By Ernie Palladino
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Sending off a pack of young prospects for veteran talent at this week’s Winter Meetings might be the way to go about rebuilding other teams.
Just don’t expect the Yankees to take that route.
With all the pains Brian Cashman took to re-stock their minor league system, he’d be crazy to trade any of those youngsters for what could amount to short-term solutions. The very reason one trades veterans for youngsters is the long view. And unless Cashman had everybody bamboozled around the trade deadline, he’s in this youth movement for the long haul.
That doesn’t mean his four days at National Harbor, Maryland, can’t be productive. As in any other Winter Meetings, the joint will be swimming with representatives ready with pen in hand to find new employers for their free-agent clients. And a trade that fills a specific need or two is also not out of the question.
Just don’t expect Cashman to empty his up-and-coming stock to draw that player, even as others salivate over list.
“I’m definitely hearing about Gleyber Torres, Luis Severino, and Aaron Judge,” Cashman told the Daily News last Friday. “I’m open-minded to anything.”
But there are limits. He did say certain players were untouchable, though he wouldn’t identify them.
We can guess, though.
Gleyber Torres automatically became the Yanks’ top prospect when the 19-year-old, Single-A middle infielder came over from the Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman trade. He’s still probably a year away. First, he‘ll have to prove he can hit the pitching in the middle and high minors, starting this spring in Double-A.
He got off to a good start with that, winning the MVP of the Arizona Fall League with a league-high .403 average, thus becoming the youngest player ever to win the developmental circuit’s batting title. He ended the six-week schedule with a six-game hitting streak, half of which were three-hit performances.
Chances are good that he’s one of the untouchables, unless the Angels offer up Mike Trout.
Clint Frazier won’t be going anywhere, either. The 22-year-old outfielder could well appear in pinstripes next season and become an outfield regular with Aaron Judge by 2018. At least that’s what Cashman is hoping.
He still needs some seasoning, though. Frazier struggled at .228 in 25 games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, with three homers and 30 strikeouts. But the tool set — power, speed, and a beast-like work ethic — eventually could put him in the middle of a new Core Four.
Expectations like that should cause Cashman to think doubly hard about pulling the trigger on any trade package involving the power-hitting outfielder.
Greg Bird lost this past season to shoulder surgery, but he made quite a splash in his major league debut in 2015, hitting .261 with 11 homers and 31 RBI in 46 games. He could take over for the retired Mark Teixeira at first, thereby allowing Judge to concentrate full-time in right.
Neither of those guys is going anywhere. Nor is Gary Sanchez, the end-of-season phenom whose 20 homers and .299 BA in 53 games earned him enough support for second place in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting.
With Brian McCann off to the Astros for two more minor leaguers in Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman, Sanchez is a lock for starting catcher.
Cashman would be crazy to deal him.
With part of a youth movement blooming, and another part in-waiting, don’t expect the Yanks to do a lot of trading of young talent in their search for a starting pitching, and bullpen help.
The new CBA and its higher, $195 million luxury tax threshold has already allowed them to delve into the free agent market to solve their designated hitter conundrum. On Sunday night, the Yankees reportedly came to an agreement with veteran slugger Matt Holliday on a one-year, $13 million contract.
A package that includes either Brett Gardner or Chase Headley — but absent any of the big prospects — could pull in a top-end starter or a decent bullpen arm.
Just don’t expect Cashman to send away any of the top players in a youth movement he tried so hard to create in 2016.
Those guys are just too valuable to the future.
Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino