The Yankees, in need of help at first or third base with Mark Texeira on the shelf, are reportedly looking to the Astros, who have a surplus at the position, for help. Who could the Astros target on the Yankees farm in return?
The aging Yankees are quickly turning into a MASH unit, and the most recent injury to Mark Teixeira has them scrambling to find a potential replacement. MLB Trade Rumors reports they're aiming to acquire Chase Headley from San Diego, but that might be a pipe dream.
The Astros are a logical trade partner, since they have three first basemen in Brett Wallace, Carlos Pena and Nate Freiman jockeying for two starting spots, and another natural first baseman slated to start in left field in the form of Chris Carter.
None of these players would draw an especially big return, but the Yankees have a fair amount of interesting lower-level prospects that the Astros would be smart to target in a potential deal. Here's a look at some of the more intriguing names.
Nik Turley, LHP - Age 23
Living proof that every pick of the draft counts, Turley went third-to-last in the 2008 draft out of California high school and has steadily climbed the Yankees' farm ranks. A sinkerballing lefty, Turley stands at 6-foot-6 and, although he lacks good velocity, he uses the heavy motion on his fastball to induce ground balls and employs a cutter and an above-average changeup that flashes plus.
His biggest knock is fastball command. Turley handled the jump to high A ball last year well, and posted a 2.89 ERA with 116 strikeouts vs. 44 walks in 112 innings with just 97 hits, impressive numbers across the board despite his age. Turley fits Luhnow's groundballing profile and shouldn't cost too much in a trade due to his relatively low ceiling.
Dante Bichette, Jr., 3B - Age 20
A supplemental first round pick in 2011, Bichette tore up the GCL that year with a .342/.446/.505 slash with 23 extra-base hits in just 196 at-bats. There were huge expectations for him coming into 2012, but he flopped in his first taste of full season ball, hitting just .248/.322/.331.
However, scouts still note his great contact talent and his above-average raw pop. His defense has come along since he was drafted, and he should be able to stick at third. His star has faded, but he'd be a great reclamation project for the Astros organization.
Austin Aune, SS - Age 19
A two-sport star as a quarterback and shortstop in high school, Aune had committed to play football at TCU but was lured away by the Yankees for a $1 million bonus. Aune showed serious contact issues in his pro debut, striking out 45 times in 158 plate appearances.
However, scouts praise him for his advanced approach at the plate, his projectable, athletic frame and his lefthanded bat. He's a little bit rough at shortstop, but his athleticism could allow him to move to another premium position such as second base or center field down the line. Teams can never have enough high upside bats, and Aune fits the mold.
Corban Joseph, 2B - Age 24
A popular stathead sleeper prospect, Joseph is an unsexy but very productive hitter who has consistently outperformed expectations since being drafted out of high school in Tennessee in 2008 in the fourth round. Joseph's calling card is his walk rate, which has consistently been over 10 percent during his minor league career, and in 2012 he drew bases on balls in 14% of his plate appearances while posting a .366 OBP in his Triple-A stint despite a .266 batting average.
He also showed power for the first time last year, hitting 15 home runs on the season. Joseph isn't especially toolsy and his defense is lackluster, but he has potential as a second-division regular or utility man if he can continue to reach base at a high clip.
Mark Montgomery, RHP - Age 22
I rarely advocate paying for relief pitching, but Montgomery is a potential closer and his price tag will likely be lower while Mariano is still in pinstripes. A stocky 5-11, 205 pound righty, Montgomery has not posted a K rate lower than 13.61 per 9 innings in any minor league stop.
His walk rate has hovered around four per 9 generally but came down last year, and he has allowed just one home run in his minor league career. Montgomery has a classic two pitch closer arsenal with a plus fastball and a plus to plus-plus slider, and could be a long term relief ace, contributing at the major league level as early as 2013.
Gregory Bird, C - Age 20
Signed for $1.1 million as a fifth round pick out of Colorado high school in 2011, Bird is a left-handed hitter with plus power and impressive bat speed. He is being tried as a catcher, but in high school he was exclusively a first baseman and that may be his long term home.
He has little minor league experience, but in limited samples has posted massive walk rates, workable strikeout totals, and flashed the power that drew such a large bonus from the Yankees. He's a lottery ticket, but he's one of the more talented hitters in the system and could have some major helium in the coming season.
Obviously the Astros' talks with the Yankees have not yet reached an advanced stage, but if the Bombers grow more desperate and a deal is made, any of the aforementioned would be exciting pickups for the Astros and would fit their organizational philosophy.