While it might seem like a stretch, it seems it could be time for Brian Cashman to reach out to the St Louis Cardinals about a possible Michael Pineda trade. Alex Reyes, considered a key pitcher in the Cardinals rotation for 2017, is done. Well Reyes is done for at least all of 2017 and part of 2018 at a minimum. The 22-year old was diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. Reyes has opted to have Tommy John surgery to repair the issue. While not a guarantee, Reyes should return to form with a stronger arm than before but it will take time. Of course this is never a guarantee with just a major surgery. Now what will the Cardinals due in 2017 as they attempt to unseat the Cubs at the top of the National League Central? Enter Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees.
The Cardinals were already rolling the dice to a degree with their rotation as they hoped for injury and performance bounce backs from Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn. The Yankees meanwhile have Pineda under contract through this season and then he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2018. That lines up nicely with the concerns the Cardinals have. Pineda has all the promise the world but has never been able to put it all together. Even with that, he started 32 games in 2016 with a 10.6 SO9 rate. His 4.82 ERA last year was higher than the career mark of 3.99 but remember that he pitched in Yankee stadium with its short porch and hitter friendly confines. St Louis on the other hand, while not extreme, is a pitcher friendly park and the move away from the designated hitter would be another plus for Pineda.
The Yankees are looking to be competitive this year but the reality, even in the front office, is that the team is in the middle (or tail end) of a rebuild and a .500 or better season in 2017 is a success. Expect to see a lot of young guys in the lineup. It is true that the Yankees rotation is not great in 2017 and the loss of Pineda would hurt the projected number two or number three in the rotation, the Yankees need to continue to think long term. There is talented pitching in the minors and at least three guys that can come in this year to compete. 2017 is the perfect year to see what these guys all have to offer long term. The fan base has come around to the idea (for the most part) and every opportunity to pounce, especially with players that are free agents at the end of this season, should be reviewed.
Who would the Yankees be looking for in the deal to culminate a Michael Pineda trade? And more importantly, who would the Cardinals be willing to give up to make a Michael Pineda trade possible? There are a few options to consider.
Junior Fernandez is a 19-year-old with a fastball that clocks in the 95-99 range. He also bring s a solid changeup and a slider currently in work. His two-seam also brings some quality sink that will confound many a hitter as he matures and his pitches become more polished. He was a very high ceiling long-term. The Yankees should target him but the Cardinals might not be willing to give up the eighth ranked prospect in their system.
Jack Flaherty is another prospect the Yankees should inquire about. The former two-way 21-year-old has an average fastball but comes equipped with an above average changeup, a slider, and a curve. He will continue to mature as a pitcher and projects as a middle of the rotation guy with upside. While ranked number four in the organization, he might be easier to talk away from the Cardinals than Fernandez.
Paul DeJong is a 23-year-old who plays third base for the Cardinals. He is a former college player who worked his way around positions before being settled into third base by the Cardinals. He has an above average arm and is an average defender who should improve as he matures at the position. He has progressive tactics at the plate and is beyond his years in understanding pitcher methodology and anticipation. He projects as a solid player at the majors with above average contact and power. He will not hit 35 home runs but solid contact and 20-25 home runs will get the job done.
Any one of the top-three or a combination of one and any other on the list of other players to be considered would seem like a smart move for the Yankees. A Michael Pineda trade makes a ton of sense from the Yankees perspective while still planning for the future. A Michael Pineda trade also makes a ton of sense for the Cardinals, who can afford to part with a couple of prospects to get a year of Pineda in a rotation that is now in desperate need of depth. This feels like a win-win and something I sure hope has Cashman calling the Cardinals.
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