In an article posted today by Jim Bowden on The Athletic, he proposed a Winter Meetings move for each MLB team. Here’s what he proposed the Yankees do.
Trade third baseman Miguel Andújar, right-handed pitcher Roansy Contreras and first baseman Luke Voit to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for first baseman Josh Bell.
Bowden outlined reasons why the Yankees should do this deal (it’s clear why the Pirates would – they’re getting two controllable corner infielders and a pitching prospect in exchange for one controllable corner infielder). He said Bell would provide the Yankees lineup righty-lefty balance and he’d mash in Yankee Stadium. While he isn’t wrong, this trade is too lopsided to even be considered by Cashman. Let’s break it down.
Yankees get Josh Bell
Bell is good. He’s a switch-hitting 27-year old first baseman who won’t be a free agent until 2023. His projected salary for 2020, his first year of arbitration, is $5.9M. Definitely affordable for a player who posted a 118 wRC+ in 1,968 major league plate appearances. His splits are also favorable for Yankee Stadium: 125 wRC+ batting left, 95 wRC+ batting right. All Bell would have to do is get a haircut and he’d fit right into the Yankees lineup.
Pirates get Miguel Andujar, Luke Voit, Roansy Contreras
I can envision a scenario in which the Pirates ask for Andujar, seeing as how they wanted him (plus Clint Frazier) for Gerrit Cole two winters ago. I can also see why they might ask for Voit in return for Bell – they’d be replacing Bell, a first baseman with high offensive potential and three years of team control, with Voit, a first baseman with high offensive potential and five years of team control. Yes, Bell is more proven than Voit, but an argument can be made that Voit is a better offensive player. I believe the main reason Voit struggled in the second half of last year was not because pitchers figured him out, but because of core injuries. In his 497 plate appearances with the Yankees prior to injuring himself in London, Voit had a 156 wRC+. That is, like, really freakin’ good. We all know Voit is a bad defender, but guess what? So is Bell.
Contreras is a right-handed pitching prospect, something the Yankees are flush with. Baseball America ranks him as the Yankees’ 8th best prospect, but Baseball Prospectus doesn’t have him in their top-10. I’m not going to pretend to know a lot about Contreras, so for the sake of this argument, let’s say Cashman would include him.
Here is what baseballtradevalues.com (BTV) has to say about the deal.
As you can see, the Pirates win the trade handedly. In fact, BTV values both Andujar and Voit higher than they do Bell, so a one-for-one swap is more realistic on paper. I realize trades are not done on paper, nor is this a video game where trades are only approved if the values match up (or unless you cheat and force the trade so you can get Bonds and Griffey, without having to give up that much). Humans make these deals and there are extenuating circumstances. Even accepting all of that, I still don’t see any way in hell Cashman would agree to this because it’s essentially giving up Andujar for a slight upgrade at first base.
One of the biggest reasons Bowden says the Yankees should do the trade is for lineup balance. Last year, the Yankees starting lineup featured seven right-handed batters on most nights (Didi and Gardner being the only left-handed starters). The lineup projects to be less balanced next year, with Gregorius likely gone and Hicks out for a while. We could conceivably see a lineup of eight rightys on opening day.
Was lineup balance an issue for the Yankees in 2019? I’d argue no. They murdered lefty pitching (123 wRC+ as a team), but they were no slouch vs rightys (114 wRC+). Would Bell look nice in the Yankees lineup between Judge, Stanton, and Sanchez? Again, yes, but the offense as a whole might not be better than they would with Voit and/or Andujar. Believe it or not, Voit’s career splits vs lefty/righty are nearly identical, and in 2019 he was much better against right-handed pitching than he was left. Goint by Andujar’s splits in 2018, he prefers facing rightys as well, although I don’t think it matters who is throwing the ball, Andujar is going to be swinging.
Pittsburgh would not only win this trade, they’d laugh about the fleecing they gave the great Brian Cashman. As a fan I wouldn’t be happy with this – not because I want to keep Andujar or Voit – but because they should get a better return than just Josh Bell for them.