The free agency hot stove is picking up, but it looks like the Yankees are content with playing it safe at the moment. However, Brian Cashman’s squad still has some major holes to fill, namely starting pitching, the bullpen and infield depth. It is likely that he will look to finesse the trade market to address some of these needs.
Meanwhile in Atlanta, all signs are pointing up. The Braves had a surprisingly solid 2018 season where they won the NL East and appear to be ahead of schedule. They even lured in one of the game’s top available free agents in Josh Donaldson to be their starting third baseman next year.
This presents a bit of an infield logjam for the Braves. Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies are entrenched at first and second base, respectively, and Dansby Swanson is the only pure shortstop on Atlanta’s roster. This leaves infielders Johan Camargo and Charlie Culberson in uncertain roles for 2019.
Camargo broke out in 2018 in his first full season. He slashed .272/.349/.457 while playing the majority of his games at third base, with some action at shortstop and second base mixed in. He had 47 extra-base hits and 76 RBI in 524 plate appearances and was solid for the Braves in many different roles.
As for Culberson, he has settled in as a quintessential utility man. He played the majority of his games between left field, shortstop and third base, but also played at least two games at every other position except catcher and center field. He also had his best offensive year after being an automatic out for the first five years of his career. He showed improved discipline and power, and hit .397 with an OPS of 1.109 with runners in scoring position. Basically, he was the Braves’ equivalent of an Austin Romine-type story.
Adding Donaldson complicates the futures for these two players, so the Yankees should be interested in both. They still need to add a starting infielder and a utility man, and Camargo and Culberson fit those respective roles. That said, the prices to acquire either would be drastically different. Camargo is a 25-year-old coming off of a solid season, while Culberson will be entering his age-30 season and is probably just a utility man coming off of a career-best season.
The Yankees match up well with the Braves’ areas of need. The Braves are short on outfielders, bullpen depth and one more starting pitcher. New York has an excess of outfielders and a couple of expendable bullpen pieces that could interest the Braves. Oh, and let’s not forget that the Braves have been rumored to be interested in Sonny Gray.
I’m sure the Yankees would like to include Gray in a package for either player. Believe it or not, Gray does have some value; he isn’t that far removed from being a decent pitcher and could thrive in the right situation. He wasn’t a fit in New York, but that doesn’t mean his MLB career is over at age 29. It’s all speculation, but Gray and a mid-tier prospect could probably net the Yankees Culberson and a player to be named later or cash.
Things get a little more tricky with negotiating a trade for Camargo. The Yankees would have to give up Gray, a higher-level prospect, and a middling MLB piece in a position of need, like Jonathan Holder, Tommy Kahnle or an outfielder. It’s unlikely that the Braves would want Jacoby Ellsbury at all, but Clint Frazier could pair well in this scenario. Could a package of Gray, Frazier or a bullpen arm, and a top-15 prospect fetch Camargo? I’m not sure, but it’s worth a shot.
At the end of the day, the Braves may not want to part with either Camargo or Culberson. However, these two teams fit well as potential trade partners, and no one should be off the table. Given the Braves’ interest in Gray, the Yankees might as well try to help solve their issues in the infield while the Braves are on the line. We’ll see if it leads anywhere, but the Braves and Yankees could make for some intriguing trades this offseason.