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Assessing the Yankee trade chips

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So, in my Huston Street love letter the other day I promised you a look what potential trade chips our New York Yankees had at their disposal.

Let's do that today.

So, let's start with a dose of reality. I have been a Yankee fan for a loooooong time, and I know there are plenty of fans out there who somehow think the Yankees ought to be able to pry, say, Albert Pujols from the St. Louis Cardinals for maybe Eric Duncan. Or Tim Lincecum from the Giants for oh, maybe, Kei Igawa.

So, we are going to be realistic here. Francisco Cervelli is a nice player, which might make Jose Molina expendable. But, no one is giving the Yankees anything truly useful for Molina at this point. No one is taking the aching, aging Hideki Matsui off the Yankees' hands. Xavier Nady can't throw, and can't be traded. Nick Swisher is hitting .220 for the second straight season, so he isn't going anywhere. The Yankees can't afford to deal either Brett Gardner or Melky Cabrera  since they barely have enough outfielders. Chien-Ming Wang has an ERA of 20.45 and can't crack the rotation. I imagine some teams will ask about him, but the Yanks aren't trading him. Damaso Marte has a huge contract and a bad shoulder, and Ian Kennedy is hurt. I can't imagine anyone wanting one of them. No one is asking for Brett Tomko, either.

Now that we have that out of the way let's look at the chips the Yankees do have to offer in a trade. I will break it down into guys on the 40-man roster, and other minor-league talent not on the 40-man roster.

The 40-man roster

I can see teams asking about Gardner or Cabrera. I can't see the Yankees entertaining the idea of dealing either of them. I could see the Yanks trying to move Molina, but I can't see him bringing much in return. Among the position players on the major-league roster, the one who probably has the most value is the slick-fielding Ramiro Pena. And, I hope the Yankees aren't willing to give him up.

Among the pitchers, the only one on the big-league club right now I can see teams asking about -- probably in a deal for a proven reliever -- is David Robertson. Jonathan Albaladejo, recently optioned to AAA, might also be appealing to some teams since he is still only 26. I'm honestly not sure how much value other teams seen in Wilkin De La Rosa, Christian Garcia or Michael Dunn, other pitchers on the 40-man roster. De La Rosa might be the best prospect of that group. Other than first baseman Juan Miranda, who I don't see as any sort of real bargaining chip, there is no one else among position players worth discussing on the 40-man roster.

None of these guys would be nearly enough to swing a deal for any sort of impact reliever -- such as Colorado's Huston Street.

The rest of the system

This is where it gets interesting. Analysts who study the minor leagues will tell you most of the Yankee talent is at AA and below, and not on the 40-man roster. From SBN's fine blog Minor League Ball, here is a ranking of the Top 20 prospects in the Yankee system.

To swing any sort of major deal, the Yankees will likely have to be willing to surrender some of the talent off this list.

The top five players on MLB's list, in order, are: Jesus Montero (C), Austin Jackson (OF), Dellin Betances (P), Austin Romine (C) and Zach McCallister (P). Guys like pitchers Mark Melancon and Andrew Brackman are top 10 prospects who aren't going anywhere. Jeremy Bleich, last year's second-round draft pick, also is not going anywhere.

With the emergence of Cervelli, and with Montero so highly regarded, I could see Romine, currently at Class A Tampa, used in a deal. McCallister (3-2, 1.91 ERA at AA Trenton) might also be trade bait.

George Kontos and Zach Kroenke are pitchers whose stock has apparently been rising, and who might have value in a trade.

Other guys who at one time were highly regarded but have slid down the prospect list would be pitchers Alan Horne and J.B. Cox. Not sure if either of them has value to other teams.

Summary

I admit that I don't have an exhaustive knowledge of the Yankee farm system. It looks to me, though, that the Yankees don't have enough in terms of 'tradeable' prospects to outbid teams with deeper systems player-for-player.

The Yankees' ability to make an impact trade might come down, as it seemingly always does, to the Steinbrenner checkbook. To make a deal for someone like Street, or an impact bat like Matt Holliday (which I find highly unlikely) the Yankees might just have to rely on their ability/willingness to take on contracts no one else will touch.