per season on Arenado’s contract. Meaning, the right-hander would cost New York just $25 million per season through the 2024 campaign, instead of $35 million/season.
In order for the Yankees to take on $164 million over seven years, they’ll need to send the Rockies J.A. Happ along with his $17 million salary for next season. In addition, Colorado would also become responsible for Happ’s vesting 2021 option for $17 million, which is exercised if the left-hander makes at least 27 starts or completes 165 innings in 2020.
With Happ’s contract off the books and Arenado costing $10 million cheaper per season, the Yankees’ payroll would only increase by $8 million in 2020.
Along with Happ, Cashman would need to surrender Andujar and three prospects to acquire Arenado. Those prospects would include, Luis Gil, Josh Breaux and Garrett Whitlock. Based on Arenado’s opt-out clause and the $164 million New York is absorbing, this package may seem like an overpay. However, only one of these prospects is ranked in the top-five of the Yankees’ minor-league system.
According to MLB Pipeline, Gil is currently ranked as the Yankees’ No. 4 top prospect. During his 83 innings of work at low-A in 2019, Gil produced a 2.39 ERA, 2.50 FIP, 3.06 xFIP, 1.19 WHIP, .195 OPP AVG, 32.0% strikeout rate, 11.1% walk rate and a 1.7% HR/FB rate as well.
The 21-year-old mainly relies on his upper 90s fastball and high spin curveball. Even if he’s unable to develop four pitches as a starter, Gil could serve as a shutdown closer in the majors.
As for Breaux, the 22-year-old would become the catcher of the future for Colorado. This past season at low-A, Breaux created ten doubles, 13 home runs, 49 RBI, .246 ISO, .320 BABIP, 141 wRC+ along with a slashing line of .271/.324/.518/.842 over 51 games played.
Despite his impressive arm strength from behind the plate, Breaux struggles with his accuracy when attempting to throw runners out. Although, his defense has improved significantly during his second professional season, as he committed just a single error through his 177.1 innings of work.
Since Andujar, Gil and Breaux are the centerpieces of the trade, Whitlock will serve as the “sweetener” to complete the deal. During his 70.1 innings pitched at double-A, the 23-year-old made 14 starts and generated a 3.07 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 3.09 xFIP, 1.29 WHIP, .264 OPP AVG, 19.2% strikeout rate, 6.1% walk rate and an 8.2% HR/FB.
Unfortunately for Whitlock, his encouraging 2019 campaign was cut short due to his Tommy John surgery. While he’ll likely miss the majority of next season, Whitlock should be able to make his MLB debut during the 2021 season.
Despite the steep price for Arenado, the soon-to-be 29-year-old would make the Yankees virtually unstoppable over the next few seasons. During the 2019 season, Arenado played in 155 games and hit 41 home runs, 118 RBI, .269 ISO, .312 BABIP, 128 wRC+, a career-high 5.9 fWAR along with an outstanding hitting line of .315/.379/.583/.962.
In addition, Arenado also generated his lowest strikeout rate (14.0%) since the 2014 season. Since Arenado’s FB rate (44.7%) ranked fifth-highest among all qualified third basemen in the league during this past season, he shouldn’t have any issues replicating his impressive power numbers over in the AL East.
While his defensive numbers have slightly declined over the past two seasons, Arenado was still one of the best defensive third basemen throughout the entire league in 2019. During this past season, Arenado produced the third-most DRS (+8), second-best UZR (10.3), was tied for the best UZR/150 (12.0) and the righty committed the 13th-fewest number of errors (9) among qualified third basemen.
Based on Urshela’s -4 DRS, -2.5 UZR and -3.4 UZR/150 from this past season, Arenado would serve as a significant defensive upgrade over him.
If Arenado can remain healthy and continues to play in at least 150 games over the next five seasons, he’ll prove to be a steal at just $25 million per season. The superstar third baseman will also further help the Yankees accomplish their goal of returning to the World Series during next season.