Jose Fernandez – somewhat surprisingly – has been mentioned in trade rumors the entire offseason. Fernandez, standing at 6’2” and 215 pounds, was drafted out of high school by the Miami Marlins in the first round, 14th overall. Nearly two years later, at the age of twenty-years young, Fernandez flashed his potential throwing five innings and recording eight strikeouts while only allowing one earned run in his debut.
That was the first start of a rookie season that turned out to be one for the ages. Fernandez ended up throwing 172.2 innings that season, allowing only 111 hits and finishing with a 12-6 record along with a 2.19 ERA. As a twenty-year-old rookie, Fernandez lead all NL pitchers with a 5.8 H/9 rate. Spectacular, really. Moreover, Fernandez earned a well-deserved bid to the All-Star game, finished third in the NL Cy Young voting, and won the NL Rookie of the Year – receiving twenty-six of the thirty first-place votes.
The Marlins seemed to have found their new ace. He continued to dominate the following season, posting a 2.44 ERA over 51.2 IP and allowing only 36 hits during that time. Having said that, Fernandez’s 2014 campaign came to a screeching halt when he received the disheartening news that he needed Tommy John surgery. Those are the three words a pitcher never wants to hear.
Fast forwarding, after a long rehab, Fernandez found himself back on a big-league mound in the middle of the 2015 season. It appeared Fernandez had not lost a bit since the injury, starting right where he left off, dominating the best hitters in the world. The season came in fits and starts for Fernandez, however, and he only completed 64.2 innings throughout the entire 2015 season.
Fernandez has become a hot commodity this offseason, despite the fact that his last two seasons have been riddled with injuries. He is clearly dominant when healthy, is only twenty-three years old, and is not eligible to become a free agent until 2019. It is unclear how willing the Marlins are to trading Fernandez, although it appears that they are content keeping him unless they are blown away by an offer.
Earlier in the offseason, before the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired Shelby Miller, it was reported that the Marlins and Diamondbacks had engaged in trade talks surrounding around Fernandez and a similar package that ended up landing Miller. Consequently, that move removed that Diamondbacks from the list of potential suitors for Fernandez.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are another team that has continually been linked to Fernandez this offseason. Nevertheless, the Dodgers seemed reluctant to part ways with top prospects, such as Corey Seager and Julio Urias, for Fernandez’s services. However, after a recent three-way trade that brought three prospects to the Dodgers, many began to wonder if this move was a hint that the Dodgers were gearing up for a serious run at Fernandez. Nothing concrete has emerged since the deal, and as of now, the Dodgers have been linked more to the likes of Carlos Carrasco and Jake Odorizzi. The Dodgers have the resources and prospects to land Fernandez, but it remains unclear if they are willing to pay the heavy price to obtain him from the Marlins.
In comes an interesting suitor for Fernandez, the New York Yankees. When reports first surfaced this offseason that the Fernandez was available, the Yankees were one of the teams that were mentioned as a potential landing sport for the prized ace. Reports indicated that the Yankees had checked in with the Marlins. There were conflicting reports whether or not the Yankees had offered prized prospect, Luis Severino, in a deal for Fernandez. Yankees General Manager, Brian Cashman, came out and said that they Yankees were just doing their due diligence and had not offered any of their top prospects – Severino, Gregory Bird, or Aaron Judge – in a package for Fernandez.
The Yankees probably have the prospects to acquire Fernandez, but the question remains whether they are willing to part with them, and whether they actually should part with them. Severino burst onto the scene in the Bronx, throwing 62.1 innings and posting a 2.89 ERA while allowing fifty-three hits during his rookie campaign. Severino received rave reviews from many in the baseball industry, especially for his demeanor on the mound.
The youth movement in the Bronx did not stop at Severino, as the Yankees called up first base prospect, Bird, after Mark Teixeira went down with an injury. Like Severino, Bird immediately flashed his potential, compiling eleven home runs and a .261/.343/.529 slash in forty-six games. The other Yankee prospect mentioned, Judge, did not reach the majors in 2015, splitting his season between AA and AAA.
Judge is a unique talent. An athletic right fielder despite the fact that he is listed at 6’7” and 275 pounds, the size of tight-end. As one can venture to guess, Judge has huge power potential, which is one of the main reasons that Keith Law, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus all ranked Judge as the thirteenth overall prospect in their 2015 mid-season reports.
Having said all of this, Cashman and the Yankees should stick with their young guns and pass on a potential trade for Jose Fernandez. Yes, Fernandez is a great talent. Yes, he has the potential to be better than Severino, Bird, and Judge. Yes, he has proven himself in the big leagues more than Severino and Bird, who both have a little under a half of a season under their belt, and Judge, who has yet to reach the bigs.
Nevertheless, at this point, Fernandez will not instantly make the Yankees World Series contenders. He would certainly help the Yankees cause, but at this point, the Yankees need an abundance of young talent, not just one. Mortgaging Judge and/or Bird in a trade for Fernandez would leave them with very few promising position players in their system that are under the age of thirty. Moreover, it is impossible to fully ignore Fernandez’s injury history and the supposed attitude concerns with the Marlins. At this point in his career, it is unfair to label Fernandez injury prone, but it is never a good sign when two of his first three seasons are shortened due to injury.
If the Yankees were in win-now mode, I would be all for a deal that would bring Fernandez to the Bronx. However, as hard as it is for many to admit, the Yankees are rebuilding (at least their form of rebuilding, anyway). Severino, Bird, and Judge provide the Yankees and their fans with the possibility of a bright future. They are part of the transition. Part of the youth movement. Keep them around and let them shine in the Bronx for years to come.