Yankees offseason: Five most pivotal players

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

On a scale from "must keep" to "must get rid of", how do five players rank?

Hot stove gossip is swirling, and it currently seems like the Yankees have spoken to or have interest in any and every player of value in the free agent market and on the trading block. If the Yankees decided to pick up a key piece from a trade, who would they offer up or refuse to part with in exchange?

To get a more general picture, here are five Yankees players on different ends of the spectrum in terms of their value for trading. Included are only players currently signed for 2014, and players teams would likely want (no one want's CC Sabathia's contract).

Every SB Nation baseball blog was asked which five players on their team fit each of the criteria listed. Here is our Yankee version of the players that must be kept, should be kept, neutral, should be traded, and must be gotten rid of.

Must keep: Brett Gardner

Until Curtis Granderson's return for good in 2013 and the acquisition of Alfonso Soriano, Brett Gardner was the only solid outfielder for the Yankees. Vernon Wells turned into a pumpkin after April and Ichiro was replacement level, making Gardner not only the most valuable outfielder but also the second most valuable Yankee behind Robinson Cano. With the uncertainly over whether Granderson will return and with Soriano another year older, this could be the case in 2014 once again unless there is a serious acquisition. Gardner is relatively cheap given his value ($2.8 million in 2013), and is at a decent age of 30. The Yankees will not and should not trade away their only sure bet in their 2014 outfield.

Should keep: Ivan Nova

With the retirement of Andy Pettitte, the unceremonious departure of Phil Hughes, and the uncertainty surrounding Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, and Hiroki Kuroda, there are virtually no guarantees for the starting rotation going into 2014. In late 2013, Ivan Nova emerged from his Triple-A hiatus as a brand new pitcher with a nasty curveball to show off. His numbers in the second half were absolutely stellar as he put together an ERA of 3.10, FIP of 3.47, 2.5 fWAR, and an impressive HR/FB% of 8.4% over the full season. The only issue is that he has not put up a full and successful MLB season in his career. There have been flashes of brilliance, but it's unknown whether this success will continue. His HR/FB% was great but troubling; he is definitely more of a groundball pitcher, but a ratio that low is just very, very rare in Yankee Stadium, especially for a right-hander. He should definitely be retained due to the lack of arms, but I certainly wouldn't object if a team offered key pieces for him.

Neutral: Alfonso Soriano

Alfonso Soriano provided a shot of adrenaline that revived the Yankees' 2013 season. With the Yankees desperate for power, this trade deadline move provided some right-handed pop in the lineup and defense that wasn't too shabby either. Soriano hit 17 home runs in just 58 games and had a fantastic, for 2013 Yankees standards, 130 wRC+ and .269 ISO. Soriano could definitely carry over his power into 2014, but he could also become another Ichiro or Vernon Wells. Soriano has stretches where he is a home run machine and other times where he is a strikeout machine. Hopefully the Yankees would receive starter-level quality from him, but he's really difficult to peg, especially at another year older. He could be worth a few above-average prospects, a decent platoon player, or backend starter.

Should Trade: Mason Williams

This move would have been called crazy a year ago. After his 2012 campaign it was thought he would be the next great Yankees center fielder and was sure to play a long and illustrious career once reaching MLB. That has certainly come into question as he faced more adversity in his 2013 season in High-A. The 95 wRC+ isn't the most troubling aspect, but the .089 ISO certainly is. WIlliams was valued for his ability to not only hit for average but for power, hoping that one day he could hit 20-30 home runs. Not only that, but issues with his makeup have arisen. Williams has been frustrated with himself and has had difficulty dealing with these struggles, a quality an excellent Major League player does not have. Williams is still a high-ceiling prospect, but these concerns put plenty of doubt into that picture. If another team sees this high-ceiling, it is possible to package him into a significant deal. This is definitely a more controversial stance, but his recent struggles have certainly soured evaluations of Williams. If he turns it around early in 2014, that stance would definitely change.

Must get rid of: Vernon Wells

In need of a platoon outfielder, the Yankes turned to Vernon Wells to revive his career in the Bronx and provide Raul Ibanez-type help at a corner outfield spot. It seemed that would be the case until May, as he tore it up with 148 wRC+ until that point. The mighty God of regression came in and sent him to a very dark place. It was clear his body was unable to handle the stress of playing every day and it showed. Once Curtis Granderson returned and Alfonso Soriano was acquired, he actually looked a bit better when relegated to platooning against left-handers. That's pretty much all he is good for at this point. He is not counting against the luxury tax in 2014, but there's no use in wasting a roster spot on someone who has shown to be a replacement player. They already have that in Ichiro. If bundled with someone else, Wells could fill the need of a right-handed platoon hitter to either DH or play the corners. That, and he does not count against the luxury tax. Consider him a throw-in, but it could also be considered a weight off of all of the Yankees' shoulders.

Which five Yankees would you assign to these five spots?

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