Don’t take the bait. Just because somebody posts a trade proposal doesn’t mean I have to go into it in detail. This time, though, a proposal involving Willson Contreras seemed worthy of a full-length post.
In The Athletic last week, Jim Bowden proposed this Cubs/Yankees trade, which is either a trial balloon or some sort of purported historic document:
Trade top right-handed pitching prospects Deivi García and Yoendrys Gómez along with catcher Gary Sánchez to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for catcher Willson Contreras.
The Cubs are rebuilding and are in desperate need of pitching prospects with power arms. They can use Sánchez for a year, non-tender him or trade him. The key for them would be acquiring the pitching prospects. Contreras, 29, is still in his prime years and is coming off a season in which he reached base at a 34 percent clip with 21 home runs and 57 runs batted in which resulted in a bWAR of 4.1. He’s a free agent after the 2022 season.
Contreras is better than Sánchez. Both are in a similar spot regarding free agency. The Cubs would likely want to keep Contreras around if these were the late 1960s, before “player service time” mattered, but free agency beckons for both. From a Yankees perspective, “Sanchez and a bit” for Contreras makes quite a bit of sense, if the value can be limited. Deftly, Bowden postulates the Cubs likely need pitching, so he tosses them two completely unworthy bones.
Deivi García is a developing pitcher. As with many developing pitchers, Garcia’s development has been far from “always in the right direction.” I’m not sure if Garcia has two more option seasons remaining, or only one, but his ERA of nearly seven in Triple-A over 24 outings (22 starts) is far from appetizing. Toss in that he’d require a 40-man roster spot, and I’d not consider this a worthy decision.
If you thought García was tepid, here’s a look at the third piece, Yoendris Gomez. A four-year pitcher in the Yankees system, Gomez is already Rule 5 Draft-eligible. His season in Low-A Tampa wasn’t bad, but he only managed nine appearances. None were after July 24, which positively screams “season-ending injury.” For a pitcher. Doesn’t sound like an apt third piece in a key trade.
Unless you’re slanting an article to get clicks from pinstripe nation.
If the Yankees are interested in Contreras, and they should be (as the Cubs ought to be aggressively looking into an agreeable extension agreement), the pressure switches. Much of Sanchez’ value comes from his power, not his defense. The only reason the Cubs would even appear to be interested in Sánchez would be if Contreras went away. Which isn’t a viable reason to include him in a trade.
If the Yankees want Contreras, cool. Every team ought to be interested in Contreras, not the least of which being the Cubs. But, if the Yankees are willing to surrender a portion of their future for a Cubs veteran, one of my starting points would be Austin Wells. A 2020 Yankees first-round pick out of the University of Arizona (which also produced Alfonso Rivas), Wells had an .849 OPS in High-A in 2021, and is playing this fall for Surprise in the Arizona Fall League. While I doubt the Yankees are interested in parting with the entirety of Wells’ career for a season of Contreras, that’s where the discussion ought to begin. I’d be good with Wells and a piece for Contreras, probably, because Fangraphs has Wells as a 45 on their prospect board. (Garcia and Gomez are both ranked higher, but I much prefer recent draft choices who haven’t recently had glaringly bad seasons or injury concerns.)
After that, if adding Contreras is still the goal, but Wells isn’t tolerable (despite being 11th on Fangraphs’ board), I push aggressively pitching. Due to their signing of Gerrit Cole, the Yankees lost two of their five 2020 draft choices. As such, I move forward to 2021. The Yankees top pick this past July was Trey Sweeney, a highly regarded bat from Eastern Illinois. Their next two choices were Brendan Beck, a second-rounder from Stanford, and Brock Selvidge from Chandler, Arizona. (Sweeney is a 40 on Fangraphs. Selvidge and Beck are 35+ types on Fangraphs.) Beck didn’t pitch professionally in 2021, and Selvidge fanned four of fourteen hitters he faced in Compound League ball.
I don’t want to “Beck plus one” or “Selvidge plus one” for Contreras. The Cubs and Yankees don’t seem well aligned here, especially if Wells isn’t included. Former Cubs draft pick Stephen Ridings (eighth round, 2016 from Haverford College, now with the Yankees) seems as interesting as most of their pitchers. I’m going to decline to post and trade offer of my own. It isn’t the Yankees have a bad system (they’re ranked eighth in Fangraphs to the Cubs’ seventh), I merely don’t especially enjoy the options. Unless Wells is included. What I see is people doing slack homework and submitting it to their editors as an article.