As the July 31 MLB trade deadline approaches, the New York Yankees are sure to have a list of players they covet who could improve their team.
The Bombers have several areas that need to be addressed, namely an injury-riddled rotation and a struggling lineup. Both are questions for which this team will try to find answers as the deadline draws near.
The loss of Ivan Nova for the season was the first blow to the Yankees rotation. CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda followed suit with trips to the disabled list. Sabathia is out with knee inflammation, but his rehab is progressing, according to the YES Network's Lou DiPietro:
Even once Sabathia returns, his reliability will remain a concern. After seeing his ERA balloon to 4.78 in 2013, Sabathia opened the 2014 season with a 3-4 record and a 5.28 ERA before being sidelined. His fastball has seen a major drop in velocity, leading to concerns as to just how much the former ace can bring to the table.
Pineda on the other hand has dealt with numerous setbacks, most recently right-shoulder inflammation. Pineda started the year with several brilliant performances, but after missing two straight seasons prior to 2014, these latest injuries make it hard to depend on the 25-year-old.
These three pitchers have been replaced by Vidal Nuno, David Phelps and Chase Whitley, but only Whitley has given the Yankees any consistency. With Whitley and Masahiro Tanaka the only pitchers the team can count on, it is imperative that New York adds a starter.
While fans may have their sights set on top-notch targets like David Price and Jeff Samardzija, Joel Sherman of the New York Post says such acquisitions are unlikely:
Indications are they cannot go to the top of the available-starter food chain. Tampa almost certainly would not trade David Price within the AL East. And outside executives say the Cubs must obtain a close-to-the-majors, high-end starting pitcher as the key piece of a trade for Jeff Samardzija and — without involving a third team — the Yanks cannot provide that element.
With those two likely unattainable for New York, which other pitchers will they target?
Samardzija is not the only pitcher the Chicago Cubs are likely to move. Hammel is having a strong year: He is 6-5 with a 2.99 ERA and would be a far less costly alternative to the Cubs' ace.
Hammel also comes with little risk. After signing a one-year deal with Chicago in the offseason, Hammel will be a free agent once again this winter, meaning the Yankees could easily cut ties if he does not pan out in the Bronx. Considering Hammel has experience in the American League East, the Yankees should show interest in him.
Phillies to Put Three Starters on the Block?
Sitting in the cellar of the National League East, its appears that the Philadelphia Phillies will be big-time sellers at the deadline. Per Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. recently said that no Phillies' player is "untouchable." If that is the case, the Yankees will have their eyes on a few starting pitchers.
If New York is looking for a cost-efficient, back-end starter, Kyle Kendrick could be the answer. Yet with a 3-7 record and 4.20 ERA, there are bigger fish in the sea that is the Phillies' roster.
The biggest fish would be Cole Hamels. As Brookover points out, trading Hamels would replenish a depleted farm system. With a 35-42 last-place record, the ace's talents are being wasted in Philly. This team is old and needs to rebuild, and trading Hamels could bring in some top-of-the-line prospects, like the Yankees' Gary Sanchez.
Hamels, who has a 2.76 ERA, is owed roughly $107.5 million through 2019. He is 30 years old and would be an asset in New York for years to come.
Of course, no set of deadline rumors would be complete without the Yankees showing interest in Cliff Lee. Due to Lee's current injury status, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News believes he may come cheaper than he would under normal circumstances:
Lee’s injury issues — he’s been on the DL for the past month but hopes to return before the All-Star break — might make him the ultimate risk-reward candidate, as the Phillies could look to deal him for pennies on the dollar prospect-wise in order to save themselves a few billion actual pennies.
Given the Yankees’ decision to blow past the luxury tax threshold over the winter, adding Lee’s massive salary in an attempt to win again wouldn’t seem to be out of the question — especially if it didn’t cost them a bundle of top prospects to acquire him.
Lee is making $25 million this year and next with a $27.5 million club option for 2016, but like Hamels, he is better than anyone in the Yankee rotation not named Tanaka.
Another pitcher with AL East experience, Arroyo is also a name the Yankees should look at.
The lowly Arizona Diamondbacks are likely to move some players come July 31, and if Arroyo is healthy he could be one of them. He is currently on the DL with right-elbow tendinitis. If he is back in time to show he is healthy, the D-Backs would be smart to try and unload him and the two-year, $23.5 million contract he just signed.
While he may be hurt at the moment, Arroyo has been nothing but dependable in his career. Prior to this year he had pitched at least 200 innings in eight of nine previous seasons. He is not an overpowering pitcher but brings a workhorse attitude and veteran experience.
He was 7-4 with a 4.08 ERA before going down with the injury.
Padres Having a Fire Sale?
Already disappointing, the San Diego Padres' season took a turn for the worse when they fired GM Josh Byrnes. Logically, a fire sale is next in line, one that could offer the Yankees two more rotation options.
The first is one the Yankees are already familiar with: Ian Kennedy.
Kennedy is not the same pitcher who was labeled a bust after failing to hold down a spot in the Yankees' rotation between 2008 and 2009. Since leaving New York in the three-team deal that netted the Bombers Curtis Granderson, Kennedy has established himself as a big league starter.
In his five years removed from the Bronx, Kennedy is 58-49 with a 4.00 ERA and has made at least 31 starts in the four years prior to 2014.
