He is young, cost-effective, and has the makings of being a cornerstone ace at the front of nearly any starting rotation in the major leagues. With David Price, Zack Greinke, and Jordan Zimmermann coming off the boards on the open market, multiple teams are expressing desire to trade for Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez in the hopes of adding a piece which can benefit them both in the present and in the future. Perhaps the most intriguing suitor interested in Fernandez’s services are the New York Yankees who boast one of the better farm systems in the game and the big-league-ready products ready to contribute immediately to a contender.
In just three seasons in the major leagues, Fernandez has quickly established himself as one of the top young aces in the National League. As a rookie in 2013, Fernandez went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA while collecting a 6.3 WAR and NL Rookie of the Year honors. Fernandez showed the maturity of a 10-year veteran on the mound and was well on his way to sustaining his promise until a torn elbow ligament in his pitching arm derailed his sophomore season in 2014 after just eight starts. The young right-hander would not return to the mound for 14 months. Fernandez rebounded nicely in his return last season, striking out 11 batters per nine innings and pitched shutout ball in nearly one-third of his starts.
With Fernandez on the cusp of reaching salary arbitration for the first time, and represented by Scott Boras, the Marlins are preparing to do what they have grown accustomed to doing under owner Jeffrey Loria by preparing to trade promising young player on the cusp of breaking out because their cost is on the verge of becoming too prohibitive for the team. Excluding Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins have committed this practice with past players such as Miguel Cabrera, Dan Uggla, and Josh Willingham, and sought to obtain either major league ready prospects or proven veterans who are more economical in the long-term. There have also been rumors swirling that some in the Miami organization have grown tired of the pitcher’s attitude. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Marlins would be seeking, “five or six” great young players for Fernandez’s services.
The Marlins’ desires to potentially move Fernandez, coupled with the Yankees’ slew of flourishing minor league talent, appear to make both clubs logical trading partners. Last season the Yankees saw top prospects Luis Severino and Gregory Bird graduate to the Major Leagues and others such as Nick Rumbelow, Gary Sanchez, and Rob Refsnyder make smaller cameos in the Bronx. In addition to the major-league-ready products, pitchers James Kaprielian, Domingo Acevedo, and Rookie Davis are viable long-range prospects who can rise through the farm system in the coming years. Position players Jorge Mateo, Aaron Judge, and Dustin Fowler show similar promise for the future.
As the Yankees gradually rebuilt a largely neglected minor league system in the last decade, General Manager Brian Cashman has been extremely reluctant to trade any prospects for proven commodities regardless of age or salary, believing development from within is the most efficient way of creating the next core of potential stars to don pinstripes. Since the death of George Steinbrenner in 2010, Cashman and George’s son Hal have run the baseball aspects of the franchise more cautiously and have mostly avoided impulsive trades or free-agent signings that can leave the club vulnerable years down the road when the players no longer perform at their statistical peak. This rationale caused the Yankees to not match the contract offer made to Robinson Cano by the Seattle Mariners in 2013. The club also did not have any interest in acquiring David Price at the trade deadline or in free agency.
While the passive approach of the front draws some ire from fans accustomed to the Yankees routinely making headlines, it built one of the most complete farm systems in the sport and a pipeline of talent not seen since Gene “Stick” Michael sat in the same chair as Cashman two decades earlier. In a potential trade for Fernandez, the asking price from the Marlins could consist of some combination of Judge, Bird, or Severino and additional prospects in return. Despite visions of a “three headed monster” of Tanaka, Severino, and Fernandez at the top the rotation, the Yankees are more likely to continue to course of constructing a championship club internally and wait until the more expensive contracts of Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, and Alex Rodriguez to come off the salary books before making any move that drastically alters the existing core and organizational philosophy.