The New York Yankees are in the thick of the AL East race, and we are approaching the halfway point of the season. With the trade deadline quickly approaching, the Yankees need to make significant moves if they want to be playing baseball when October roles around. An area of need all year has been starting pitching, and with the recent news about C.C. Sabathia most likely done for the season (and possibly forever), the hole becomes even more glaring. Throw in the fact that Chase Whitley has come back down to reality (14.81 ERA over his past three starts), the Yankee staff is looking worse by the day.
Friday, two of the Yankees top trade targets, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, were both acquired by the Oakland A’s leaving the market for an impact starter even more difficult. With the big fish in David Price still out there, it is doubtful the Yankees have the pieces to entice Tampa enough to trade the lefty within the division. That leaves the Yankees in a tough spot to try and acquire the starter they need to push them over the top.
Two names that now emerge as possible trade targets for the Yankees are Philadelphia Phillies’ left handers Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. Now before you say “no way they can acquire those two,” take a look at where the Phillies franchise is headed. Over the last three years, the Phillies have seen their place in the standings slide each year. In 2012, they finished at a modest 81-81 for third place in the NL East. Last year, they finished in fourth place in the division at 73-89. This year, they are equally as bad finding themselves in the basement with a record of 37-49. That’s right, they are even worse than the Mets!
Looking at the Phillies’ roster, it’s not like they are waiting on some good young prospects to come around. Outside of Ben Revere, Cody Asche and Domonic Brown, who are hitting a combined .221, are the only starting position players under 30. It is time for the Phillies to rebuild and sell some of their assets as they are simply not a player away from being a contender.
Financially, there will be a lot of money moving in a trade involving these two. Cliff Lee is due $25 million this year and next year, while Cole Hamels will $22.5 million a year through 2018 with a option for $19 million in 2019. When contracts that big are involved, their are very few teams that can absorb them. The Yankees are typically one of them, but currently, they are swamped with monster contracts for players that aren’t even playing: C.C. Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez (remember him?). Will that stop the Yankees from trying to acquire one of the two or even both? Absolutely not. Brian Cashman recently said he will be actively looking to upgrade the team, and the Steinbrenner Brothers are learning there isn’t any playoff revenue when you don’t make the playoffs.
What it ultimately comes down to is whether or not the Phillies are ready to wave the white flag. Lee has been sidelined for a while this season with an elbow injury and has one more year remaining on his contract. Do you really need to pay a pitcher $25 million on last place team? Would Lee waive his no-trade clause to give it one last shot at a ring? And what about Hamels? He has done a great job thus far this season with a 2.98 ERA and a WHIP of only 1.21. Do the Phillies want to pay him another $22.5 million a year as he approaches the wrong side of 30?
If the Phillies due open the door to trades, the Yankees will most likely need to wow Ruben Amaro as he has a hard time being a seller. I’m not sure the Yankees will want Cliff Lee badly enough to give up the farm for him, but if Hamels is involved, you may see a more interesting package. The Yankees did not want to include Dellin Betances in their offer for Samardzija so it is doubtful they would give him up in any trade. While the Yankees’ system has not been loaded with talent in the past, they do have other intriguing prospects that could get the trade done. Young lefty Ian Clarkin could be seen as an option in a deal for Hamels. I can’t see the Yankees trading their top pitching prospect in Luis Severino as he was recently called “a young Pedro” by a scout. Other than Severino, the only prospect most likely looked at as untouchable would be Aaron Judge. The Yankee former first round pick is absolutely tearing the cover off the ball this year and looks like the second coming of Giancarlo Stanton.
How about Jose Pirela and Peter O’Brien? Two infielders that are close to being ready, and Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz aren’t getting any younger. Does top catching prospect Gary Sanchez have to be included to entice the Phillies, or does John Ryan Murphy get the job done? With the Yankees short on talent in the infield at the major league level, it would be hard to see them part ways with short stop Abi Avelino or second baseman Rob Refsnyder. But at the end of the day, you need to give something to get something, and Hamels and Lee are certainly something. If the Yankees could pull off a trade landing both of them, I have a hard time imagining that they wouldn’t become the instant favorite in the American League.