The MLB trade deadline is officially three weeks away and the Yankees, this year more than most, are certainly going to need some help this year. They will be getting some players back within the next month, but that won’t be enough. So let’s take a look at what positions they need to prioritize the most.
First of all, we can eliminate help from the pitching staff right away. No, it has not been perfect, but the bullpen has been a major strength and the problems in the offense far outweigh the problems with the pitching. So the Yankees need not waste resources there.
First let’s take a look at who is out and who is coming back. The injured players include Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis, and Curtis Granderson. Of that group we know that Teixeira is not coming back at all and Youkilis will be a mid-September return, if at all, so they should not count on him as well.
Jeter, A-Rod, and Granderson are all expected back though. The first two should be back soon though. Both Jeter and A-Rod have begun their rehabs. Jeter, broken ankle, could be back within the week and A-Rod, hip surgery, might not be far behind him. Granderson is not eligible to come off the DL until July 21, which doesn’t seem extremely likely, but is not out of the question. Either way, Granderson should be back by August.
That gives the Yankees a new left fielder, a new DH/third baseman, and a new DH/shortstop all by the deadline. We can safely cross second baseman and center fielder off that list as well as Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner are the top two players on the team this year.
That still leaves a few positions for us to examine — catcher, first base, right field, and a player that can help out at third when A-Rod is the DH. We might even consider the Yankees going after another DH.
The Yankees have been bad behind the plate. Chris Stewart, Austin Romine and Francisco Cervelli have posted a 1.0 WAR this season which is good for 20th in the MLB at the position. There was hope that Cervelli could come back and boost the position, but he was recently shut down with an elbow injury that could be serious.
The Yankees have a couple of good catching prospects in J.R. Murphy and Gary Sanchez 1-2 years away at this point. That means that if they upgrade here it should be a player under contract that expires before the 2015 season.
The Yankees first basemen, Teixeira’s brief stint included, have been worthless this year. Literally. Their combined WAR is 0.0 which is good for 23rd in baseball. And I promise you that Travis Ishikawa is not the answer and there is nobody else in the system who can do a better job than Lyle Overbay.
This is a tricky spot though because Teixeira will be back next season and earns a lot of money. The Yankees, if they upgrade this position, have to do it with somebody who is either a free agent at the end of this season or can move to another position. This limits them, but there are options. Michael Young is an obvious one. There are others out there too.
Right field has been a problem for the Yankees as they have been worth a measly 0.2 WAR at the position. Ichiro Suzuki has been better of late and the emergence of Zoilo Almonte gives them another platoon option. So this position isn’t as desperate as it seems. The Yankees do have a big lack of right-handed power and Almonte has hit a terrible .235/.263/.235 against southpaws since coming up so a right-handed backup could big a big help (especially if they were willing to cut Vernon Wells).
Travis Hafner has been horrible. He got off to a good start the first three weeks of the season, his shoulder acted up, and he’s been one of the worst players in baseball since. Yankee DH’s have been worth -0.6 WAR this season. And this for a position where you can grab anybody and plug them in.
Jeter and A-Rod will get quite a lot of at bats here once they return though. So the Yankees may decide to platoon them along with Hafner and hope that the extra rest helps him out. What makes replacing Hafner more complicated is that the Yankees lack right handed power and Jeter and A-Rod are both righties so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to go get another righty to play the same position. A lefty bat might actually help here (cough, Raul Ibanez, cough).
I’ve mentioned a few times how the Yankees need a right handed bat so obviously that would be their priority here. They could kill two birds with one stone if they could get somebody who could hit right handed and play both corners. That way he could fill-in for A-Rod when he needs to DH and platoon with Overbay against lefties (Overbay has hit a fine .267/.320/.482 against RHP).
Catcher jumps out at me as a position they most need to fix, but in reality Chris Stewart has the third highest WAR on the team. So it’s not as weak as perceived. If they can get Carlos Ruiz from the Phillies or maybe even John Buck from the Mets they should go for it, but this shouldn’t be the focus.
Instead first base should be the main priority. Young would be great because he could play first with Overbay, and third with A-Rod. Aramis Ramirez would be a good player to pair with A-Rod and although he’s never played first base before, he is a righty hitter so it might be worth considering giving it a try. Chase Headley would also work as he has played a little first base in his career, albeit just two games, and the Yankees could potentially buy a little low with him as he’s hitting just .229/.321/.365 this season (he’s a career .268/.348/.412 hitter).
Imagine these lineups:
That’s not half bad, especially with Hafner on the bench to pinch hit every once and awhile. You could take out Headley and plug Young in there if you want to, especially if they can get him and Ruiz, but I’d rather see them target Headley as he could play third next year as well. I suppose it really depends on what the asking price is in each potential trade.
Any setback to any of the three injured players expected back, being A-Rod, Jeter and Granderson, of course, would change things big time obviously. With the right trade and healthy players this team can still make the playoffs though.
** It should be noted that there is a very real possibility that A-Rod gets suspended for at least 50 games this season. However, it is also realistic that he won’t miss any games this year as a appeals process for a player suspended without a failed drug test would likely be drawn out and could even take until the postseason to settle. I’m actually more worried about A-Rod suffering a setback than missing time due to a suspension (this year anyway).
Photo credit: (May 24, 2013 - Source: Norm Hall/Getty Images North America).