It’s pretty much predestination that the Yankees are buyers at each and every trade deadline, due to a mix of their high payroll, scrutinizing press, and general success in the AL East. Generally, the real question is: “What are they trying to buy?” It’s pretty crystal clear this year that a starting pitcher is their target, so I decided to look at the free agent class of 2013 to see whom the Yankees could pry at the deadline for financial relief and/or young talent.
Matt Garza, Cubs: There were talks after Garza’s 2011 breakout that the Cubs would extend the fire baller and make him a cornerstone of their rebuilding project. A little regression and talks of a fire sale in Chicago point to a different conclusion by Epstein and the suits running the Cubs: it’s smarter to play the market and stockpile young talent than it is to build around a near-30 year-old pitcher. Still, though, Garza has plenty of talent and grit. Despite his home run regressing to the mean and more (at 15.8%, it’s both far too high and concerning, what with the aforementioned short porch in right in the Bronx), Garza still has a top-notch strikeout rate and generates a hefty number of ground balls. He’d effectively serve as the Yankees number two, and a playoff rotation of Sabathia, Garza, and Pettitte (if he holds up) could be an effective bunch. He could well land in pinstripes in the midst of his sixth consecutive sub-4.00 ERA season. Chances that he’ll end up in Pinstripes (one to five): four
Edwin Jackson, Nationals: The Yankees have been connected to the fire-baller through various rumors, and one would assume the match would be perfect if and only if the Nationals weren’t competing for a playoff spot. Jackson’s run with some good fortune in Washington – his .244 BABIP is way out of line with his career mark of .307 – but is well on his way to his fourth straight 3.5+ WAR season, a generally unheralded feat. His FIP is a career best 3.32 as a result of his improved strikeout and walk rates, and his 3.78 xFIP is right in line with his previous two marks of 3.71 and 3.73 – meaning his home run rate seems generally sustainable at 7.7 percent. So what you have is an incredibly valuable commodity signed to a one-year deal on an up-and-coming team that’s stockpiling talent and was reportedly looking at the expendable Eduardo Nunez. Seems like a storybook romance. All that’s missing is a Nationals losing streak and a “Let’s play for next year” mindset. Chances that he’ll end up in pinstripes (one to five): two
Brandon McCarthy, A’s: McCarthy is a well above-average pitcher on a non-contender, and despite his regression from last year’s 4.7 WAR performance, he might be the most likely to be wearing a Yankees uniform if the A’s aren’t bent on extending him. But what might hold Cashman & Co. back is McCarthy’s terrifying home/away splits in this year particularly. He has a xFIP of 3.64 and a FIP of 2.83 at home, meaning he limits home runs and walks in particular. His standout 4.14 strikeout to walk ratio at home would also make him a star if it carried over to away starts; it doesn’t, however. He has a FIP of 4.26 and an xFIP of 4.78, mostly due to his 1.64 strikeout to walk ratio. The splits are concerning mostly because they contradict his 2011 performance almost entirely; the difference in home and road xFIP last year was .20, the difference in home and road FIP in 2011 was a mere .16, and he had a 4.5+ strikeout to walk ratio everywhere he went. Luck won’t correct McCarthy’s disturbing trend in all likelihood (his BABIP is only slightly too high on the road and he’s stranding runners at a similar pace in all parks), but the Yankees might be wise to take a gamble if the price isn’t too high. Chances that he’ll end up in pinstripes (one to five): three
Colby Lewis, Rangers: The Rangers have a fat farm system, so selling Colby Lewis in the midst of a playoff run is highly unlikely – especially to a potential ALCS foe in the Yankees. The question of survival with the Yankee stadium fences is also up for debate – he’s posted back-to-back years with above-average home run rates. Chalk this scenario up as nearly impossible. Chances that he’ll end up in pinstripes (one to five): one
Shaun Marcum, Brewers: Marcum fits the same profile as Colby Lewis – power-finesse pitcher with better control than he has stuff. The bulky Brewer prides himself on consistency – his FIP in 2010 was 3.74, his FIP in 2011 was 3.73, and his FIP this year is 3.72. The entire picture is something like this: He’s a bit above average, well below elite, and is an absolute battler on the mound. One concern in his profile: his results in last year’s postseason numbers were atrocious at best. He started three games but only managed 9.2 innings, yielding three homers, five walks, and only managing five strikeouts while 16 runs crossed the plate. Such a postseason meltdown may lead the Yankees to pause, but the Brewers are slowly slipping out of contention and Marcum on the open market may command a three-to-five year deal that they can’t provide. Chances that he’ll end up in pinstripes (one to five): four