The first big Yankees rumor of the offseason was dropped around 2 am by Joel Sherman of the New York Post who writes that the Yankees and Mariners have engaged in trade talks about left fielder Brett Gardner. Talk of a Gardner trade is nothing new, and it has been speculated since before the season ended that New York might look to move the outfielder to free up space for one of the free agents on the market. The Mariners and Yankees are no strangers to doing business, having hooked up on multiple trades in the past few seasons, so it's not unbelievable that this particular rumor may have legs.
Gardner has been a favorite of Brian Cashman's, but the GM is looking to land some starting pitching for the team while adding payroll flexibility. The speedy outfielder has three years and $32 million left on the extension he signed with the team, and the Mariners' new GM, Jerry Dipoto, is said to have been a fan of Gardner's since his time with the Angels and Diamondbacks. What would he be willing to give up in return, though? Sherman reports that the Yankees would be discussing 27-year-old James Paxton in the talks.
Paxton has been compared to Andy Pettitte, but injuries have been an issue with the lefty missing four months of the 2015 season with a strained middle finger. The Yankees have been keeping tabs on Paxton in the Arizona Fall League under the assumption that he might be a player made available at some point this offseason. If that speculation is true and the Mariners want to acquire Gardner, it seems like a pretty obvious fit.
Trading Gardner would allow the team to pursue a free agent outfielder like Jason Heyward, Alex Gordon, or Yoenis Cespedes. Carlos Beltran has only one year remaining on his contract, leaving a spot open for top prospect Aaron Judge at the big league level in 2017 if everything pans out. It's unlikely that Cashman would give up on one of his favorite players without ensuring he gets a good deal in return, and Gardner is really the only outfielder on the team who can be traded at this point. With the Yankees lacking any real pitching depth, a deal to get someone of Paxton's caliber in return seems like pretty good value for a player the team cannot maximize the talents of with Jacoby Ellsbury occupying center field and the leadoff position.
Do you think the Yankees will trade Gardner this offseason? Would you be happy with a deal that brings James Paxton back to New York?