Yesterday ESPN's Buster Olney reported that the Yankees are listening to offers on more than just the usual suspects in Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. Apparently the Yankees are also wiling to discuss Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, and Nathan Eovaldi. While many fans saw this report and thought "it's about damn time," I'm hesitant to believe it's anything more than due diligence.
Since the 2012 season's hopes ended on Derek Jeter's broken ankle, the Yankees have fielded mostly mediocre teams with the one notable exception being 2015's squad, which signaled a time of hope. The mediocrity was due to a number of reasons, but one thing was always clear: the Yankees would not just give up on a season. Some may argue it's because "they're the Yankees! World Series every year!" but likely it's just because giving up on a season before it's over would potentially cost the team money in ticket sales. If the Robinson Cano-led 2013 squad of "wut?" and the "two-hole claused" 2014 roster didn't inspire the Yankees to sell any pieces, I can't imagine the 2016 bunch of hopelessness will either.
There is, however, a big difference between those squads and this one. Those squads didn't have many pieces of value, whereas the 2016 Yankees actually do have pieces they could sell. It all starts with Chapman and his expiring contract. Most fans know the Yankees were able to acquire Chapman for a very low cost (and also why) but outside of creating the three-headed monster in the bullpen, there was plenty of speculation that depending on his suspension length, the Yankees would actually be able to flip him and get a significant return back.
The Yankees bullpen was one of their greatest strengths last year, and all the team essentially did coming into the year was turn Justin Wilson into Chapman. The mentality was that even if the Yankees played well, they could still trade Chapman for pieces and compete because they still had Miller and Dellin Betances. Then mediocrity hit, and the 2016 Yankees showed their true colors. They are, in fact, not a very good team. Compelling analysis.
Just because the team is awful this year, and boy are they awful, doesn't mean they will (or need to) go into full on fire sale mode either. I do believe the Yankees will be active at the trade deadline and will sell off some pieces, but I don't think it'll be the great sale everyone expects. Of the big names in the organization, I can imagine the expiring contracts of Chapman and Beltran being moved, but outside of that, it's hard to imagine anyone else noteworthy leaving.
Yes any one (or both) of Miller and Betances would bring the Yankees back a great haul, but giving up either of them likely signals giving up on the next few years as well. Can anyone imagine the Steinbrenners willing to sacrifice seats next year or the year after in the name of a rebuild? That surely wouldn't be the Yankee Way, and that surely wouldn't afford Hal his new yacht. The Yankees may very well trade one of them, but I'd imagine the team has priced themselves out of any actual trades.
Of the other names the Yankees are willing to listen on, one can't truly expect any real chips to come back. McCann's contract is a wild card, Pineda and Eovaldi are the textbook definitions of unfulfilled potential, and Nova is just bad. Gardner, on the other hand, is on a team-friendly deal and plays well, but he's likely not bringing back anything significant either.
I'm not going to try and list out what I believe realistic trade proposals for these players would be, because one of my biggest rules in life (and one that everyone should follow) is that trade proposals are always bad and they're always wrong. However, I know it's unrealistic to expect anything of real value back for the majority of the players the Yankees have to offer.
It wouldn't completely surprise me to see the Yankees sell and buy this year. They could trade Chapman and Beltran, and at the same time try and pick up small pieces to improve this year's team to at least put a better product out there. Brian Cashman could swing trades similar to the Alfonso Soriano, Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, and Martin Prado deadline deals and give up something small to get some immediate help. And that's okay. Sure, I'd like for the Yankees to have a high draft pick but I'm not going to root for them to tank. Frankly, I'd rather watch a team out there that's trying to compete and fight rather than one that has just taken its foot of the pedal.
At the end of the day, this is an odd team in the middle of something truly odd--a rebuilding team that's trying to (or at least pretending to) contend as well. In order to facilitate both, look for the Yankees to make smaller moves here and there and possibly even add some smaller pieces, but it's unrealistic to expect them to go into full-on fire sale mode.