MLB Trade Talk: 10 Yankee Problems That the Trade Deadline Won't Solve
We're a little more than a month away from the trade deadline. That means teams will start looking for trades to make to upgrade their teams either for the short term or the long run, and that includes the New York Yankees.
The Yankees have been doing well of late. They're finally in first place in the AL East after struggling in May. Just because they're in first place doesn't mean that the team is perfect. The Yankees have several flaws that need to be addressed if they plan on going to the World Series.
All of the teams in the AL East are strongly contending for the division lead. Seven games in the loss column separate the Yankees from the last-place Boston Red Sox (that's the sound of delight escaping every Yankee fan's mouth mixed with the sound of anger escaping every Red Sox fan).
Any team can take the division lead back from the Yankees. The Yankees are still having trouble with runners in scoring position, pitching depth and dealing with the loss of Mariano Rivera.
Brian Cashman probably has several trades that he'd like to make, but he's not going to be able to make all of them. He's also not going to be able to address all of the Yankees' problems by the time the trade deadline comes and goes.
There are just some troubles that require time to solve. Midseason trades are for quick fixes to help the team make the playoffs and eventually win the World Series. The problems in this list are bigger than your average problem.
Their RISP Woes
The team's batting average with runners in scoring position sits at .220 as of the moment I'm writing this. That's terrible.
It's about as bad as the plot for Battleship—the movie, not the game.
Derek Jeter leads the everyday starters with a batting average of .244 with runners in scoring position. The big-name bats in the middle of the lineup aren't doing so well. Mark Teixeira is batting .233, Alex Rodriguez .200 and Robinson Cano a measly .155. Come on, Cano, there are high schoolers that weigh more than that; you're the cleanup hitter.
No trade will be able to turn the New York Yankees' RISP batting average around. A trade might be able to give it a slight boost, but if the entire team has trouble with RISP situations, then trading for a hitter will not fix that.
This is something that needs to be taken care of internally. You can't just trade away your RISP average and you can't just work on swings and tinker with batting stances. Each player needs to do it in their own way.
The hitters are just more swing-happy with runners in scoring position. They're not as patient, which usually results in a strikeout, pop-up or grounder. This won't change unless the hitters start hitting.
This is about as simple a problem Brian Cashman has. Mariano Rivera is out for the season, as every New York Yankee fan regretfully and tearfully acknowledges. Rafael Soriano is doing an excellent job, but I think I speak for every Yankee fan by saying I'd rather have Mo pitching the ninth.
One does not simply replace the great Mariano Rivera. I mean, there is only one of him, but I'm talking about the presence of a dominant closer. There's not that many closers out there I'd trust more or as much as Mo.
Soriano is doing a great job anyway, so there's no dire need for the Yankees to pursue a closer by the trade deadline. The Yankees could prepare for the future since no one knows how much longer Mo will pitch. To get a dominant closer, or even just a good one, would require the Yankees to give up a lot of pieces.
I'd rather the Yankees just hold on to those pieces and see how they develop. The bullpen's in solid shape right now. David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain are on track to return later this season. Whether they'll be as effective remains to be seen, but Cashman doesn't need to do any panic trades for the bullpen.
All Those Injuries
Injuries have been hurting the New York Yankees even before the season started. There was Joba Chamberlain, then Michael Pineda, then Brett Gardner, Eric Chavez, Mariano Rivera and David Robertson. That's a lot of guys to get injured, especially since they're guys who play big roles.
Only Eric Chavez has come back from the DL. The Yankees are still waiting on the rest, and Mo won't come back this season at all.
Gardner is the guy they're missing the most. The team seems lethargic and in dire need of a base thief without him.
Rivera, Chamberlain and Robertson are sorely missed in the bullpen as name recognition. The bullpen is doing just fine as it is, but it remains to be seen if they can keep it up for the entire season.
Rivera, Chamberlain and Robertson have experience pitching in high-leverage situations. There's also the fact that seeing Mariano Rivera come out is more intimidating than seeing, say, Cody Eppley. Nothing against Eppley, but Mo is Mo.
You can't predict injuries, especially with trades, as seen with the Pineda trade. You can prevent and avoid them, however, with proper conditioning and by avoiding players who are highly injury prone.
Cashman can try to temporarily replace those injured players, but it's better, and cheaper, for him to wait for their return.
The Montero-Pineda Experiment
When the Jesus Montero-for-Michael Pineda trade happened, just about everyone was surprised. Some were shocked, some hated it, some loved it, but no one said they saw it coming.
Trades like that don't happen very often in the league. Teams don't usually swap two star prospects. Brian Cashman did, though, believing Pineda's skills could help the team more in the short term as well as the long term than Montero's did.
The New York Yankees needed to add pitching in the offseason. Pineda was a stellar first-half pitcher and an All-Star last year. Thus, the trade made some logical sense. Of course, no one could predict that Pineda would show up to camp overweight and with a lifeless fastball.
No one expected Pineda to not make the rotation and end up on the DL.
