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Which trade chips make the most sense for the Yankees to deal?

With the Yankees not entering the free agent market, they will have to continue to improve through trades. Rob Refsnyder, Brett Gardner, and Michael Pineda are three players who could yield a nice return, and the Yankees can afford to lose.

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Brian Cashman has been a master of trades the past few seasons. He always seems to deal from a surplus and has been able to acquire young, promising players who are under team control for the foreseeable future. Didi Gregorius, Nathan Eovaldi, and Aaron Hicks are several examples. What is perhaps most impressive about Cashman's trades is it seems that the players he gives up tend to not pan out.

The Yankees still have some work to do this offseason. They can perhaps use a starter, a middle reliever, and another right-handed bat. With the Yankees seemingly not entering the free agent market, they will have to continue to improve through trades, and they should consider moving the following players. This isn't merely who they'd get the most back for. Rather, these are the players who they can afford to lose, but can still lead to good talent.

Rob Refsnyder

Many Yankees fans love Rob Refsnyder. While he is a promising player, a lot of his allure last year was just because he was the alternative to Stephen Drew. If an actual lamppost was the Yankees backup second baseman last season, it would have been a huge fan favorite, and not much worse than Drew.

Refsnyder, however, was impressive in his limited time in the majors last season. While his glove is often questioned, his bat seems legitimate. He hit .302 with a very strong 130 wRC+ in 47 plate appearances. It's a small sample size, but scouts agree that he has a major league bat, and when you see his sweet swing, it's easy to understand why. The problem for Refsnyder is that the Yankees just don't have room for him. Starlin Castro will be the starting second baseman in 2016 and for the foreseeable future. Dustin Ackley will probably be the backup; he showed serious power and promise in September, and the Yankees will likely want to use his left-handed bat to complement the righty Castro.

There's simply no room for Refsnyder with the Yankees, but he'll be just 25 next season and a lot of teams would like a plus bat at second base. Refsnyder isn't a top prospect, but he's good enough, especially if packaged with others, to acquire talent that can help the Yankees.

Brett Gardner

Some may argue that Gardner is the Yankees' best all-around position player and a necessity to keep, but I disagree. I just don't think that Gardner is that good anymore. People view him as a very good defensive outfielder who hits for contact and steals bases, but none of that is true. He's a decent outfielder who hits for low average, walks a lot, has average power, and doesn't steal many bases anymore.

Gardner has hit below .260 each of the past two years (his career average is only .264), his defense has been declining (by the metrics and the eye test), he strikes out a ton, and is one of the game's streakiest players. He had two or three insane weeks this past June, but besides that, it wasn't pretty. In the second half last year, he hit .206, third worst average in baseball, and had a 66 wRC+. His streakiness is just too extreme. Also, he's not the base stealer he once was; he hasn't stolen more than 24 bases since 2011. So while he's shown some pop and can still draw walks, it has come at the expense of his average. He's just not a great ballplayer, and he's declining with age. Already 32, with a contract through 2018, the time to trade him is now. He's coming off an All-Star season and the rest of the league seems to have not caught up to the true player he is.

He's entering the second year of a 4 year/$52 million contract, so while the Yankees may have to eat some of that, I'm sure they can get at least $25 million or so off the books. That can be used towards his replacement (Justin Upton, *cough* *cough*), or elsewhere. The Yankees still have Jacoby Ellsbury, Aaron Hicks, and Carlos Beltran to start in the outfield. Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, and Ben Gamel are potential fourth outfielders; Aaron Judge is waiting in the wings, and there are free agents available. So basically the Yankees can afford to lose an outfielder, especially someone who is declining but can still probably be used to get a solid starter in the right package.

Michael Pineda

I know I said the Yankees could use a starter, and Pineda himself is a starter, but hear me out. I'm not saying the Yankees should trade him, but he is one of the Yankees' best trade chips. If he can be flipped into a right-handed power bat, or a younger, promising starter, it's something the Yankees should consider.

The story with Pineda has always been potential. He's 6'7'', has a good arsenal of pitches, has flashed brilliance, and his peripheral statistics are very strong. However, it's just failed to come together. Whether it's injuries, inconsistencies, or poorly concealing pine tar, Pineda has hit many bumps in the road. As a result, he has a solid, but unspectacular career 3.64 ERA in 408 innings, including a poor 4.37 ERA last season.

There are, however, encouraging signs in his peripherals. In his career, he has a 3.26 FIP and 4.67 K/BB. He has great command and his stuff looks just filthy sometimes. So he's an easy player to peg as a breakout candidate. His Steamer projection for 2016 has him at a 3.39 ERA and 3.6 WAR.

Overall, I like Pineda and think he'll get better. A free agent after the 2017 season, he's probably more likely to be extended than traded. However, it's not impossible to imagine Cashman finding him too risky and inconsistent. Instead of just hoping it all eventually comes together, it's not a terrible idea to consider trading him for a proven bat, or perhaps a young starter under longer team control.

The Yankees have some holes to fill for this season and the future. While guys like Luis Severino, Greg Bird, and Andrew Miller would yield a greater return, the three players mentioned above can also acquire talented players, and they make more sense to move.