Yankees, Rays, Diamondbacks Swing A Three-Way Deal
While the free agent market spent most of the winter dormant, the trading block has percolated steadily from the Winter Meetings through the beginning of spring training. The latest salvo features the Diamondbacks, Rays and Yankees, and ends with a 30-homer bat heading to the desert, a versatile infielder moving to the Bronx and the Rays continuing their rapid teardown.
Brandon Drury, 2B/3B
You didn’t really think the Yankees were going to open the season with a pair of rookies in their Opening Day lineup, did you? New York has spent a good portion of the offseason looking for a middle infielder to help bridge the gap between Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres and the major leagues. In Drury, they’ve found an answer who is both capable and cost-controlled.
At 25 years old, Drury provides modest pop (13 homers in 2017) and extreme versatility, which the Yankees will need until they deem either Torres, Andujar or both ready for long-term roles. He played the majority of games as a prospect as a third baseman, but has spent most of his major league time at second because of Jake Lamb’s emergence in Arizona.
Steven Souza, OF
A day after J.D. Martinez officially signed with the Red Sox, the Diamondbacks found his replacement. With the Rays trading away players left and right, Arizona pounced on Souza and his 30 home runs from a season ago.
While Martinez will cost Boston $110 million over the next five seasons, Souza still comes relatively cheaply. He’s still three seasons away from free agency, and will make just $3.55 million this year after avoiding arbitration with the Rays last month.
Souza isn’t quite the same slugger as Martinez but he’s a better defender, and should be an adequate replacement at an extremely manageable cost. With the recent addition of Jarrod Dyson as a low-cost free agent signing, the Diamondbacks now have more outfielders than roster spots, which likely ends Yasmany Tomas' tenure in Arizona.
Taylor Widener, RHP
Primarily reliever in college, the Yankees kept Widener in the bullpen for his first taste of pro ball in 2016, then put him in the rotation at high Class A Tampa in 2017. With a three-pitch that includes a heavy fastball up to 98 mph and a pair of average offspeed pitches in his slider and changeup, he finished the year 7-8, 3.39 and rung up 129 strikeouts, good for the fourth most in the Yankees’ system. He also finished off the final five innings of Double-A Trenton’s no-hitter in the first round of the Eastern League playoffs. Widener’s ceiling is as a versatile arm who can start or relieve in the mold of an Adam Warren. Widener ranked No. 22 on the Yankees' Top 30 Prospects list this offseason.
Nick Solak, 2B
As expected, the Yankees’ second-round pick from 2016 out of Louisville moved quickly through the system. He reached Double-A in his first full pro season and put together a very nice .297/.384/.452 season between high Class A and Double-A. The reviews on Solak were mixed, but they were clear in preferring his bat over his glove. He ranked as the Yankees' best hitter for average and had the farm system's best strike-zone discipline this offseason and ranked 12th on the Yankees Top 30 Prospects list. There’s sneaky line-drive power, but also stiff actions in the field as well. Some scouts see him in a similar mold as former Yankees prospect Rob Refsnyder.
Anthony Banda, LHP
Banda was drafted by Arizona in 2011 but did not sign, then selected again a year later by the Brewers in the 10th round. Two years after that, the Diamondbacks got their man when they acquired Banda with outfielder Mitch Haniger for outfielder Gerardo Parra.
Banda got hit hard in limited time in the majors this year, working to a 2-3, 5.96 record as he worked to harness his control and command throughout the year. He works with a fastball in the low-to-mid-90s, and a pair of inconsistent offspeed offerings. He walked more than three hitters per nine innings at both Triple-A Reno and in the major leagues, so he’ll need to find the zone more often to realize his potential in the big league rotation. Banda ranked No. 2 on the Diamondbacks Top 30 Prospects list this offseason.
*The Rays also acquired two players to be named later from Arizona. This post will be updated later, when those players are named.