The Yankees have been very quiet in the early part of the off-season with their only notable move coming back in November when they acquired Aaron Hicks for John Ryan Murphy. They appear less likely than ever to spend on any free agents who could make a big impact on the team. So if they make any big transactions in the off-season, it looks like it will come on the trade market.
The bright side is that they have talked to the Marlins about a certain deal that would be an absolute coup:
Sources say Yankees have also been in touch with Marlins about Jose Fernandez. And Yanks, Dodgers & Dbacks all doing background work on him— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 7, 2015
Make no mistake: Acquiring the outstanding Cuban righty would be just about the biggest move the Yankees could make this off-season.
The 23-year-old splashed onto the scene in 2013 when the Marlins made the bold move to have the 14th overall pick of the 2011 Draft completely skip both Double-A and Triple-A. People knew that Fernandez had promise, as he was already a consensus pick for MLB's Top 10 Prospects, but was he so good that he didn't even need the high minors? It turned out that the answer was a resounding yes, as Fernandez dazzled with a 2.19 ERA, 187 strikeouts, 2.73 FIP, and 6.7 WAR over 28 starts, winning the NL Rookie of the Year award in a runaway over Yasiel Puig.
After 70 strikeouts in just eight starts (including 14 in one), it looked like Fernandez was primed to somehow top his amazing debut with a Cy Young-caliber follow-up. Unfortunately, the Tommy John surgery epidemic snatched Fernandez away from baseball just as fans were getting used to his dominance. He didn't pitch again until July 2, 2015. He also missed about a month with a biceps strain as his body adjusted to regular pitching again, but in 12 starts, Fernandez looked just about as good as he did before the injury: 2.92 ERA, 2.24 FIP, and 79 strikeouts in 64 2/3 innings.
The off-season has already brought rumors of Fernandez's desire to leave the hell that accompanies Jeffrey Loria's ownership of the Miami Marlins. At the same time, the Marlins have no reason not to ask for quite a lot for Fernandez, and that seems to their exact strategy since they asked the Dodgers for Corey Seager and Julio Urias for Fernandez. Both Seager and Urias are top five overall prospects.
If the Yankees trade for Fernandez, it will cost them some serious prospects. However, for a pitcher as skilled as Fernandez, all names should be on the table. As Matt Harvey just showed last year, Tommy John surgery is not a death knell to a young career. That means Luis Severino, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, and just about any movable piece with potential. This would be a gutsy "all-in" move, and it would give the Yankees three years of arbitration control of one of the game's most exciting and dominant young talents.
Teams that want to win should make that trade, if possible. The Yankees would be lucky if even one of Severino, Bird, or Judge turns into the franchise cornerstone that Fernandez would offer. Here's hoping that Cashman can get it done.