The Arizona Diamondbacks appeared to troll the entire baseball world when they traded 2014 first round pick Touki Toussaint to the Atlanta Braves for a utility infielder and for, well, the Braves agreeing to take on Bronson Arroyo's salary. People who are not even fans of the D'backs were legitimately upset that the Snakes traded the extremely projectable prospect, but Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports offered as good of an explanation as he could. He argued that pitchers taken out of high school like Toussaint are far from a sure thing, and the Diamondbacks are definitely within striking distance of contention in 2016, so Arizona could be looking to make a splash on the free agent market.
Arroyo, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, will cost the Braves $4.5 million next year if they buy out of his 2016 option. The Braves, of course, are willing to sacrifice the 2016 season if it means being good again in 2017, when they move to their new stadium. As a relatively large market team, they can afford to take on a bad contract next year if it means getting an exciting prospect.
The Yankees, like the Braves, can afford to add a bit of salary as well, although the Yankees can do so because they have historically had a blank check from the Steinbrenner family. Hal Steinbrenner, who is noticeably more frugal than his late father, has often expressed his desire to cut costs in the future. With a revitalized farm system, several long-term contracts set in stone, and a lot of money coming off the books over the next two seasons, the Yankees should look to eat a bad contract to get a player they couldn't normally land.
If the Yankees can take on a bad contract that expires after the 2016 or 2017 season, they could land a low-level, high-ceiling prospect like Touki Toussaint or a closely coveted bullpen arm. Of course, if there is absolutely no room for the incoming player on the 2016 roster, they can simply designate him for assignment. They would still be able to keep their payroll commitments at a relatively low level after the 2017 season, at which point Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and Alex Rodriguez will all be gone.
In the nation's capital, Jonathan Papelbon has worn out his welcome with the Nationals due to his propensity to grab baseball prodigies by the neck. He is owed $11 million next year and had a 2.13 ERA over 63.1 innings last season, although one could easily argue that the alleged cost of having him in the clubhouse cancels his production out. But if the Yankees take on his contract and promptly release him, they could demand someone like Wilmer Difo, a very speedy middle infield prospect, for next to nothing.
Meanwhile, former National Adam LaRoche is in the midst of a two-year deal with the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox owe him $13 million and could not have been too happy with his 2015 campaign, where he compiled a WAR of -1.4. If the Yankees agree to take on LaRoche's salary, they could ask for someone like Jose Quintana, Chicago's crafty lefty who has been a consistent number two starter, for a lower than usual prospect haul. Alternatively, they could take Coco Crisp and his $11 million 2016 salary off Oakland's hands, or go back to Atlanta's well and relieve the Diamondbacks of Aaron Hill's salary.
While the Yankees probably won't get a prospect as exciting as Touki Toussaint in exchange for taking a bad contract, it could land them more depth off the bench or an exciting pre-arbitration reliever in the very least. In doing so, they could reinforce their farm system or add depth to their 2016 roster and keep any plans to lower the long-term payroll intact. Eating a contract that expires in the next couple of years would still allow them to lower the payroll while building around the likes of Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Luis Severino, who will hopefully be thriving in pinstripes by then. Even though Hal wants to reign in the team's spending in the future, he should consider flexing his financial muscles one more time.