‘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.

Comments (8)
  1. Russ in PA says:

    Betances and Montero for Gonzalez sounds like a no brainer. Talented lefties are hard to come by and as much as I would hate to see Montero go, you can’t expect to steal someone like Gonzalez. Yankees appear to have plenty of catching and there’s no sense in giving Montero a 1st baseman’s glove. I do believe the Yankees will have to give more than those two to make the dea but if they can, JUST DO IT!

  2. Dave says:

    As much as I would not like to see Montero stick around to be a force in this lineup, it’s tough to pass on Gonzalez. Coupled with the great group of FA pitchers in 2013, the Yanks could be looking at a 2013 rotation of CC, Gonzalez, Matt Cain, Nova and Hughes. That, of course, would include Burnett being moved next off-season or released. Have to find a way to keep Banuelos. Bettances has upside, but not as much as Manny does. The Yanks will need to find some big bats off the bench without Montero getting 350-400ABs in the DH slot. I know that ARod is the future at DH, but for this year, that lineup will need another bat if Montero is dealt. Maybe there is a market for Carlos Beltran in NY on a 2 or 3 yr deal (DH/rotating OF this year anf full-time RF next year)

  3. Mike says:

    Sean. .i’d pull that trade in a heartbeat. Nunez . Betances and a lower piece or two.

  4. Markstripes says:

    I would consider giving up Montero and Betances, since Alex Rodriguez figures to be the DH in the twilight of his career, and Banuelos is waiting in the wings; however, I would not give up Nunez, who should inject some youth and stability to the left side of the infield, nor would I give up Banuelos, who has “ace” written all over him.

  5. casey says:

    I don’t agree with the pieces you’d want to give up, but I do agree that the Yankees can pull this off.

  6. hartylfc says:

    Joe, do you think Edwin Jackson is solid enough? I wouldn’t mind him as a no. 4 type starter. Is Buehrle worth 4 years? He’s been very solid throughout his career but I’d prefer giving him 3 years at say $42M than 4 years at $52. It’s the fourth year that worries me, not the salary per season. – Sean Hartnett

  7. Joe says:

    Much too steep. Sign Ed Jackson and Mark Buerle and the rotation will be set. Yanks need Nunez to replace A-rod and / or Jeter, and need the offensive creativity of Nunez. Do not dangle Montero either as he looks like a very promising gap hitter which the Yanks need, more than homer hitters , for sure.

    1. Eric Levi says:

      Analysis is spot on good. I’d be sad to see Montero go, But the Yanks can buy all the hitters the need. Getting a young tough-minded lefty of his age is a MUST DO. Then bring Manny B next year and voila! Yanks have three hot lefties Nova and Hughes/anyone but AJ Burnett

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