The 2015 MLB trade deadline is less than a month away, and with the Yankees in first place, fans should not be at all surprised to see the Yankees scouring the market. Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels, and Ben Zobrist figure to be among just a few of the players likely to move on from their former teams by July 31st. If the Yankees want any of the high-end talent, it's going to cost them in some capacity. Vidal Nuno-for-Brandon McCarthy type steals don't come around every year, especially with Kevin Towers out of a job. So should they want to swing a trade, here are the main names to keep on the lookout.
Aaron Judge and Luis Severino
There should be no doubt about the cream of the crop in the Yankees' farm system. Severino and Judge are both at the organization's highest level in Triple-A Scranton and were recently ranked among the Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus Top 50 Midseason Prospects, so it's clearly not just the Yankees who like these burgeoning talents. They've excelled at every level of the minors, and scouts rave about their remarkable abilities, with Severino's nasty pitches and Judge's power highlighting their skills. It's all but certain that regardless of the trade target, one or both of these players will be the first mentioned by opposing teams.
If fans really want to see the Yankees go for it with a big improvement like Cueto or Hamels, there's a high probability that either Severino or Judge would be included in the deal, barring some ninja work by GM Brian Cashman. Both players are still just prospects with distinct flaws regardless of high they're ranked and better prospects like Jesus Montero have flopped before, so there's case to be made to sell high. Is it worth risking the chance that they pan out to some degree and the Yankees have some valuable young, cheap talent over the next few years? That's for Yankees management to decide. Regardless, these are the Yankees' best prospects.
Jorge Mateo, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Rob Refsnyder
All four of these Yankees prospects have been acclaimed in the past, and for good reason. Both Sanchez and Bird have previously cracked some analysts' MLB-wide Top 100 lists, Mateo seemed destined to make BP's post-2015 Top 100 list since he just missed the midseason cut, and Refsnyder was named among MLB.com's top 10 second base prospects prior to the season. They aren't quite as flashy as Judge or Severino since their flaws are more apparent. Sanchez has makeup and catching concerns, Bird is just a first baseman who absolutely needs his bat to carry him, Mateo is only in his first season of full-season ball down in Low-A, and Refsnyder's defensive problems at second base are quite apparent. Nonetheless, these are still solid prospects who would certainly intrigue teams as the leads on deals for somewhat-lesser players than the top names. Perhaps a couple of them could be paired to obtain one of the elite targets as well. Keep an eye on them as we inch forward to the end of July.
Big league names
Beyond the aforementioned big prospects, there are definitely several other young Yankees at the major league level who carry some intrigue:
- Adam Warren: The former minor league starter finally got his shot in the big league rotation over the season's first few months, and he impressed with a 3.59 ERA and a mere .665 OPS against in 14 starts. For better or for worse, he's back in the bullpen for the time being, but that doesn't mean he won't be moved. Shane Greene also had exactly 14 starts with nice numbers last year for the Yankees, and they surprised some people by flipping him in a three-team trade to fill the hole they had at shortstop. Even the biggest Warren supporters would have to admit there's a chance that the 27-year-old's not really as good a starter as he appeared in the limited sample. Knowing that Warren's value is higher than it's ever been, I don't think anyone should be stunned if he ends up moving.
- John Ryan Murphy: The catcher is no longer considered a prospect since he's the big league backup to Brian McCann now, but scouts are well aware of his pitch framing abilities and defensive prowess. It also wasn't so long ago that Murphy was pounding Triple-A pitching, so it's reasonable to think his bat could potentially be even better with more playing time.
- Bryan Mitchell: Like Warren, this 24-year-old former Triple-A starter currently finds himself in the Yankees' bullpen, as they have decided that he provides more value to them in short relief right now. Mitchell's name has come up in trade talks before, most notably last year when the Yankees reportedly declined to give him up in a deal for Seattle's Dustin Ackley.
- Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams: Both presently injured outfielders needed comebacks this year to restore their respective prospect statuses, and they delivered, even impressing in the majors during their brief cameos. That probably won't be enough to make them a team's top target, but it assuredly made them more attractive as bonus players in a deal.
There are, of course, numerous other prospects who will emerge in trade talks that have not been mentioned (Eric Jagielo, Jacob Lindgren, Jake Cave, Ian Clarkin, and Brady Lail come to mind), but these are the most likely players to be cited by rumormongers. Sometimes, big league talent few people knew was available gets moved, as the Athletics did last year with Yoenis Cespedes. Often, some of the prospects will be people barely known to the public. These situations could always apply to the Yankees, too. Fans will just have to sit back and wait to see what the next month brings and who might leave the organization to improve the Yankees' chances of returning to playoff baseball.