As of today, the New York Yankees are 43-39 and in fourth place in the American League East – six games behind the Red Sox and 3.5 out of the Wild Card. The 2013 season has thus far been defined by injuries to star players, the escalating Cold War between Yankees brass and Alex Rodriguez and ultimately mediocre (by Bombers’ standards) baseball. New York fans should be doubly grateful the injuries have mainly stayed away from the pitching staff and that in his farewell season, closer Mariano Rivera remains the best option in baseball to pitch the ninth inning.
As July 31 approaches, the Yanks continue to be linked toward players to reinforce the replacement-level guys who’ve held down the fort in the wake of injuries to Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Kevin Youkilis, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Eduardo Nunez. Even if it goes against everything the Yankees stand for, wouldn’t it behoove general manager Brian Cashman to, perhaps, try trading away some fringe players with expiring contracts rather than waiting for those injured players, namely Jeter and Rodriguez (if the team even wants him back) to ride into town and save the season? The Yanks are trying to remain under the luxury tax threshold going into 2014, so it’s unlikely they’ll add big salaries to help a playoff push this summer.
One of the big takeaways this Yankees season is the lack of organizational position player depth. That’s why Cashman’s had to dip into the DFA graveyard to acquire guys like Lyle Overbay, Brent Lillibridge, Reid Brignac and Brennan Boesch as stopgaps. Or why they traded for Vernon Wells. Hell, anyone even remember the brief Chris Nelson era in the Bronx earlier this season?
Granted, when you have highly-paid, highly-regarded veterans like Jeter, Rodriguez, Teixeira, etc. in key spots, you don’t tend to worry about what the squad looks like at Triple-A. Still, those veterans aren’t getting any younger. Rodriguez is signed through 2017 and Teixeira 2016. Jeter has a player option for 2014 and on top of that the Yanks need to re-sign Robbie Cano after this season.
Two of the Yankees previously touted young arms — Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain — are free agents after 2013. Although their numbers this year are ordinary, or in the case of Chamberlain outright bad, they could be useful with a change of scenery in the National League. There are reports Tuesday that the Braves and Giants would be interested in the righty despite his hefty 5.75 ERA. Boone Logan (2.08 ERA, 32 Ks in 21+ innings) is on an expiring deal and the lefty reliever could be a commodity on the trade market, too.
There probably isn’t going to be enough time for opposing team to evaluate Curtis Granderson once he comes of the disabled list with a broken pinkie before the trading deadline, but he’s a free agent after 2013 as well. Should the Yankees fall a little further back Granderson would make an ideal trade candidate for a contender looking for a lefty power stick.
All this said, the Yankees are one of the few teams in all sports reluctant to wave the white flag at any cost. Making trades will adversely affect the team’s already sinking attendance and television ratings. Regardless of what Rodriguez and Jeter do when they return — whenever that might be — Michael Pineda’s is making progress in the minor as he works his way back from the shoulder issues that cost him all of the 2012 season.
Clearly there are a lot of moving parts and scenarios at work here, but moving some spare parts in an attempt to get a little younger and restock the system wouldn’t be the worst move in the world by the Yankees and doesn’t necessarily mean they still can push for the playoffs in 2013 at the same time.
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