Yankees ponder trading Brett Gardner for help in the starting rotation
The Yankees have no desire to trade Brett Gardner, but industry sources indicate that they are willing to entertain offers for the speedy outfielder, particularly if a deal leads to the addition of a starting pitcher.
The Yankees officially announced the signing of righthander Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal worth $16 million on Saturday, adding him to a rotation that includes CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. The Yankees intend to add another established arm.
One source said Gardner has generated "a ton of interest'' from multiple clubs that already have made contact with the Yankees. The interest was first reported by the Newark Star-Ledger.
A trade of Gardner, 30, could be the next domino to fall in what has been a transformative offseason shaped by Robinson Cano's defection to the Mariners for a 10-year, $240-million payday.
The fallout has been immense.
On Saturday, the Yankees officially announced the signing of Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153-million deal, a move seemingly initiated by the unsuccessful negotiations with Cano. The team has scheduled a news conference for Friday to formally introduce the former Red Sox outfielder.
An announcement is expected shortly on their signing of Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $45-million package. He is the latest in what has been a long-term outlay in excess of $300 million -- and counting.
All of this comes in advance of baseball's winter meetings, which begin Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and in the past have been a breeding ground for blockbuster deals between teams.
Ellsbury and Beltran join a crowded outfield corps that already features veterans Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano.
None of them is a more valuable trade chip than Gardner, who combines solid offensive production with elite range in the outfield and speed on the basepaths.
Gardner hit .273 with 10 triples and eight homers last season. He has played elite-level defense in leftfield and centerfield and has brought an element of speed on the bases to a largely lumbering Yankees offense.
In parts of six seasons, Gardner has swiped 161 bases, including a career-high 49 in 2011.
Ellsbury, who is expected to take over in centerfield, brings skills that are similar to Gardner's. Team officials envision Gardner and Ellsbury teaming to provide a defensively elite tandem in the outfield and a dynamic look to the top of the lineup.
But with Gardner projected to earn roughly $4 million in his final year of arbitration, he's affordable to virtually every team in the league. And because the Yankees have few top-level prospects to offer up in trades, he stands as their best bet to trade for pitching help.
Though the Yankees also need a second baseman to replace Cano, they are believed to be targeting pitching help in a potential trade involving Gardner.
A rival executive said parlaying the outfielder for a starting pitcher might be "a stretch.'' Nevertheless, a slim free-agent market for starting pitching has provided enough motivation for the Yankees to listen.
The high cost of starting pitching could push the Yankees to the edge of their budget. Meanwhile, they insist that they still want to remain within their self-imposed $189-million payroll ceiling.