The "Right" Move To Improve - Inevitability

Call me a hopeless romantic, but I love February 14. This year the date represents the moment that we profess our love and affection to the ones we cherish - Yankees pitchers and catchers! Yes, this week begins a season anew, where dreams of a World Series championship dance in our heads like Cupid on Valentine’s Day. There is one arrow, however, that Brian Cashman has yet to launch from his quiver that I would suggest would improve the 2017 Yankees.

Cashman must trade for Bryce Harper.

With the youth movement at hand, spring training in Tampa will feature three main position battles - starting pitching, first base and right field. As of now, it is expected that Aaron Judge is the man with the edge in right; however the 2017 Yankees should look to fill the position with a star. Keeping up with the Sale Price-d Red Sox is going to be a monumental task and the Yankees lineup needs a potential monument-worthy upgrade.

Whom may the Nationals accept for such a key cog? How about a deal centered around Brett Gardner, Dellin Betances, Jorge Mateo and Blake Rutherford?

Stick with me here. The Nationals just traded for Adam Eaton to play center field alongside Mr. Harper. The issue with this move, however, is that Eaton is a much better in right than in center. Per Jeff Sullivan over at, Eaton’s defensive splits are "astonishing" - UZR/150 is -8.7 in center and +20 in right. After the trade, Dave Cameron, also of FanGraphs, suggested that Eaton should stay in right. This leaves the Nationals with two natural right fielders and no natural center fielder. Hello, Brett Gardner! A National-League-esque lineup featuring Gardner and Eaton at the top would be dynamic and we all know Brett can handle center.

The biggest need for the Nationals this off-season was a closer and they whiffed on the big three that were available - Chapman, Jensen, and Melancon. They also have not been able to work a deal for former Yankee closer David Robertson, having depleted their farm to acquire Eaton from the same team. Although Betances struggled a bit as closer last season after The Cuban Missile was traded - probably due to fatigue - he would immediately become the best prospective closer on the Washington staff at a reasonable $3-5M, depending on arbitration. With this proposed trade the Nationals will have solidified two major positions.

Since Gardner is only signed for one more year, the Yankees can offer Rutherford as a potential future star in the outfield to replace Harper/Gardner down the line. While the Nats have outfielders closer to the bigs than Rutherford, he would definitely upgrade their now-depleted prospect inventory. Furthermore, Mateo would certainly give them a nice chip for future deals or could eventually pair up with Trea Turner for a nice double-play combination.

Concurrently, the Nationals must consider the intangibles. Harper and his agent have already been laying the groundwork for a historic $400M deal in 2019 when his contract is up, which has already ruffled feathers in the Washington front office. Harper is a life-long Yankee fan and they have to believe that there is a significant chance that they will lose a bidding war to the Yankees for Harper’s services. Now is the time to get value for this player while upgrading their current team in their ever-closing championship window.

For the 2017 Yankees, they take away some of the uncertainty of their outfield and get AT LEAST two years of a sure All-Star in right. I am a Brett Gardner fan, but they Yankees have been trying to dump his salary for some time and the likelihood of Washington instead taking Ellsbury’s contract is approximately nil. Who would man left? How about newly signed Matt Holliday? Would an outfield of Holliday-Ellsbury-Harper significantly outperform an outfield of Gardner-Ellsbury-Judge? Is that even close? Harper is a net WAR gain of +4 over Judge in right (again, FanGraphs), while Holliday is almost a WAR wash with Gardner. Average expected OPS would rise by approximately 100 points.

Your new 2017 Bronx lineup:

  1. Ellsbury
  2. Gregorious
  3. Harper
  4. Sanchez
  5. Holliday
  6. Bird/Carter/Austin
  7. Carter/Judge
  8. Headley
  9. Castro

I am also a Dellin Betances fan. The "No-runs DMC" magic was fun while it lasted, but the Yankees have plenty of middle relief arms to plug into the eighth, including those who lose out on the fourth and fifth rotation spots. I would hate to see Dellin go, but you have to give up quality to get quality. If you’re wondering, Dellin carries a plus 1.7 WAR.

Giving up Rutherford and Mateo will put a significant dent in the newly-minted "best farm" system, but it will enable the Yankees to keep the newly acquired future-greats Torres and Frazier.

Would the Nationals accept such a proposal? Doubtful, but the fact remains that the Nationals are significantly more likely to lose Harper at the end of his contract than to retain him. They can help their current and future rosters with one trade, and the Yankees would have significantly improved for 2017, taking away the uncertainty in right. With the dearth of starting pitching available, the Bombers will have to bash their way into competing with the Sox for East supremacy. Yankee prospect Clint Frazier has already laid the groundwork. What better way to improve 2017 than replacing an uncertainty in right with a perennial All-Star?

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