It is becoming increasingly clear, even before the season has ended, that the Yankees will need to trade for a pitcher if they want to succeed in 2017. According to the 2017 free agent market, the best pitchers available will be Rich Hill, Andrew Cashner, Bartolo Colon, Ivan Nova, RA Dickey, and Doug Fister. I think it’s possible to sign one of these pitchers and get away with it. The average annual value isn’t going to be that high, and the right bet on performance could pay dividends in the short-term.
In the long-term, though, there’s no way to get a quality starting pitcher without making a trade. There was talk at the trade deadline that the Yankees were discussing a deal with the White Sox that would involve both Chris Sale and Gary Sanchez, and that fell through. Now, as the season comes to a close, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported the following:
“There’s more buzz that the Marlins will listen to offers for Fernandez this offseason. [Jose] Fernandez has long been the apple of the eye of a lot of big-market teams that wouldn’t mind writing that extension check. The Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees, and Cubs for sure would all be in line.”
Fernandez, 24, is easily one of the best pitchers in baseball. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in May of 2014, Fernandez has since tossed 239 innings while putting up a 2.97 ERA (131 ERA+), 2.35 FIP, and 7.9 PWARP. Since 2013, only Clayton Kershaw has had a lower ERA- and FIP-.
The question, of course, isn’t whether Fernandez is worth a trade—you’d be crazy to think that he isn’t worth making a trade for—but whether the Yankees are able to make such a trade, and whether they’d be able to extend him.
During last offseason, it probably wasn’t possible. The only top prospects worth dealing at that time were Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Jorge Mateo, and Aaron Judge, and the Yankees were heavily invested in giving them a shot, and rightfully so. Now, things have changed. The Yankees after the trade deadline and draft have added Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, Justus Sheffield, Clint Frazier, and Blake Rutherford—that’s a far cry from even a few months ago. The Yankees now have the pieces to put together a trade, depending on what they would be willing to forfeit.
The second question that goes along with the Cafardo piece is whether the Yankees would be able to extend Fernandez. Fernandez’s agent is Scott Boras, and he is notorious for holding out until free agency no matter what. But, there are exceptions. One of them was the Stephen Strasburg extension, when the Boras client inked a seven-year, $175 million deal with the Nationals in May. Strasburg has had injury concerns of his own, so it would stand to reason that Boras would more likely consider extensions for more high-risk clients. Fernandez isn’t necessarily as high-risk, but former Tommy John victims are wont to get injured in the future.
The Yankees, in my mind, need to trade for a pitcher in the offseason. They have the minor league depth and money to achieve both a trade and extension and Jose Fernandez, should the stars align. There are going to be other rich and talent-flush teams in the mix, so it’s far from a given, but if the Yankees were to execute, they’d be immediate contenders in 2017.