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Yankees Potential Trade Target: Max Fried

If the defending NL East champs are dangling their ace, he becomes the prize of the offseason trade market.

Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game One Photo by Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/Getty Images

We’ve been in a holding pattern for about a week, with the Yankees remaining the favorites for Carlos Rodón while rumors swirl that something else, a bigger move, is in play. It’s a little bit of a pipe dream, but a 28 year old left-hander who was the Cy Young runner up would certainly fall under the category of a bigger move.

Jim Callis on MLB Network leaked yesterday that the Atlanta Braves might be listening to offers on Max Fried, given that he seems to be the only young, talented player Atlanta is unable to agree to an extension with. Buster Olney was quick to respond saying that the Braves were not interested in dealing Fried, but with the league’s fifth-highest payroll before beginning expected extension talks with newly-acquired Sean Murphy, Fried may end up being the odd man out.

If that’s the case, he represents a younger version of Rodón who has pitched in a tougher division and, like Rodón, would give the Yankees the best rotation in the American League. Alex Anthopoulous has a reputation for dealmaking, and the choice between Max and Carlos would come down to whether you valued the long term commitment that top end free agents represent.

If Fried is determined to be a part of the 2025 free agent class, you’re likely not going to be able to extend him even after trading for him. That means two years, both of which will come at a lower cost per year than whatever Rodón signs for. MLBTR projects Fried receiving $12.2 million in arbitration this season, about $20 million less than what we can expect Rodón to go for. The downside is, it’s really hard to trade for four win, controllable starters, especially with a team that’s in the middle of its competitive window.

Unfortunately, that resulting prospect cost is probably what keeps the Yankees out of any bidding for Fried that may exist. They’ve been hesitant to deal any of their blue chip prospects, signaling that Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe will play major roles in 2023, and happy to let Jasson Dominguez re-establish himself as an impact MiLBer — the kind of decisions that lead you to preferring free agency, where the top talent costs just money.

I don’t know if Atlanta would actually make their ace available. They’ve won their division every year since 2018, and boast arguably the deepest lineup in the NL. It would be a change in direction to deal away a pitcher with Fried’s talent, but if that’s the change the org makes, he’s exactly the kind of player you loosen your hold on your best prospects for.