The trade deadline is just 33 days away, but we have yet to see any major activity. Rumors continue to fly, but everything remains speculative at this point. The Yankees will surely inquire on any pitcher who can upgrade the rotation or bullpen, but all currently available pitchers are either a marginal upgrade at best, or carry major baggage. But that’s OK, says Brian Cashman. In the Post today Joel Sherman has some quotes from the Yanks GM, and he sounds pretty upbeat about his team’s chances.
“I don’t think I can trade for any starter that is better than Bartolo Colon or Phil Hughes, or a reliever better than Rafael Soriano,” he told Sherman. To an extent this is right. All three pitchers are on the disabled list, and all three are on the road to a Bronx return. The statement applies a bit less to Colon, since they lost him recently and still have the glaring hole in the rotation that he left. He will, in other words, retake his own spot. The real pick-ups, in terms of what we have become accustomed to this season, will be Hughes and Soriano. Both pitched poorly during their short times with the team, and both are far better than that. They’ll be major upgrades around deadline time.
With both Colon and Hughes off the DL, the Yankees rotation looks a bit more palatable. Either Freddy Garcia or Ivan Nova would move to the bullpen, which could help solidify that unit. Even after that, the Yankees could make another move to push the other of Garcia and Nova to the pen, to AAA. That’s not to say that neither of them is a fit for the Yanks as the No. 5 starter. It is to say that the Yankees probably won’t shy away from pitching this year just because they have five or six healthy arms. They know from recent experience how quickly that can change.
Last year at about this time the Yankees had five guys solidly in their rotation. A.J. Burnett’s wheels came off in June, but it’s not as though his rotation spot was in immediate jeopardy. Javy Vazquez, after a rough start, had turned in several fine performances. Phil Hughes was still going well. When the Yankees pursued Cliff Lee, one refrain we heard was that they already had five starters — the five starters they had on Opening Day. Was another one really necessary? As it turned out, yes, they did need another starter. Javy fell back off the cliff; Pettitte got hurt; Hughes struggled with the longball; Burnett pitched better but never really regained his form. By the time the playoffs rolled around the Yankees had one top flight pitcher followed by a guy who hadn’t completely recovered from injury, followed by a bunch of question marks.
The question right now, and for the foreseeable future, is of whom the Yankees can target. Right now there appears to be nothing, and as Cashman says, he “can’t make it happen if it is not there.” Perhaps the most relieving part of Sherman’s column comes around the middle, when he says that the Yankees “have shown no interest in high-cost veterans with dubious stuff.” He then lists the pitchers from non-contenders who have been mentioned in trade talks: Brett Myers, Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, Livan Hernandez, and Jason Marquis. While there might be some upside to discuss in Dempster and Jackson, chances are the cost of acquiring them won’t be worth the value they’d add over what the Yankees currently carry. And that, really, hits the point of this entire trade season.
There will come a time in the next 33 days when the Yankees talk to a team about a pitcher who can make a difference. It might not be a bona fide ace, but the Yankees don’t necessarily need one of those; they already have one. It’s good to hear that the Yankees won’t make a move for a high-priced veteran with a recognizable name just because they can. That’s not going to help anyone. The market will develop from here, and the Yankees patient approach should pay off come July 31st.