During the retooling seasons prior to 2018, it wasn’t absurd to hear about a prospect being labeled as “untouchable.” From James Pazos (seriously) to Aaron Judge, several Yankee players have held that title over the past five seasons. Just earlier this summer, Brian Cashman placed this tag on Gleyber Torres. However, the time for labeling prospects untouchable should be over. It’s time to sell the farm if the right buyer comes along.
Last season, the Yankees nearly toppled the Astros, and this season it was the same story but with a different opponent -- the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees have added James Paxton and brought back J.A. Happ, but they still don’t have the best rotation in the American League. There have been rumors the Yankees are still in the market for starting pitching, and let’s not forget the Didi Gregorius-sized hole in the infield either. Signing a free agent only costs money, and is probably preferable. Yet if the Yankees engage the trade market for a star, they shouldn’t keep any prospects off-limits.
There are a handful of players that could be considered as either untouchable or as enticing trade chips in the system right now: Estevan Florial, Jonathan Loaisiga, Albert Abreu, and Clint Frazier. The Yankees likely don’t view all of them as untouchable, but those four have the strongest arguments. Each comes with their own risks. If a team is willing to sacrifice a superstar for any one of them, then the Yankees ought to pull the trigger.
Florial headlines the list. With three 60-grade tools, he’s the consensus top prospect in the Yankees system. He also has holes in his game that don’t make him a can’t-miss prospect. He currently doesn’t make enough contact for a guy who doesn’t hit for a lot of power. He struck out 31% of the time between two levels last season. He brought his K% down to 25.7% in High-A Tampa, but for a player who has fewer than 20 homers across the past two years, that’s not going to fly.
Perhaps more importantly, Florial suffered a broken hamate bone earlier this summer, which is an injury notorious for sapping hitters’ power. Hitters can certainly bounce back from the injury, but it is still a red flag. Florial is also still at least a year away from the big leagues, if not more. There’s likely no conceivable way he’s up this season, and if the Yankees are going to win in 2019 and 2020, using Florial to land a superstar is a step in the right direction.
Abreu and Loaisiga are in the conversation to help the Yankees at some point this year. Loaisiga got a handful of innings last season, and FanGraphs estimated earlier this year that Abreu could debut at some point in 2019. Still, there are pretty major injury red flags with both pitchers. Loaisiga has been in professional baseball since 2013 and various maladies have prevented him from throwing even 200 career innings. Yes, he did show flashes of brilliance in his short stint with the big league club last year but certainly not enough to keep him out of trade talks.
Abreu’s profile is similar to Loaisiga’s. Scouts credit him with a premium fastball and a plus curveball, but he does seem to have some control problems. His BB/9 rate this year was north of 4, which was in-line with his career numbers. There’s also the fact that Abreu does struggle to stay healthy. He has yet to eclipse 80 innings in a season and hasn’t quite been able to string together more than two healthy months at a time since joining the Yankees. He and Loaisiga could in theory find themselves in the big leagues this season, but that shouldn’t stop the Yankees from dangling these two pitchers in trade talks.
Finally, we come to Red Thunder. He’s not technically a prospect anymore, but he hasn’t had enough MLB time to really consider him a veteran either. This was unfortunately a sunken year for Frazier, and it could not have come at a worse time. Had Frazier been healthy, he would’ve seen ample time in the Yankees’ outfield. Assuming he’s healthy again, Frazier will likely spend the year up-and-down from Triple-A. He could be an exciting piece in the future, but that’s a maybe. If the Yankees have to deal him for a proven commodity, they absolutely should not think twice.
It might not seem like it, but I like all four of these players. Still, if the Yankees want to land a superstar via trade, they need to make these players available. Developing minor league talent is always a priority but making the organization a little bit top heavy might just be what it takes to bring number 28 to the Bronx.