Coming to you live from the juicy off-season rumors department, Andy Martino of the Daily News reported yesterday that at one point early in the off-season, the Yankees and Braves engaged in some pretty heavy trade talk that would have dramatically changed the course of the Yanks' future transactions. According to two major league sources, the Yankees tried to get the Braves to trade them right fielder Jason Heyward and shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
It is not known what the Yankees offered for these two 25-year-old talents, but since the Cardinals dealt established major league starter Shelby Miller and former Top 100 prospect Tyrell Jenkins for Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden, it would have had to be an impressive return. Heyward will be a free agent at the end of the 2015 campaign, while Simmons is entering year two of the seven-year, $58 million extension he signed after his breakout 2013.
Had the Yankees pulled off this trade, they would not have acquired Didi Gregorius from the Diamondbacks, and Martino states that they would not have asked about Garrett Jones in the deal with the Marlins headlined by Nathan Eovaldi. Heyward would have become their right fielder with Carlos Beltran moving to a much more appropriate DH-centric role. That should say something about how the Yankees regard Alex Rodriguez at this point--they're right to not trust him to be able to tackle a DH role by himself at this point in his career after a pair of hip surgeries.
It's hard not to dream about how fun this blockbuster deal would have been. Sure, the prospect cost would have been sizeable, but Heyward is one of the most underrated players in the game. The former top prospect in the game by Baseball America, Heyward has hit .262/.351/.429 with 125 doubles, 84 homers, a 117 wRC+, and 24.5 WAR in his five years with the Braves, helping them secure three playoff berths. His medical history has mostly been limited to freak hit-by-pitch injuries, and publicly available defensive metrics rate him among the best right fielders in baseball. It seems like he's been around for quite awhile, but he's still a year and a half younger than 2014 rookie standout Dellin Betances.
Simmons, meanwhile, has long haunted me because he was selected by the Braves in the second round of the 2010 MLB Draft. Since debuting in the middle of 2012, the Curacao native has hit .252/.297/.372 with and 27 homers and an 84 wRC+, but where he's caught the most attention has been in the field. Simmons is almost unquestionably the best defensive shortstop in baseball. He is absolutely ridiculous out there. Look at Simba go:
Take all that defense and add a bat that has a little bit of surprising pop, and you get a valuable asset, even though Simmons slumped to a .244/.286/.331 triple slash with a "2014 Jeterian" 71 wRC+. Still, with defense like that, he's more than worth it, especially since the year before, he smacked 17 homers with a much better 91 wRC+. Meanwhile, the round before the Braves took Simmons, the Yankees took... Cito Culver, who can only dream of hitting like Simmons and has yet to appear above A-ball. Yippie.
It would have been entertaining to see this trade go down, but it always takes two to tango. The Braves would likely have been asking for a big return, and would it have been worth it? Who knows. Nonetheless, it's fun to see these rumors leak from time to time.