Outfield Trade Targets

The Yankees barely have a third outfielder to start the 2013 season. Yes, they're loaded with depth, but hardly any of these players have even seen Triple-A. Matt Diaz, Juan Rivera, and Thomas Neal may be the most prepared players, but Diaz and Rivera couldn't even break a .290 OBP in 2012. The two starting outfielders, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki, have their own questions about health and age, and the Yankees could be in a lot of trouble if Gardner's head-first sliding catches up to him for a second year, or Ichiro's age starts to show. Not only does the team need a third outfielder, but they need a respectable fourth outfielder. Living with an Adonis Garcia or Zoilo Almonte for one month isn't terrible, but there is very little depth if Granderson can't return or Gardner misses any more time. The Yankees were interested in a right-handed hitting outfielder a few weeks ago, and Curtis Granderson's injury will probably force them to make an actual move.

They don't need a starting caliber outfielder, but a proper fourth outfielder should keep the position at replacement level or better. Here are a few names to look out for.

Casper Wells- I wrote about Wells at the beginning of the month. He's nearly a perfect fit for the team, assuming the Mariners are willing to trade him. The 28 year old right-handed hitter can play all three outfield positions, but finds himself in a stacked outfield in Seattle. After a promising minor league career, Wells has struggled with the bat over the last couple of years, but splits show that Safeco Field is robbing him. In his career away, Wells has hit .268/.331/.478 with a 120 wRC+. He also has a ton of success against left-handed pitchers, who he hits for .264/.349/.489 with a 132 wRC+ both at home and away. Wells' handedness, his ability to play all three positions, and his upside outside of Seattle could mean that he develops into an above average fourth outfielder and perhaps an everyday player. The outfielder is out of options on a crowded team, and he may be available as things take shape for the Mariners.

Tyler Colvin- Our own Domenic Lanza brought up a possible match up between the Yankees and Rockies recently.  The Rockies are searching for pitching, and the Yankees have some excess. If Pineda continues rehabbing successfully, the Yankees could be forced to move both David Phelps and Ivan Nova to the bullpen or Triple-A by June. If the Yankees like what they see in Colorado, dealing one of these pitchers wouldn't hurt the team's depth with starting pitchers still sitting on the free agent market.

Usually, trading for a Rockies hitter is a bad idea, the stadium is just far too hitter friendly. But moving Colvin from Coors Field to Yankee Stadium might not have much of an impact. The left-handed Colvin hit .290/.327/.531 in 452 plate appearances in 2012. Though he can demonstrate bad plate discipline at times, Colvin has power, and that's something which should continue for the 27 year old in Yankee Stadium. Colvin is a pull hitter, who batted .434 with a .478 ISO when going to right field. At home, he put up a 151 wRC+ versus an 83 wRC+ on the road, however Yankee Stadium is almost just as friendly to lefties as Coors Field. When it comes to power, StatCorner gives Coors a 150 rating (100 being average) for left-handed batters, and Yankee Stadium earned a 146 in 2012.

Domonic Brown- For some reason, Yankee fans love Domonic Brown. At one point, there were several rumors about the team trading Dellin Betances to the Philles for the left-hander, and perhaps that's where fan interest began. Brown's stock has fallen considerably. The 25 year old has earned a reputation as a poor outfielder, and the Phillies have not been kind to his development. In 492 major league plate appearances, Brown has put together a .236/.315/.388 slash line, and his power in the minor leagues has all but disappeared. But some still hold out hope, because sometimes he happens to do this.

Perhaps a change of scenery will help Brown, but his availablilty is questionable, and the Phillies will have a better idea of their outfield situation by the end of March.

Drew Stubbs- He only hit .213/.277/.333 last year, but as a right-handed hitter, Stubbs could fit a role as a strict platoon player. Over his career, Stubbs has hit .276/.344/.476 with a 120 wRC+ against left-handed pitchers. Against righties, Stubbs has a miserable 77 wRC+. Other than hitting lefties, Stubbs could also work himself into the game as a productive pinch runner. His massive amount of strike outs and average fielding is a major drawback, but it looks like the Indians want to trade him, and if the price is right, he could be useful.

Time To Trade For An Outfielder

There's a lot to say about this year's offseason, but most of it is far from positive. The Yankee front office typically aims for a 95 to 100 win team, but this year it looks like they may barely get to 90. Will it be enough? We won't know until the season is over, but no AL East team looks exceptionally good. Even with the current roster, most reports have the Blue Jays or the Yankees as favorites.

The Yankees usually go above and beyond to put together a team that'll leave the rest of the division far behind them, but they'll lose $20+ million in payroll in 2014, and they have filled a lineup with one year deals and minor league gambles in preparation.  To replace Russell Martin, Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano, and Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees brought in Kevin Youkilis, Bobby Wilson, Shawn Kelley, Juan Rivera, and Matt Diaz. Needless to say, the front office has brought in some disappointing replacements.

Now with Curtis Granderson out for at least the first month of the season, the Yankees have no major league third outfielder on their 40 man roster. The three outfielders outside of Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki are Zoilo Almonte, Melky Mesa, and Ramon Flores. Of these three, only Mesa has played above Double-A, where he hit .230/.271/.524 in 133 plate appearances. Though the outfielder has some pop, he is awful at drawing walks, and last year in Triple-A he struck out 43 times next to his 7 walks.

