In Trump's America, nothing makes any sense anymore. Our cool cousins in the big city over at Pinstripe Alley are saying the Yankees are looking to cut payroll. The Yankees. Cutting payroll. These are strange times, indeed.
Specifically, the Yanks are shopping both Chase Headley and Brett Gardner. They both have two years left on their current contracts, at $26 mil and $25 mil, respectively. To be more specific about these specifics, I'm specifically interested in Brett Gardner.
I think the Reds should ring the bell for a Phillips-for-Gardner swap. It may not seem prudent or even remotely probable, but hear me out.
Why the Yanks could be interested:
1. Payroll - Like I said up top, the main reason the Yankees are looking to move Gardner is because they want to try to stay under the luxury tax threshold. The Pinstripe Alley piece says ownership is focused on keeping payroll under $200 mil for the 2018 season, and moving the $13.5 mil Gardner will earn ($11.5 mil salary for '18 and a $2 mil buyout for '19) could go a long way to help that.
Of course, BP will make $14 mil in '17 and Gardner $12.5 mil, so this move would basically be cash-neutral for the '17 season. The Reds could even kick in a bit of cash to sweeten the pot, but I'll have more on that later.
2. They could use an upgrade at 2B - Kinda unexpectedly, the Yankees won 84 games last year. Most expected 2016 to be a down year for them, and it kinda was considering they missed the playoffs, but make no mistake. They are a team on the rise.
Starlin Castro was their primary 2B and he was unspectacular. He's a real strange bird, in that he will only be 27 next year and he is four full seasons clear of his peak. He might make a nice Ben Zobrist / Sean Rodriguez-style utility player, though.
Phillips may not be a tremendous upgrade, but he would give them a dependable piece that could increase their total roster flexibility and also free up some payroll.
3. Trading Gardner would open up their OF for younger players - The Yankees have both Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge ready to jam in the Bronx, and moving Gardner would create the much-needed playing time and space for these guys.
4. Didi and BP are buds - I mean, I figure they are. BP was full of praise for the young Didi when he made his debut with the Reds. This probably doesn't warrant an actual bullet point on this list, but moving on.
Why the Reds could be interested:
1. Brett Gardner would bring OBP and versatility - Look, this fella isn't a star, which is why the Yankees aren't so ate up to keep him forever. But he is a useful player. His .346 OBP is above-average but not great and he has a slick glove that plays in all three OF positions. And I don't know about you, but I don't think it would be wise for the Reds to count on all three of Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton, and Scott Schebler to play at a sufficient level.
2. The deal would open up a lot of room for the Reds' young prospects - This is the most obvious point here. Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera need to be the Reds' cornerstone tandem from the very beginning next year. If they are considered the future of the middle infield, and they are, Zack Cozart and Brandon Phillips need to gang way.
Of course, adding another veteran like Gardner would also eat up playing time and space for youngsters, but there is much more room in the OF for a steady vet than there is in the infield. Aside from Jesse Winker, the Reds don't have any premier outfielders that absolutely need time here in the near future.
3. The Reds actually have the money to absorb a veteran contract like this - They have shed a bunch of payroll obligations through this rebuild and are said to be stocking a war chest so they can spend when they need it. If the Yankees want to shed payroll, the Reds are in a really good position to absorb it.
4. Perhaps the biggest factor here is BP's no-trade clause. He has earned the right to refuse any trade, so if he ain't cool with it, it won't happen. He did it twice last season to scuttle deals with the Nationals and the Diamondbacks. He likes Cincinnati, so it's gonna take some persuading.
But the Yankees are in a good position next season to contend. With only one guaranteed year left on his contract, BP can only be confident of having one more chance to do the postseason and World Series thing. That ain't gonna happen in Cincinnati, but maybe in New York. Also, Didi!
This may not be a big sexy move for either team, but it is the kind of move that could benefit both teams and help them reach some of their broader organizational goals. Gardner is likely a fair bit more valuable than Phillips is, but the Reds are in a position to offer some money and/or a prospect or two to help facilitate the deal.
What do you think?