“I don’t even know what that means.”
“Nobody knows what that means. But it’s provocative.”
“no not like that -“
“It makes people go!”
– “Swords of Glory” 2007
The last time New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner spoke to reporters on Nov. 7 during the GM meetings, he said there would be “some big changes” this offseason.
He added: “There will be changes that some may not consider important, but (Aaron) Judge and I might because we do it every day.”
While we’re still not sure what that means, it’s still early in the holiday season. The Yankees don’t appear to have made any major changes, and it’s unclear if any are coming. But the roster appears to be headed toward upgrades after the team missed the playoffs last year for the first time since 2016. And with the free agent market viewed as weak by many, the Yankees could look to trades for help.
Here are four players who seem most likely to be shopped.
Schmidt has proven he can be a big-league starter over the course of a full season in 2023. In 33 games (32 starts), he posted a 4.64 ERA, tying a career-high in innings pitched (159) while posting a 4.64 ERA. 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.6 walks over the same span. It’s been an up and down season for the 27-year-old right-hander. He had a 6.30 ERA over his first nine starts, a 3.12 ERA over his next 14 starts (15 games) and a 5.73 ERA over his final nine starts, though that final stretch also included an eight-inning collapse.
The 2017 first-round pick has earned Super Two status, meaning he will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this season. MLB Trade rumors indicate he will make $2.6 million in 2023. That’s a light amount for a full-time rotation member. Add to that the fact that Schmidt won’t be a free agent until after the 2027 season, making the Georgia native an attractive trade chip for the Yankees.
The last thing the Yankees (or their fans) want is to trade King, who has been extremely valuable to them in many ways in recent years, and who flourished in the starting rotation at the end of last season. But to get it, you have to give, and the 28-year-old right-hander will enter next season with a lot of hype and a relatively low cost.
After returning from a brutal injury in 2022 (breaking his elbow on the mound), King was solid again out of the bullpen, posting a 3.08 ERA in 40 appearances. But his move to start was one of the few bright spots in the second half of the Yankees’ season. Over his last eight games — all as a starter — he has a 1.88 ERA, earning him a spot in next season’s rotation. The move was huge for the Yankees, who had dealt with a lot of disappointment from the start. And with MLB Trade Rumors projecting a $2.6 million salary for King during his second year of arbitration, the Yankees would certainly prefer to hold on to him.
But for the same reasons the Yankees love him, other clubs are sure to love him as well. Initially, King relied heavily on a two-seam and four-seam combination in the mid-1990s, and the slider that Corey Kluber taught him. Currently, he ranks fourth in the Yankees’ bullpen, behind Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, and Nestor Cortes. But can the Yankees use him to secure another piece?
The Yankees have six catchers on their 40-man roster. Someone has to go. It could be Higashioka who saw his playing time reduced when Austin Wells was promoted to the majors on September 1st. Over the final month of the season, Wells received 18 starts compared to Higashioka’s seven and Ben Rortvedt’s five, who became Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher as the ace won his first career Cy Young Award. In fact, there seemed to be a strong feeling that Higashioka, hired by the Yankees in 2008, might be gone this offseason, so much so that reporters asked him to reflect on his time with the organization before the second-to-last game of the season, just in case. This was his last in the pencil case. (The joke was on them. Higashioka started at DH the next day in Game 162.)
Although nothing has been officially announced, it’s not crazy to think that the Yankees will enter next season with Jose Trevino — their starting catcher before season-ending wrist surgery last year — and Wells as their catcher group. With MLB Trade Rumors projecting a $2.3 million salary for Higashioka in his final season in arbitration, the Yankees may see that amount as too rich to be a backup. (Higashioka made $1.5 million last season.) The Yankees stack players on their roster because they know how vulnerable the position is throughout the game. There is definitely a team that wants Higashioka.
But also don’t be surprised if this team ends up being the Yankees. Higashioka finished tied for sixth among players last season in baseball defensive run blocks blocked with 11.7. The Yankees may want to see if Trevino’s wrist is fully healed in spring training before moving on from Higashioka, the team’s longest-tenured player.
At GM meetings in November, Cashman said the Yankees were looking to add two outfielders. With Aaron Judge in right field, the team needs a center fielder and a left fielder. Cashman said it would be best if at least one of them was a left-handed hitter. Pereira, who is still only 22 years old, likely will not be given the Yankees’ starting job in left field even if he makes his debut last season. But in 27 starts (28 plate appearances), Pereira hasn’t done himself much favors, hitting just .151 with no homers and 40 strikeouts in 103 plate appearances.
Last season, the Yankees went into Opening Day without a surefire option in left field, and watched a combination of Oswaldo Cabrera and Aaron Hicks flounder. They will likely not repeat this mistake. If the Yankees were to bring in a full-time left fielder (Juan Soto? Bueller?), moving Pereira could make a lot of sense. He was ranked as the No. 51 overall prospect in the game before The athleteKeith Law In his mid-season update this year, Pereira has a lot of talent. “He’s an above-average defender in the middle of the infield who can run and shows electric bat speed that really produces traction. He’s added some power even since last year and can push the ball the other way, although his home runs are almost all In the direction of the clouds.
If Pereira stays with the Yankees, he will likely end up back at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he only played 35 games last season but pitched well (.937 OPS). But there is a high possibility that he will be banned at the major league level. Of course, having a top prospect as a backup option in case of injury is not the worst-case scenario. But this situation puts a player of Pereira’s caliber on the trade list.
(Top photo by Clark Schmidt: Adam Hanger/Getty Images)
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