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Who are the Yankees’ most valuable major league trade chips?

The Yankees are always active on the winter trade market, and have a few pieces on the major league roster who could find themselves in new uniforms soon.

American League Championship Series Game 4: Houston Astros v. New York Yankees Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Every winter, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman actively patrols the trade market, typically making at least one or two moves to shore up a hole on the roster. Last year, that was flipping Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela to the Minnesota Twins for Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and (allegedly) Ben Rortvedt. The year before that he swung a deal for Jameson Taillon, who replaced James Paxton — an offseason trade acquisition from two years prior — in the starting rotation. Then there was the 2017-2018 offseason which brought Giancarlo Stanton over from the Miami Marlins...

We can keep going, of course. In fact, going back to the 2013-2014 offseason, the only time the Yankees did not make at least a relatively noteworthy trade was the winter of 2019-2020, when they signed Gerrit Cole. With that in mind, we can reasonably assume that the Yankees will be making at least one move this winter, and indeed, Cashman has already indicated that he is engaging with the trade market. As the saying goes, you have to give up something to get something, so who might the Yankees be both able and willing to part with to swing a deal?

Kyle Higashioka

Yankees fans have a complicated relationship with Kyle Higashioka. For multiple years, he represented the glove-first alternative to the bat-first Gary Sánchez that started behind the plate from August 2016 until he was traded this past March. At the same time, however, every time he received the starting job, either through injury or, as happened this past April, pretty much by default, he struggled. Before spring had turned to summer, newcomer Jose Trevino had taken the starting job, relegating Higgy back to the bench.

Even so, as backup catchers go, Higashioka has arguably been among the league’s best: his 1.7 fWAR this season ranked 16th among the league’s backstops. Because of the relative scarcity of catchers around the league — Austin Romine played 48 games for three different teams despite posting a 17 OPS+ — it’s easy to see why a team might be interested in rolling the dice and try to make Higgy into their starting catcher. If the Yankees are as all-in on Trevino as they seem, they could dangle Higashioka, who has at least two more years of team control remaining, and roll into 2023 with Trevino and Rortvedt as their catching tandem.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa

For those of us who watched Isiah Kiner-Falefa on a daily basis this season, it’s hard to imagine how he could have major trade value. He slashed just .261/.314/.327 (an 85 wRC+), was average-to-below average in the field according to Outs Above Average (-2) and UZR/150 (0.0), and regularly booted routine grounders. Here’s the thing that we’re all forgetting, however: he was pretty much exactly the same player in 2021 as he was in 2022, and days before the Twins sent him to the Yankees as part of their blockbuster trade, the Rangers had flipped him to the Twins, along with rookie pitcher Ronny Henríquez, for Mitch Garver. Garver, in case you forgot, posted a 139 OPS+ as a catcher in 2021.

As a Gold Glove third baseman capable of playing shortstop at an adequate level and who has experience both at second base and behind the plate, IKF has some trade value. He won’t be the centerpiece of a transaction, but as far as secondary pieces go, teams that need infield depth could do worse than Kiner-Falefa. And since Oswald Peraza, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Anthony Volpe are already knocking down the door, IKF’s original purpose with the Yanks has already been fulfilled.

Domingo Germán

At this point in time, I don’t expect the Yankees to trade Domingo Germán; he’s currently lined up as their fifth starter, after all, and while Clarke Schmidt and Michael King could potentially compete for a rotation spot in the spring, right now, it’s Germán’s to lose. Of course, we thought the Yankees trading Jordan Montgomery was absurd, then they went and did exactly that at the trade deadline, so what do we know?

As a trade chip, Germán’s value is rather strange. He’s an inconsistent starter, with mid-rotation upside and the floor of, well, a No. 5 starter. But he is, most definitely, a starting pitcher, and if there’s one maxim in baseball that has proven true throughout its history, it’s that you can never have enough starting pitching. On top of that, he also has experience out of the bullpen too, making him a capable swingman. Because he has a bit of an injury history and is out of options, it’s easy to see a path where the Yankees opt to sign or trade for another starting pitcher (such as Justin Verlander of Pablo Lopez, two pitchers they have pursued in the last twelve months) and ship off Germán, who is under team control for two more years, to a team looking for pitching.

Aaron Hicks

The days of Aaron Hicks being penciled in as a starting outfielder in the Yankees lineup appear to be over. Just this week, after all, Brian Cashman told reporters that the two corner outfield spots are a priority because the team does not have a left fielder or right fielder currently on the roster. With Harrison Bader the starting center fielder, that leaves Hicks the odd man out.

While the Yankees could opt to make Hicks one of the league’s highest-paid fourth outfielders, it would behoove them to see if they could find a taker for the three years and $30 million left on the contract. That might seem like an immoveable contract at first glance, but with a $10 million annual value, that’s actually on the cheap side for “likely over-the-hill corner outfielders in their early-to-mid-30s.” Matt Kemp was traded four times over the course of his 8-year, $160 million contract signed prior to the start of the 2012 season despite being worth just 3.8 fWAR total over the last seven years of the deal.

Hicks was by no stretch of the imagination a quality starter for the Yankees this year, and he looked absolutely lost for chunks of the season, but his end-of-season stats weren’t exactly terrible (90 wRC+, 8 Defensive Runs Saved and 1 Outs Above Average in left field). The Yankees are clearly searching for an upgrade, but a team on the border of contention might be willing to persuade themselves to give Hicks a chance as their left fielder, banking on his batted ball profile rebounding a year removed from wrist surgery — particularly if the Yankees kick in some money to lower the contract hit to his new team.

Gleyber Torres

The crown jewel of the Yankees’ major league trade pieces, Gleyber Torres has heard his name raised in trade talks since his All-Star rookie campaign. Now, however, might be the time a deal is finally made.

Although Torres has not yet become the elite player he appeared to be turning into after his first two seasons, he is at worse a serviceable second baseman for a contending team; even with his historically bad August (which saw him post a .180/.204/.260 slash line), Torres finished the year with a 115 wRC+ and 2.7 fWAR. If the Yankees did not have a small army of infielders capable of playing second base — DJ LeMahieu, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Oswald Peraza, Oswaldo Cabrera, Anthony Volpe — the answer to “should the Yankees trade Torres?” would be a very clear and decisive “Not a chance.” But the Yankees do have a glut of infielders capable of playing at the big league level, Torres is entering his third year of arbitration and in line to receive a not-insignificant raise to his $6.25 million 2022 salary, is under team control for two more years, and will be just 26 years old when next season begins. It’s easy to see why Torres might be the most likely Yankee to be moved this winter.