On Monday, the New York Yankees announced that their top prospect, also the number two prospect in all of baseball, Gleyber Torres would require Tommy John surgery following an injury suffered to his non-throwing elbow during a headfirst slide into home plate. Many believed that he would be called-up some time this summer to replace Chase Headley as the starting third baseman. Of course, this surgery causes him to miss the rest of the season, so that is no longer in the cards.
There seems to be no cause for concern going forward, as the recovery for a position player undergoing Tommy John surgery is far less severe than that of a pitcher. Matt Wieters, Miguel Sano, and Zack Cozart are three position players who have all had Tommy John surgery and ended up playing at a high-level afterwards. Miguel Sano (.291/.392/.581 with 18 HRs and 52 RBI this year) is currently the leading vote getter among AL Third Baseman for the MLB All-Star game, and Zack Cozart (.320/.404/.562 with 9 HRs and 33 RBI this year) currently leads all NL Shortstops in the All-Star Voting, as well. Wieters, on the other hand, was an All-Star last year following an injury-plagued 2015. These three talented players who have had the same surgery show that Tommy John surgery isn’t the end of the world for a position player.
Still, many believed that Torres would be up sometime this summer, despite Gleyber’s manager, Al Pedrique of the AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre Railriders, saying that the star prospect was not ready to be called-up just yet. It didn’t help matters, though, that Chase Headley had struggled mightily in the month of May, hitting just .165/.211/.235 through the month. Though Headley has been hot so far in June (.279/.395/.361 through 18 games), speculation that Headley could be displaced has still run rampant. As we know now, the presumed successor to the hot corner in the Bronx is now on the shelf for the remainder of the 2017 season. With that hampering the possibility of that big call-up this season, there are still some trade options that do remain, should the Yankees feel a move from Headley is necessary. A recent seven-game skid likely doesn’t help things, either.
One name that I have seen tossed around quite a bit is Todd Frazier. While he is able to drive in runs and hit some homers (40 last year), this is still a guy who is currently hitting .205/.310/.405, with an OPS+ of 92, showing that he is 8% below the league average. Headley, of course, is hitting .245/.335/.362 on the season with an OPS+ of just 83, 17% below the league average. What makes Frazier an attractive option is his power, and the fact that the White Sox don’t seem to be in a position to ask for a lot in exchange for Frazier. The reason I say this is because Chicago can get a good return for Jose Abreu if they choose to move him, along with Melky Cabrera, or pitchers Jose Quintana, even in a down year, or Derek Holland.
These two are very similar players when compared defensively (Frazier has a dWAR of 0.1, while Headley’s is -0.3), but Frazier gets out quite a bit more than Headley, even though he hits for more power. Still, I don’t see this as the best option for the Yankees, as more value is still available. It doesn’t make sense for the Yankees to replace a guy who can’t hit with a guy who can’t hit.
Jed Lowrie is a very attractive option for the Yankees. The Oakland infielder is second in the AL in doubles (23) and sports a slash line of .283/.355/.475 with a terrific OPS+ of 126, 26% above the league average. With just a team option on his contract after this season, Lowrie offers an extremely attractive rental option to many contending teams, the Yankees being a prominent one. Though Lowrie has primarily played second base this season, he’s athletic enough and durable enough to play third. He last played third base consistently in 2015, where he sported a .966 Fielding Percentage, compared to a League Fielding Percentage of .958. He offers the Yankees a good bat at the bottom of the order and solid glove-work at third, should they try to strike a deal.
I’d imagine that he can be had for a few prospects, perhaps pitching prospect Dillon Tate and either second base prospect Nick Solak or shortstop prospect Wilkerman Garcia. However, Tyler Austin could be included as it does not seem that he fits into the Yankees future plans, unless they’d like to use him at first base as an in-house option if Greg Bird does not return to form when he comes off of the DL. This is an interesting way to go for the Yankees, but there is one more option that could include a bidding war with a familiar foe.
Mike Moustakas is one of the bigger names available with the deadline looming, but the question remains which direction Kansas City will go in at the deadline. At 35-36 and 8-2 in their last ten games, they find themselves just 3.5 games out of the Division, and 2.0 games out of a Wild Card spot, so they shouldn’t be considered sellers at the moment. If the Royals begin to falter and lose their footing in the standings, then two AL East teams might come calling for the services of the soon-to-be Free Agent Moustakas; the first place New York Yankees, and the Wild Card leading Boston Red Sox, both with needs at third base.
Boston has mostly had Pablo Sandoval and Josh Rutledge playing at third, and the two have hit a combined .218/.283/.308. Knowing Headley’s numbers already, we see that the two teams atop the AL East have been getting very little production at third base.
Meanwhile, Moustakas is enjoying a very strong season at .276/.314/.549, with a career best .863 OPS and 122 OPS+. Not to mention, he currently sits at 19 HRs, on pace to shatter his personal best 22 HRs in a season, set in 2015. He is a very attractive option for both teams when you look at the production they have gotten from the third base position this year. The man affectionately called “Moose” offers a slightly above average glove at third (.960 Fielding Percentage, compared to a .950 League Fielding Percentage) and a fairly solid arm, but his major draw is his offensive game. His powerful lefty swing could do wonders in the hitter friendly confines of Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium, and both teams would salivate at the chance to get one of the best available rental bats on the trade market this July.
The main issue is that the Royals wouldn’t give up Moustakas (or any of their four Free Agents-to be) for peanuts; it’ll cost some attractive prospects. The Yankees would likely have to include Jorge Mateo and Dustin Fowler in a trade for Moustakas, giving the Royals two prospects ranked in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects List, where they currently have zero. Likewise, the Red Sox (who gutted their Farm System this offseason in an effort to acquire Ace Chris Sale) would probably have to include their number two and three prospects, LHP Jay Groome and first baseman Sam Travis, and possibly even third base prospect Michael Chavis. Groome would be the only KC prospect in the Top 100 Prospects List. This might be too expensive for Boston to bite, and they could instead hope to acquire Frazier or possibly sign Moustakas in the offseason.
Of course, this speculation would depend on Headley’s strong June being a fluke, forcing the Yankees to make a change. If they don’t want to lose prospects, then a call up of Tyler Wade or Miguel Andujar makes a lot of sense. If they do go the trade route, then a rental is all they would be looking for as, thankfully, Torres is expected to be ready by the start of the 2018 season, making a deadline deal all the more likely should they decide to move on from the underwhelming Chase Headley.
By: Chris Perkowski