Last offseason, the New York Yankees professed to have a quartet of players that were off the table in trade talks. The Yankees engaged in a significant sell-off during the summer, further filling the farm system with some of the game's more highly touted players, making one believe the number of untouchable players might grow. Should that be the case?
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman says that the answer is no, recently suggesting that catcher Gary Sanchez might be the only player deemed "difficult" to trade. Let's look at a handful of players who might be deemed worthy of various levels of an "untouchable" tag and discuss their merits.
We'll start with the player Cashman noted. Sanchez is no longer a prospect, but he's as close to a prospect as the Yankees have at the MLB level.
After a slow rise up the organizational ladder, due in part to a questionable work ethic and defensive deficiencies, Sanchez exploded in all facets in 2016. Sanchez arrived at last season's spring training with a chance to win the backup catching role. He was completely ineffective at the plate, earning him a trip to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Sanchez did not wallow as he might have in years past. He worked extremely hard and when the Yankees went into sell mode as the trade deadline approached, they also brought Sanchez up and inserted him into the starting catcher role within a few days.
Sanchez followed up his 10 home run stint at Scranton with 20 homers in just 53 games (201 at-bats) with the Yankees. Sanchez's power display was historic and at 24 years old next season, he looks like a player who might become one of the faces of the Yankees franchise in the coming years.
My Call: Completely untouchable
Frazier is among two new prospects acquired at the trade deadline that could carry the untouchable tag. Frazier is the Yankees No. 1 prospect and the league's No. 15 minor league player according to MLB Pipeline. Frazier is set to begin the 2017 season at Triple-A after appearing in 25 games with Scranton at the end of last season.
Frazier is widely considered a player that could be a star in this game, but as always, speculation is just that. Frazier figures to be a part of the 2018 club providing he continues to climb the minor league system at his current pace. The Yankees would have a glut of outfielders next year unless they make some moves and whether that is with players at the MLB level or in the minors remains to be seen.
In my view the Yankees have not witnessed enough of Frazier to immediately make him readily available on the market. Frazier might not be untouchable, but he should be treated closely to that until the Yankees know exactly what he offers, including the potential timetable for his MLB debut.
My Call: Untouchable…for now
Torres might jump ahead of Frazier in the MLB Pipeline prospect rankings before the end of 2017, but for now sits in the No. 2 slot (No. 17 overall). Cashman has already proclaimed Torres, 19, as the shortstop for Double-A Trenton in the upcoming season. Torres has been playing the Arizona Fall League with great success (.379/.500/.621 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in 72 plate appearances).
The Yankees have shifted Jorge Mateo between shortstop and second base as well as seeing some time in the outfield, while deploying Tyler Wade, a middle infielder for Double-A Trenton in 2016, to the outfield in Arizona to make him even more versatile. The reasoning here is clear: Torres is going to get the reps at shortstop more often than not. Torres has also played some second base, which makes sense considering current Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius has begun to blossom and is under team control through the 2019 season.
Much like Frazier, the Yankees have seen a very small sample of Torres' play, but he looks to possess the potential to become an elite player. At a young age, Torres has shown the ability to play with tough competition, making him a player I would be hesitant put in a deal at this time.
My Call: Completely untouchable
The issue with placing an untouchable tag on Torres stems from what has become of Mateo. Last year at this time, Mateo was the darling of the Yankees' farm system. Unfortunately, he struggled in 2016 on the field and showed immaturity off of it. Both aspects have seemingly stalled his climb and bring into question whether he is someone the Yankees fret about dealing.
Mateo's availability on the trade market relates to the standing of Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro (under contract through 2019, with a club option for 2020), Gregorius, and Torres. The good news for Mateo is that the Yankees are looking to extract value by moving him around the field to see if he fits better elsewhere.
The upcoming season is an important one for Mateo, the Yankees' No. 3 prospect (No. 18 overall). If Mateo shows some improvement (physically and mentally) that coincides with continued excellence from Torres, the Yankees might decide to utilize Mateo in a trade next offseason to boost another part of the organization while his stock is high.
That is not to say that the Yankees would not package him this offseason season for the right player. If the Yankees get involved in trade talks for a starting pitcher like Chris Sale or Jose Quintana, I believe that Mateo is the prime player to depart, assuming he is on the White Sox's wish list.
My Call: Tradable in package for controllable star
Judge has long been among the prospects the Yankees have been unwilling to trade, and this offseason might be no different. Again, the club will note that he is available for the right deal, but I believe if the Yanks had their way, they would like to see Judge take over right field duties in 2017.
Judge, the Yankees No. 4 prospect (No. 22 overall), received his call in August after the Yankees sold their best MLB assets on the trade market. Judge displayed significant holes in his swing, striking out 42 times in 95 plate appearances before suffering a season-ending injury. The Yankees might not be discouraged with Judge's performance considering he has taken some time to acclimate to each level of the minor leagues. Once Judge felt comfortable at the new level, he began to blossom. This is what the Yankees would be banking on if he makes the club out of spring training.
At the same time, Judge's stock did not drop because of his brief stay in New York. If anything, his Triple-A season (.270/.366/.489 with 19 home runs and 65 RBIs in 410 plate appearances) showed the promise his bat possesses. Judge, who turns 25 in April, could be a valued commodity in this trade market. I believe if the Yankees show some patience with Judge, he has a chance to be 2017's Gary Sanchez. Judge might not soar to the level Sanchez did, but in terms of impact with the club, Judge may be an important piece to the puzzle. I would tread lightly in trade talks in which Judge is mentioned.
My Call: Untouchable…for now
By my calls above, it seems I would be uninterested in listening to offers on these players. However, I have no problem with the Yankees conducting talks surrounding any of them (and I believe this is more what Cashman means by saying no one is untouchable), but I do feel that the deal would have to be a virtual slam dunk for a controllable star player. More importantly, it's my contention that the Yankees are too close to fully converting this revamped farm system into a viable major league core that can be melded with free agent signings in upcoming seasons.