The other pitcher is Padres ace Andrew Cashner. With the team out of contention, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal wrote before the Byrnes firing that dealing Cashner could drastically change the starting pitching market and yield the Padres a significant return:
Cashner, 27, is under club control for 2½ more seasons, or one more season than the most coveted pitchers on the trade market, Cubs righty Jeff Samardzija and Rays lefty David Price.
By one measure, Cashner is even better than Samardzija and Price; his 2.06 ERA since last Aug. 1 is the lowest in the majors, according to STATS LLC. While Cashner recently missed three weeks with right elbow soreness, he has pitched well in three starts since coming off the disabled list.
Since that piece was released Cashner has been placed on the 15-day DL with shoulder soreness. Like Arroyo and Lee, there may not be much time prior to the deadline for Cashner to prove he is healthy.
Despite the loss of Robinson Cano, the Yankees' lineup on paper appeared to be just fine after bringing Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury aboard for the 2014 campaign.
Instead, the Yankees' offense is a mess as June comes to a close. The Yankees are 25th in run differential, 21st in homers, 20th in runs driven in, 19th in runs scored and 17th in slugging. With the names in this lineup, the Yankees need to have a better offensive output, but several players are not performing as expected.
McCann is batting .223. Beltran is at .218. Starting second baseman Brian Roberts is hitting .240. Alfonso Soriano looks lost at the plate and is sitting at .231.
Mark Teixeira leads the team with 14 home runs, 39 RBI and a .829 OPS but is only hitting .241. Brett Gardner, Ellsbury, Derek Jeter and rookie Yangervis Solarte are the only other hitters who can make a case for respectable numbers. Simply put, this lineup needs some new blood.
Roberts and Soriano would be the easiest for the Bombers to bench given the yearly and financial commitments they have made to other players. That means New York should be looking at an infielder who can play second or an outfielder.
Philly Shopping Outfielders as Well
John Mayberry Jr. and Domonic Brown, a pair of outfielders, are two more Phillies likely to find themselves on the block.
Brown, once thought to be Philadelphia's next superstar, has gone back to being a mediocre big league ballplayer following what many hoped was a breakthrough 2013 season in which he hit 27 home runs. Instead, he holds a .217 average, .593 OPS and has just five homers 75 games into the 2014 season.
A change of scenery could really help Brown, but at what cost? The Phillies were looking for a substantial return for the 26-year-old this past winter, according to ESPN's Jayson Stark:
It is unclear what the Phillies would be looking for at this point in time. One upside to Brown is that he is under team control through 2017, but he has not shown enough promise to warrant the return the Phillies were asking for in December.
Mayberry Jr. on the other hand has very similar stats to Brown and would take less of a toll on the Yankees' farm system than his teammate. He also has experience at first base and would be able to give the Yankees a real backup at the position, something they have not had all season.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reported that the Yankees were in fact scouting Mayberry Jr. last week.
Franklin, a middle-infield prospect who is considered MLB-ready, is sure to be a hot commodity come the trade deadline. The question is whether or not the Seattle Mariners are willing to let him go. Currently in third place in the AL West with a 42-36 record, the M's are in contention and will likely require an impact player as well as a prospect or two in return for Franklin.
Franklin was ranked as the 79th-best prospect in baseball by Baseball America heading into the 2013 season. He hit 12 homers in 102 major league games last year but has only seen limited time in the bigs this year.
Smith is another player likely to move in San Diego's fire sale.
On a team that includes Chase Headley and Carlos Quentin, it is Smith who is leading the offense. He is having a career year, batting .290 with 17 doubles, eight homers and a .913 OPS. Swinging from the left side of the plate, Smith would be a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch. He is a free agent at the end of the year and will be dealt for cheap come July 31.
D-Backs Infielders Up for Grabs?
With the Diamondbacks playing far below expectations, Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic reported that the team will in fact look to be sellers based on what GM Kevin Towers had to say:
Based on the last couple of years of being a .500 club and this year with the injuries we have and our record, we have to look at being more open-minded of moving some contracts and some veteran players for younger players.
With that in mind, the Yankees should be showing a strong interest not only in Arroyo, as previously mentioned, but in Aaron Hill and Martin Prado as well.
Hill, the D-Backs' second baseman, would be a huge offensive upgrade over Roberts. His six home runs are modest, but the 40 runs he has driven in would lead the Yankees. In addition, Hill has 16 doubles, and his .251 average is better than the majority of New York's hitters.
In comparison, Prado is a pure contact hitter. He is having a down year, batting .271, but he is a .291 career hitter. He has some pop, as he hit at least 10 homers in each of the previous five seasons. An asset in the lineup, Prado also provides tremendous value in the field. Aside from second base, Prado can also play at third and in the outfield.
Every name here, as well as others, should already be on the Yankees' radar. Some of these teams may decide that a few of these guys are not even available come the deadline, but the Yanks should have these names written down on their big board regardless.
The Bombers have holes in the rotation and lineup that need to be filled if this team is to be taken seriously come the playoffs, so expect their war room to be a busy one this July. Either way, it will be an interesting month for the Yankees and the rest of Major League Baseball.
Who do you want the Yanks to pick up?
All stats were obtained via Baseball-Reference and are accurate as of the end of play on June 25, 2014.
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