The Yankees are in the middle of a rough season. Their rotation has been decimated by injuries as C.C. Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, and Masahiro Tanaka have all fallen to injures. The lineup has been porous and inconsistent, constantly struggling to drive in runs. You’d think this is a formula for a last place team and in most cases you’d be right.
In the case of the 2014 Yankees, they’ve found a way to stay in the thick of the AL East race, and it’s remarkable to say the least. The Bombers are bound for a big second half for a number of reasons. With Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann under performing in the first half, it’s safe to say they’re due to heat up, and over the past two weeks they’ve done just that. The fill-ins on the pitching staff have been great, given the circumstances, and the bullpen has been in the running for one of the best all-time. In the first six games since the All-Star break the Yankees are 5-1 and general manager Brian Cashman is running around making phone calls like he’s the Tasmanian Devil after a large cup of coffee, trying to make moves to improve the roster and fill up some holes. Slowly but surely, the team is improving and it’s only going to get better.
First off, Michael Pineda is progressing in his rehab, and is on track to return in mid-August. The young gun would sit firmly near the top of the rotation and help lead the team as they go on a playoff run in September. Starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy has been stunning since coming over in a deal from the Diamondbacks, which is exactly what the team needed. The veteran hurler, Hiroki Kuroda, has looked great over his past few starts, and along with David Phelps, Shane Greene and Chase Whitley, he’s provided the Yankees with very solid pitching, allowing them to utilize the excellent bullpen deep in games. Brian Cashman solidified the third base position, which had been one of the weakest positions, by grabbing Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres. Headley is already producing for the Bombers, by slashing a walk-off base hit in the 14th inning of his Yankees’ debut, and doubling of Texas Rangers’ ace Yu Darvish on Wednesday. Now class what is the theme of this story? Well trades of course.
The Yankees have two major needs at the moment. The first of which is the pitching rotation. Cashman has been rumored to have checked in on John Danks of the Chicago White Sox, and has been seen prying and poking other teams on their respective pitchers. Ian Kennedy of the Padres and Kyle Kendrick of the Phillies have also been linked to the Yankees. The second need is right field and rumblings of Dodgers’ star Matt Kemp have been filling the New York airways all week. But the Yankees will not likely fall into that trap as the Dodgers will require top level prospects and Kemp’s large contract might sway the team’s pursuit. Brian Cashman has taken a much more efficient approach to his deals, acquiring players with high upside without giving away that much.
McCarthy came over in exchange for Vidal Nuno (I know. I almost vomited at the mention of his name as well). Yangervis Solarte and minor league pitcher Rafael De Paula were the only players San Diego received for Headley. Both players are rentals and they’ll likely depart in free agency after the season. Again, very efficient deals on the Yankees part, so a high profile Matt Kemp deal likely isn’t in the cards. So who is the likely player? Marlon Byrd has been amazing with the Phillies and the odds are he’ll most likely be traded before the end of July. He has another year left on his 2-year deal, but his advanced age will lower his trade value to somewhere around the McCarthy and Headley deals. Byrd would become the pure power bat in the outfield with more finesse players like Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner in center field and left field respectively.
More times than not, during this season, the Yankees have seemed worse than they actually are. But they’ve done more than stay afloat in the playoff race and as they slowly but surely improve the roster they’ll continue to improve their chances of making the post season. The Yankees will continue to fill holes by gaining players returning from injuries and making smart and perhaps uncharacteristic moves that will benefit the team without killing the farm system. Many people around baseball do expect the Yankees’ front office to pull off a big move along with two or three mid-level trades. The Yankees just know how to win. That’s the old adage that seems to be reinforced every single season. Maybe it’s about time we start having faith and admit it just might be true.