Friday, July 31, 2009

Trade Needs And Options

We're six hours and counting from the non-waiver trade deadline. Before we take a look at what the Yankees' needs are, first, let's take a look at their roster situation. Things aren't nearly as bad as they were in late May when I went on this diatribe, but the organization doesn't have quite the roster flexibility I'd like right now.

The Yankees are currently at the limit on their 40 man roster. They have a bit of flexibility in that both Xavier Nady and Chien-Ming Wang can be moved to the 60 day DL to open two spots on the 40 man. One of those spots will likely be taken by Shelley Duncan today, as all indications are that the Yankees will stop carrying the ludicrous 13 man pitching staff they've had all this week and add a righty bat with the ChiSox throwing southpaws in the three remaining games this series. That will leave the Yankees with one other spot to add a player without removing someone already on the roster.

Still, they're a bit hamstrung. Ian Kennedy, Christian Garcia, and Kevin Cash are all out for the season with injuries. Since none were on the Major League roster at the time of their injuries, they can't be placed on the 60 day DL. I'm not sure that they can be called up and DL'd either. The Yankees wouldn't consider releasing IPK or Garcia, but would Cash - I just don't know if the CBA would allow that.

Damaso Marte, on the DL since April, is in the midst of a rehab assignment, but the latest scouting reports have not been good. He gave up 2 HRs in his last appearance and was clocked topping out at 88 MPH. Given that the Yanks are in the market for bullpen help, I doubt you'd see anything happen with Marte, but there is a slim possibility he could be moved to the 60 day to create additional room.

Juan Miranda, though producing rather well, is blocked by Teix, and has little trade value. He may be a candidate for DFA if another spot is needed.

Got all that? OK, here's what I figure the Yanks are going to be looking for today:
1). Utility infielder. Cody Ransom has been hot of late (3 for his last 7, 3 2B), but at 33 he is what he is, and what he is is replacement level at best. With A-Rod, Jeter, and Cano, the Yankees don't need a back-up IFer often, but they may look for an upgrade if one's available. Ramiro Pena is waiting in Scranton, and while he offers a great glove and good speed, he doesn't have much of a bat and is in Scranton ostensibly to learn the OF as well.

2). Back-up CFer. Speaking of the OF, Brett Gardner's broken thumb has left the Yankees without a viable CF back-up, and Shelley Duncan's likely arrival today will do nothing to change that. At the start of the season, I wouldn't have had a problem with Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher out there in an emergency, but after their collective performance at the corners this year I don't feel that way any longer.

I highly doubt the Yankees will go the trade route on this one, as whoever the back-up is will likely be a goner when Gardner is ready to return. But given Melky's streakiness, I wouldn't entirely rule out going after a new CFer all together. More likely, the Yanks will go after former top prospect Corey Patterson, as has been rumored, especially since Josh Anderson was flipped to KC.

3). Some sort of pitcher. This is both the trickiest one to figure, but also the biggest need. The Yanks want at least one pitcher if not more. They've been rumored for both starters and relievers. Maybe they view that as two separate needs, or maybe they view it as one that can be filled in one of two ways. They did acquire Josh Hirsch from the Rockies on Wednesday, but that appears to be a move for needed depth in Scranton. Given Hirsch's numbers, I pray we don't see him in the Bronx this year.
Sergio Mitre is not the answer in the rotation's five spot. It doesn't appear that anyone on the 40 man is ready to step in. Personally, I think Mitre may be of some use in the pen, which could mean Alf or Hughes goes to the rotation, but the Yankees have given every indication that they want both those guys to stay in the pen this year.

All that, coupled with Joba Chamberlain's impending innings limit situation and CMW being gone until who knows when, makes the need for a starter even greater. Cliff Lee has been dealt, Roy Halladay appears to be staying put (and is too pricey IMO), leaving Jarrod Washburn as the most rumored name out there. But, given the M's move on Wednesday, it would appear that they're buyers rather than sellers.

To me, Washburn in the most appealing in terms of price, but I have concerns about how he'd perform for the Yanks. On the surface the veteran southpaw is having a great year (162 ERA+) after spending five of the last six at or below league average. But 34 year old pitchers don't often show such drastic improvement, and Washburn is no exception. Digging deeper, there's a lot to suggest Washburn isn't pitching as well as his surface numbers indicate.

First, his BABIP is .249, well below the league average of .300 - that will likely be correcting itself over the season's last two months. Second, his FIP is 3.75, still better than league average, but much worse than his 2.64 ERA. Third, Washburn is an extreme flyball pitcher. That works to his advantage pitching half his games in spacious Safeco Park with an excellent outfield defense. I shudder to think how that would play in the new Yankee Stadium, against AL East competition, with the Yankees outfield "defense" behind him. He may suffice as a fourth or fifth starter - which is really what the Yanks are looking for - but let the buyer beware.

The Yankees have also been linked to bullpen arms such as Chad Qualls and Scott Downs. Presumably, such an acquisition would allow the Yanks to work Phil Hughes back into the rotation, which might be the plan anyway with Joba fast approaching his innings limit.

Clear as mud, right? That's just what I'm thinking and reading around the interwebs. Who knows what kind of ace Brian Cashman has up his sleeve this time. We'll have a better idea in a few hours.


  1. Can't the Joba Rules have a re-write? Why can't we just let the dude pitch?

  2. With Joba it's more about the Verducci Effect than the Joba Rules. I understand the the desire to be risk averse and limit his innings, but how much is bending over backwards to put him in the 'pen and then possibly taking him out again going to help the matter? I think toying with his role and in turn his routine creates an injury risk as well.

    If he continues pitching like a complete stud, I would be in favor of keeping him in the rotation. There is so much uncertainty with young pitchers no matter what, I'm inclined to "get while the gettin' is good" in this case.

  3. That is correct, Only purchase or lease of new vehicles qualify