There are also outfield options on minor league deals that could make the team. As I mentioned earlier, Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz are available, have some upside, though both couldn't crack an on base percentage higher than .290 in 2012, and their slugging was equally awful.

I haven't heard much about him from the media, but perhaps the highest upside player is Thomas Neal. Through the Giants farm system, Neal was a highly touted prospect up until he reached Double-A. In 2009, the right-hander hit 22 home runs and batted .337/.431/.579, but followed that up with a less than inspiring 2010 where he hit .291/.359/.440. In 2011, Neal was probably sent to Triple-A prematurely, and then traded to the Indians after a mediocre season. In 2012, Neal rebounded in Double-A, hitting .314/.400/.467 with 12 home runs. Most impressive from the outfielder was his patience at the plate, where he took 46 walks to his 71 strikeouts.

At 25 years old this season, Neal is probably the most mature and best fit of the young guys, assuming the Yankees are willing to move him to the 40 man roster. However, the team needs to continue to look for another viable outfielder. With Granderson breaking his arm, Gardner out for nearly all of last season, and Ichiro 39 years old, the amount of games these three can stay on the field for is a big question. The Yankees really should have a decent fourth outfielder with such risky players.

Even before the Granderson injury, Cashman was still looking for another right-handed outfielder, though the rumors had stopped as of late. Now he has little choice but to start adding depth to this outfield. The team doesn't need to add a Giancarlo Stanton or even Alfonso Soriano, but a young outfielder like Casper Wells or Tyler Colvin should be able to step in and play replacement level ball or better. With only two major league outfielders on the team, and hardly any reasonable choices for a third or fourth, a trade is overdue.

Trade Musing: Casper Wells

It would appear that Brain Cashman is finally wrapping up his offseason acquisition, and is now targeting a right handed outfielder. Though he's already acquired a number of low risk players, such as Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz, the organization is still searching for a more stable option. At this point, the free agent market is barren of right handed hitting outfielders, and if he wants to acquire someone, it'll have to be through a trade.

Nearly 3,000 miles away, Jack Zduriencik's Seattle Mariners are fighting their way back to relevance. In an attempt to compete with a strong AL West, they've loaded their 40 man roster with bats. Their current starting outfield lines up as Franklin Gutierrez, Michael Morse, and Michael Saunders. They'll be backed up by Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, Mike Carp, Eric Thames, and Casper Wells. There's even some talk about the Mariners having interest in free agent Michael Bourn. The team is loaded with outfield depth, and with Justin Smoak, Kendrys Morales, and Jesus Montero likely splitting time as designated hitters, many of these outfielders will be wasted sitting on the bench.

Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times sees Casper Wells as an odd man out in this scenario. Although the 28 year old outfielder corner stoned the Doug Fister deal in 2011, his role in 2013 is as a backup outfielder on a crowded bench. Of course, after hitting only .228/.302/.396 in 2012, it's easy to understand why the Mariners are no longer infatuated by the right-hander. There's more to Wells than his 2012 triple slash though.

Despite his awful batting averages in Seattle, Wells seems to be yet another hitter cursed by the old dimensions of Safeco Field. Over his career, Wells has hit .268/.331/.478 on the road, good for a 120 wRC+. He also holds strong career splits against left handed pitchers, a .264/.349/.489 triple slash with a 132 wRC+. In a limited 146 plate appearances away from home and against lefties, Wells is hitting .326/.404/.628 with a 182 wRC+. Despite his awful offense in 2012, he maintained a .192 wRC+ in these situations.

Overall, Wells has been an above average hitter over his short MLB career, despite Safeco Field stealing hits. Assuming the Yankees targeted Wells, the team would use him as the right handed hitting outfielder. Given the more hitter friendly ballparks of the AL East, and his role against left handed pitchers, there's a possibility that he produces close to his splits. He's also far from horrible against right handed pitchers, though they remain below average. Wells also takes his fair share of walks, and his BB% has improved every year since 2010. With that said, he also strikes out with a 25.9 K%, just shy of Curtis Granderson's 28.5 K% in 2012.

He can't be considered an elite defensive outfielder, but he can play all three position very well. UZR is a big fan, where he holds a 14.6 UZR/150 through all three outfield spots. He also maintains good arm strength and accuracy, generating 8 assists in 88 games last season.

In regards to this year's payroll and the 2014 budget, he's only first time arbitration eligible next season. If he were to finally have his breakout season, (a big if) the Yankees could pencil him in as a cheap starter next season, or at least a reliable platoon designated hitter.

The Yankees and Mariners match up as well as any teams for a trade. Over the last year, the two teams have made two substantial trades that swapped Jesus Montero and Michael Pineda, and later DJ Mitchell and Ichiro Suzuki. The Mariners have a very young team, and have very few needs. They could use a bit more depth in starters this year, but they have three top pitching prospects waiting in the minors. The same goes for the middle infield, where they have a number of shortstop prospects hiding in the upper levels. Though there's no obvious need on the Mariners side, the team looks as if it has entered win-now territory. With Zduriencik's familiarity with the Yankee system, a trade between the two teams could very easily work itself out.