Yankees: 5 trade deadline targets for NYY as Aug. 31 rapidly approaches

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Johnny Cueto #47 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Oakland Athletics in the top of the first inning at Oracle Park on August 14, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

1. Johnny Cueto

Johnny Cueto is the best pitcher on the market, and the most joyous fit for the Yankees.

With James Paxton downgraded to “solid, but still searching” and JA Happ essentially unplayable, the Yankees could use one, perhaps two, rotation upgrades, depending on how much Pax you’re willing to tolerate.

Clarke Schmidt, hanging out at the Alternate Site, would be an incredibly easy maneuver. But, in terms of a veteran who’s about to hit free agency and will likely be at his lowest-ever cost, it’s hard to beat the injection of joy that Shimmying Johnny Cueto would give us. Also … you could use both Schmidt and Cueto in September! How ’bout that! What a country.

In five starts, the now-healthy Cueto has a 4.62 ERA, but he was betrayed by Hunter Pence’s defense midway through a no-hit bid against the Dodgers, leading to a downward spiral that’s marked up his numbers in a shortened campaign. Sandwiched around that start were five two-earned-run innings at Coors Field, and seven two-run innings against the streaking A’s. Cueto can still pitch and, let’s face it, even his losses are more fun than whatever Happ can deliver, with his wild array of windups and quirks.

Every Happ start is repetitive, flat torture. Every Cueto start is a new, weird odyssey. We’re all in on at least trying it.