COMMENTARY | Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com wrote Sunday, Jan. 13, that he is surprised the New York Yankees aren't in the mix to trade for Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton and that the Yankees are making a mistake in not pursuing Upton.
According to Morosi, the math is simple: The Yankees want to add a right-handed bat, but haven't picked up the pace to pursue Upton since the young outfielder nixed a trade to the Seattle Mariners last week.
Upton has three years and $38.5 million remaining on his contract, but that's not the biggest impediment to a potential deal with Arizona.
The Diamondbacks want a solid return for Upton and by "solid return" they mean young major-league ready talent, either in the form of an outfielder or starting pitching.
And therein lies the rub as far as the Yankees are concerned.
The much-talked-about $189 million payroll ceiling the Yankees are trying to reach for the 2014 season is not as much of an impediment as one might think, either.
According to Newsday, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said there is some room to breathe within the edict.
"Is our goal ($)189 (million) next year? Yes," Steinbrenner said. "But only if I'm convinced that the team I see we put together is a championship-caliber team."
The reason for the new payroll discipline is that a new luxury-tax system will be implemented for the 2014 season, one that will cost clubs millions in revenue-sharing dollars if they are not under the $189 million ceiling.
But the problem the Yankees have in trying to put together a deal for either Upton or Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton is not money. Rather, it is the dearth of major-league ready prospects the Yankees have available to deal.
The top-rated prospect in the system according to Baseball America is an outfielder, Mason Williams. But Williams is just 21 and hasn't played above the High-A level, where he hit .277/.302/.422 with three homers and seven RBI in 22 games for the Yankees' Florida State League affiliate in Tampa. So Williams may be highly regarded, but he's far from being ready for the rigors of the show.
Outfielder Slade Heathcott is No. 2 on the Baseball America ranking of Yankee prospects. But like Williams, Heathcott, 22, just completed his first real taste of High-A competition at Tampa. Heathcott hit .307/.378/.470 with five homers and 27 RBI in 60 games at Tampa last season, so with apologies to "Saturday Night Live," Heathcott is also a member of the Not Ready For Prime Time Players.
Tyler Austin is No. 4 on the Baseball America list. He flew through the Yankee system in 2012, rising from the Rookie level Gulf Coast League through Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa before finishing the year playing two games for Double-A Trenton. In all, Austin hit .322/.400/.559 with 17 homers and 80 RBI in 110 minor-league games. But the 21-year-old still has work to do before he's ready for the big time.
Jose Campos, a 20-year-old right-handed pitcher, is fifth in the Baseball America rankings of the farm system. Campos missed almost all of the 2012 season with elbow problems, making just five starts for Low-A Charleston, where he was 3-0 with a 4.01 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 24.2 innings. He is likely to return to Charleston to start the season, presuming he is healthy in spring training.
Morosi suggested the Yankees could use Curtis Granderson as the foundation of a trade for Upton, but that's just not realistic. Yes, Granderson was an All-Star in 2012, but he also established a career-low by hitting just .232 with a .319 on-base percentage and .492 slugging percentage. His 43 homers were a career high, but so too were his 195 strikeouts.
Granderson also will be a free agent at the end of the 2013 season. Why would the Diamondbacks trade a young two-time All-Star for a 30-year-old strikeout machine who is in his walk year?
It would be great for the New York Yankees if they were able to make a deal for a talent such as Justin Upton or Giancarlo Stanton. But to think the organization has the available young talent ready to break into the major leagues is folly and that, not a self-imposed salary cap, is the biggest impediment to such a trade.
Phil Watson was a writer and editor at several daily newspapers for more than 20 years and is now a freelance sports journalist and commentator based in Upper Michigan.