‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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Multiple teams are understood to be in pursuit of Oakland Athletics’ starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez. The New York Yankees, Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox have been strongly linked to Gonzalez this winter but it will take a substantial offer pry the All-Star lefty from the A’s.
Various reports out of Miami have suggested that the Marlins rejected a proposal from the Athletics that included power-hitting leftfielder Logan Morrison. It appears the Marlins are unwilling to move Morrison or have the required pitching prospects needed entice Oakland general manager Billy Beane.
Same goes for the Boston Red Sox whose farm system isn’t stocked with the combination of young arms Beane is searching for. A trade scenario involving the Red Sox would have to be built around outfielder Josh Reddick who doesn’t possess the high upside of Morrison. It would make sense for Boston to send away Reddick as it’s likely he’ll need to make way for Carlos Beltran who seems destined to call Fenway Park his new home.
A potential offer including highly-touted Red Sox farmhand third baseman Will Middlebrooks, 6’7” righty Anthony Ranaudo and Reddick might not be enough to entice Beane into making a deal. This puts the Yankees in the driver’s seat as their organization is well-stocked with the high-ceiling starters and promising sluggers Beane covets.
Gonzalez is believed to be a long-term target of Brian Cashman, who was rumored to have checked on Gonzalez’s availability near last season’s July trade deadline. Both Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances would interest Beane greatly. At 20, Banuelos already has climbed as high as Triple-A and was ranked 35th overall in MLB.com’s 2011 top 50 prospects list.
Mariano Rivera described Banuelos as the greatest prospect he had ever seen in his 20-plus years within the Yankees’ organization and was extremely praiseworthy of the lefty last Spring Training.
“I like everything about him. The makeup and how he keeps his composure. I notice situations and how you react in situations. Where you make your pitches in tough situations, where you spot your pitches, he has the ability to do that,” Rivera detailed.
I couldn’t imagine Cashman giving up Banuelos under most circumstances but Betances is more likely to be dangled during talks with the A’s over Gonzalez. Betances briefly appeared for the Yankees in September and was listed by Baseball America as the 41st best prospect in their pre-2011 rankings.
An offer built around Betances and either Eduardo Nunez or Jesus Montero could be what Beane desires. Nunez is able to compete right away with Scott Sizemore and Cliff Pennington for a spot on the left side of the A’s infield. The Atlanta Braves inquired about Nunez’s availability but were shot down by Cashman who had no interest in dealing away Nunez for Jair Jurrjens who has suffered from recurring knee issues.
Cashman has been reluctant to move Nunez whom he rates highly but Montero could make sense for Oakland. The A’s desperately need a long-term power bat and Montero exactly the kind of hitter they’re desperate to add. Beane could slot Montero into the vacant DH spot immediately or season him in the minors between catcher and first base to determine which position would be his best fit.
The fact that Gonzalez is arbitration eligible is projected to earn near $4.2 million in 2012 is forcing Beane to shave salary and seek prospects. Cashman should take advantage of Oakland’s desperation to move Gonzalez and a trade centered around Montero and Betances could bring Gonzalez to the Bronx.
It appears increasingly likely that Cashman could turn to Gonzalez over free agent lefties C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle whose demands are too high both in length and overall salary. If the Yankees are able to come away with Gonzalez, he would fit into their rotation nicely as a number two or three starter and take some of the burden off CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova.
Over the past two seasons, Gonzalez has been a consistent 200 inning workhorse and sub-3.30 ERA starter. In 2011, he racked up 197 strikeouts to go along with his 3.12 ERA and WHIP of 1.317. Gonzalez would benefit greatly with the Yankees’ powerful offensive behind him and possibly improve upon last year’s record of 16-12.
Yankee fans – is the price for Gonzalez too steep? Share your thoughts and opinions below. Sean Hartnett will be covering the Yankees’ hot stove all winter long. Send him your tweets @HartyLFC.