Yankees could make bold play for top pitcher

Top prospects may be high asking price to bolster rotation

Yankees could make bold play for top pitcher

NEW YORK -- The Yankees are a team in transition, straddling the line between promoting their young talent and remaining competitive in the American League East. Their biggest weakness resides in the starting rotation, the most interesting area where they could pull off a bold move before Opening Day.

Blessed with one of the league's top farm systems, thanks in part to last July's selloff of veterans Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, the Yankees are guarding the necessary chips to bring down a star like left-hander Jose Quintana of the White Sox.

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Thus far, general manager Brian Cashman has resisted the temptation to offer a truckload of prospects to bolster a rotation currently anchored by Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia; Cashman went as far to tell the YES Network on Monday that he is "99.9 percent plus" done with the roster.

"Realistically, the trade front has been the more active conversations, not that there's anything pending," Cashman said. "I do believe we're at 99.9 percent plus that what we have is what we're going to camp with, but you have to continue to stay engaged."

The Yankees likely would have to part with either outfielder Clint Frazier or infielder Gleyber Torres in order to acquire Quintana, who turns 28 later this month and was 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA over 32 starts in 2016. He is signed over the next four years at a relatively affordable $35.35 million.

Yanks interested in Quintana

"I'm willing to put some high-end prospects on the table to get deals done, and I have done that so far this winter," Cashman said. "But the price tags out there are even higher than that."

Even if the White Sox do not drop their asking price, there could be avenues to upgrade the pitching. What if, for example, the Rays were willing to part with Chris Archer or Alex Cobb, or the Athletics might accept a reduced price for bounceback candidate Sonny Gray?

They can also continue to explore trades involving Brett Gardner, with the Blue Jays, Giants and Orioles having been listed as three of the most likely suitors for the 33-year-old outfielder. Oakland also might make sense.

While Gardner alone would not equal someone of Quintana's ability, he could help to anchor a package for a team in need of outfield help. Cashman has already said that he would be willing to deal Gardner within the division.

Otherwise, Doug Fister and Jason Hammel headline what is left of a lackluster free agent starting pitching crop. At that point, the Yankees might prefer to explore what they have internally with Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Severino and Adam Warren.

"We'll stay engaged, but I'd say again, the sticker price of what the market is out there for anybody -- it's tough to do business under these current conditions," Cashman said.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.