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Yankees Potential Trade Target: Germán Márquez

The 27-year-old righty may be the most available of all the potential impact starting pitching rentals.

Colorado Rockies v Chicago Cubs Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

We’re less than a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, and some intriguing storylines promise to color the Yankees’ preparations for the 2023 season. Shortstop appears to be an open competition between Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Oswald Peraza, with Anthony Volpe possibly being given a chance to impress in spring. Left field is also a competition, though it appears Brian Cashman is leaning toward awarding Aaron Hicks the starting role.

Finally, there’s the health of the Yankees’ fifth starter, Frankie Montas. The 2022 trade deadline acquisition is expected to miss the first month of the season to similar shoulder inflammation to caused him to miss two different stints of playing time last season. Several sources have indicated that Domingo Germán and Clarke Schmidt will duke it out in spring training to earn the temporary fifth starter role, with Germán likely having the inside track due to his lack of minor league options.

Germán and Schmidt are fine to cover a month of fifth starter duties. If, however, Montas ends up missing more time, all of a sudden I’d feel a lot less comfortable with that pair deputizing for an extended stretch in the rotation. Therefore, it may benefit the Yankees to explore other external options as insurance for that possibility. Germán Márquez should be a name on that list.

2022 Stats: 31 games, 181.2 IP, 4.95 ERA (94 ERA+), 4.71 FIP, 19.3% K%, 8.1% BB%, 1.4 fWAR

2023 Contract Status: Has one year, $15.3 million remaining of five-year, $43 million contract signed prior to start of 2019 season. Deal contains $16 million club option for 2024 with $2.5 million buyout. Can become free agent following 2023 season.

Márquez has quietly been a top-quality starter over the last handful of seasons. Since his first full campaign in 2017, he has thrown the sixth-most innings (975.1) of any pitcher, qualifying for the ERA title in each season while accruing the 16th-most fWAR (17.1) in that time frame. He also hasn’t landed on the injured list since 2019 — remarkable durability for a pitcher in the modern game.

There is also evidence to suggest that Márquez would perform even better pitching away from the pitcher-killing confines of Coors Field. He owns a lifetime 5.08 ERA at Coors and 3.76 everywhere else. However, this is not due to the ball leaving the yard more often at Coors — he gives up home runs at roughly equal rates home and away — but perhaps down to the effect on pitch shape of pitching at altitude.

The Magnus effect exerts less force upon the ball at Coors than at ballparks closer to sea level, therefore pitches who rely upon the Magnus effect for movement — four-seamer and curveball — tend to break less at Coors. Perhaps this is why Márquez’s four-seamer and knucklecurve consistently exhibit some of the worst vertical movement among qualified pitchers and also have yielded a wOBA roughly 40 points higher at home than on the road.

That said, there is also reason to be concerned about Márquez’s projected performance going forward. He just turned in the worst season of his career, his strikeout rate taking a serious blow while his groundball rate dropped below 50 percent for the first time in three years. Márquez also throws a slider with a heavy gyro spin component, and some research suggests that gyro sliders break more at Coors than other ballparks, so a move away from Denver may necessitate the addition of some sweep to his slider to compensate for the loss of drop.

All of this brings us to Márquez’s availability. Scouring the list of starting pitchers who can reach free agency after this season, he may be the most gettable rental of the bunch. Given owner Dick Monfort’s recent comments, he doesn’t seem like the type of player in their long-term plans. The Rockies are in a truly bizarre situation thanks to their owner, aspiring for a .500 season but also refusing to enter a rebuild. You can go .500 with a starter who costs far less than $15.3 million at the same time as getting back a player who could potentially help Colorado remain “competitive” this season.

Of course, money will be the sticking point of any prospective swap for Márquez. As things stand, New York’s payroll clocks in at just under $292.5 million. That gives them just a half-million in wiggle room before they exceed the fourth and final Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) threshold.

If the Yankees remain determined to avoid venturing into ‘Steve Cohen Tax’ territory, they would need one of two things to happen. Either the Rockies eat a significant portion of the money owed to Márquez this season, or the Yankees send over one of their more onerous contracts to offset the $8.6 million AAV Márquez would add to the Yankees’ CBT number in 2023. Either option would necessitate the addition of a higher-end prospect to make it worth the Rockies’ while. It is for this reason that despite the potential need, the Yankees appear unlikely suitors for Márquez’s talents.