Top Five Trade Chips

Montero is a great potential trade chip

The Yankees haven't just been promoting prospects from within to help the big league club, they've used them as trade chips to get more established big leaguers. Austin Jackson [and others] to Detroit for Curtis Granderson near the 2009 Winter Meetings comes to mind. Here's a list of the top five trades chips down on the farm heading into next week's Winter Meetings.

These aren't necessarily the players who just bring back the highest return. They are, however, the ones who should bring back the best value while not hurting the organization's depth or long-term positional plans too much.

1. C, Jesus Montero: After hitting .289 with 21 home runs in his first season at Triple-A in 2010, the Venezuelan shook off another slow start in 2011 by clubbing eight home runs in the final month with Scranton to finish the minor league season hitting .288 with 18 home runs before a fabulous big league debut that saw him hit .328 with four home runs with the big league club.

Not known for his defensive prowess behind the plate and having the likes of a much better defensive backstop right behind him in Austin Romine big league ready, Montero's best value is still tied to the designated hitter position. The Yankees might find it more valuable to package Montero in the right deal for a starting pitcher this offseason and allow Romine to serve as Russell Martin's backup in the short-term, and thus freeing up the DH position to give some "off days" to their aging veterans.

It might not be the ideal scenario offensively for the team to trade Montero, but he does offer the organization the most flexibility in potential trade chips without disrupting their team goals short-term.

2. RHP, Hector Noesi: Grabbing the top spot in this area a year ago, Noesi, who isn't technically a prospect any longer after blowing his rookie eligibility this past season, is arguably still the best big league ready pitching prospect the Yankees can afford to dangle in potential trade talks this offseason, especially after proving he can get big league batters out in 2011. He went a very respectable 2-2 with a 4.47 ERA for the big league club in his rookie season this year [as well as posting a 3.28 ERA for Triple-A Scranton].

He has three above average big league pitches at his disposal, including a 91-94 mph fastball that can hit higher on the radar gun in shorter stints, and a good big league curveball and changeup, and he throws strikes. Noesi is on the short list of potential starting pitchers for the 2012 Yankee rotation, but with the likes of Adam Warren, Phelps and Mitchell big league ready, he is a bit of an expendable luxury that could net a good return in the right trade.

3. RHP, Dellin Betances: It wasn't the statistical season he and the Yankees had been hoping for in 2011, going a combined 4-9 with a 3.70 ERA between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton and walking 70 batters in a little more than 126 innings, but with 142 strikeouts along the way he once again proved he has the great swing-and-miss stuff most organizations crave. And lost in the numbers was his ability to remain healthy for the entire season.

As mentioned above, with the likes of Noesi, Warren, Phelps, and Mitchell already big league ready, and with Manny Banuelos coming up right behind them, the Yankees will not be able to break in so many rookie pitchers at one time so one or more of them will most likely have to be dealt. And while Betances doesn't offer the same degree of safeness short-term that a Hector Noesi would provide for another team, his huge upside would be a lot more tantalizing to some teams and net a could return in a potential trade.

4. 2B, Corban Joseph: With Robinson Cano anchoring second base for the Yankees for the foreseeable future and a good stable of young second base prospects [Angelo Gumbs, Anderson Feliz] coming up behind him, not to mention the uncertain healthy return of David Adams relegating him virtually un-tradeable at the current time, Joseph's prospects in the Yankee organization is starting to hit a crossroads of sorts.

Joseph's 2011 campaign that saw him hit .277 with five home runs for Double-A Trenton might not be good enough to headline a potential trade this offseason, but scouts have long lauded his long-term potential and his 38 doubles and eight triples this year might be enticing enough to bring back some good value in a potential deal. With Triple-A the next logical step in his development and making immense progress defensively at second base over the last year, he is one of the few expendable trade chips among the position prospects for the Yankees at the higher minor league levels.

5. RHP, David Phelps: Like Joseph, Phelps doesn't have the type of value needed to headline a potential trade for an established big league starting player or pitcher right now, but his overall solid game and big league readiness does have value in of itself to bring back quality in a potential deal.

He went 6-6 with a very good 3.19 ERA in 18 starts for Triple-A Scranton this year and followed that up with another solid showing in the Arizona Fall League this offseason, posting a 4.41 ERA in eight starts in the hitting-friendly league filled with top prospects around baseball. With Adam Warren seemingly higher on the immediate depth chart of available big league ready pitchers for the Yankees and with D.J. Mitchell available in the spot start/relief mix too, dealing Phelps would not kill the Yankees' short-term pitching depth while offering another organization a big league ready, cost-controlled starting pitching option.

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