Montero was the bat the Seattle Mariners needed, but many Yankee fans were expecting Montero to eventually take over Jorge Posada's job. With Pineda going down, some fans were saying that the trade should've never happened.
A trade this season won't fix what happened in the past. Cashman still believes in Pineda and wants to see his investment pay off. The Mariners won't trade Montero back, but Cashman could try to redeem himself by doing a similar trade.
Cashman could swap one of the young pitchers in the minors for a major league-ready prospect, but it's unlikely to happen.
Montero could've been the bat the Yankees needed; Pineda could've been the starter the Yankees needed. A trade won't answer that question.
Father Time's Frequent Visits
The average age of the New York Yankee's roster is 31.5 years old. That's good for being the oldest team in the league, and that's after we take out the 42-year-old Mariano Rivera. One trade isn't likely to lower the team's average age by much.
They say old age brings wisdom, as well as an air of pure awesomeness, just ask Morgan Freeman. In baseball, however, old age brings decreased skills and increased chance of injury.
The core of the Yankees is on the wrong side of 30. The team is still relying heavily on Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte, who retired and came back. None of them is under 36 years old.
In fact, the combined length of their careers is older than the Beatles' first album.
All three of them seem to be doing a good job of holding back Father Time. Granted, A-Rod's not the same hitter he was before and Jeter's average had dropped considerably since April. Then there's still the likes of Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez, who aren't exactly young.
Old age brings experience, and that's why the Yankees shouldn't spark a youth movement just yet. However, relying too much on older players, especially those in the tail end of their careers, has serious drawbacks.
Mark Teixeira's Steady Decline
These are Mark Teixeira's numbers since he joined the New York Yankees back in 2009:
2009: .292/.383/.565, 39 HR, 122 RBI, 43 doubles
2010: .256/.365./481, 33 HR, 108 RBI, 36 doubles
2011: .248/.341/.494, 39 HR, 111 RBI, 26 doubles
2012: .250/.331/.459, 11 HR, 36 RBI, 13 doubles in 59 games so far
Teixeira's offensive numbers have dropped since he joined the Yankees. His batting average is disappearing as fast as Adam Sandler's career.
Teixeira's still one of the best fielding first basemen in the league, but many people are wondering where did his average go?
He was coming off three consecutive years of batting over .300, while also having an OBP over .400 and slugging over .550. Since he came to the Bronx and started playing for the Yankees, his overall offensive numbers have slipped considerably.
Some say it's Yankee Stadium's enticing short porch in right field. Makes sense, as Teixeira is overly fond of pulling the ball that way since joining the team.
What doesn't make sense is Teixiera's reverse splits this year: He's batting .269 as a lefty and .213 as a righty. It's usually the other way around.
The general consensus seems to be that as long as he still hits homers and drives in runs, there's nothing to worry about. Teixeira's decline is a big problem for the Yankees, since he's the one protecting Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez.
Trading him away won't solve the problem of him declining. It'll just be someone else's problem. But with Teixeira's big contract and offensive decline, I'm not sure of many teams that would be willing to take him.
Phil Hughes's Potential
Phil Hughes had a terrible start to the season. Many fans were ready to give up hope. Some were ready to hand him the "bust" label.
Little by little, Hughes lowered his ERA down from 7.88 in April to 5.64 in May. Of course, that seven-run dud in Anaheim didn't help his cause. Hughes had a now-or-never moment in his next game.
And he delivered with a side of "wow."
Hughes's complete game against the Detroit Tigers showed that he still had it in him to be a good pitcher. His only mistake was to Prince Fielder, who turned in a homer. The next game, Hughes went 6.1 innings, allowing only two earned runs. He followed his greatest major league game up with another decent performance.
This is Phil Hughes we're talking about, however. He followed an All-Star season in 2010 with a subpar 2011. No one really knows if Hughes will be able to continue this streak of success for long.
Will he finish with another 18-win season? Or will he struggle to get double digits in wins?
His potential and any prediction for his future has been fickle. It's unlikely that Hughes will have multiple repeats of his complete game before the trade deadline. It's just as unlikely that Hughes will repeat April.
So Brian Cashman has to decide whether the Phil Hughes he has now will ever be the Phil Hughes he thought Hughes would be. That's a decision that probably won't be made before the deadline.
Brett Gardner's Impact (Or Lack Thereof)
The New York Yankees sorely miss Brett Gardner's speed, athleticism, defense and energy about as badly as America misses new The Walking Dead episodes. Gardner gives the Yankees a needed boost, as his speed allows him to steal bases and turn singles into doubles, or even triples.
His numbers before going down were .321/.424/.393 in six games. I'm sure the Yankees would want that back. The past two seasons, Gardner has stolen over 45 bases.
Let's not forget what his speed can do in the field. Would you rather have the Flash or Alfred the Butler running for you in a race?
Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones are filling in fine for Gardner, but at their age, you can't rely on them for too long. Too many games in the outfield will tire them out. It's only June, after all.
Now Gardner's out for another three to four weeks. That means he probably won't be back until just before the trade deadline. Of course, that's assuming he doesn't have any more setbacks.
The Yankees could go out and get another player in the mold of Gardner should Gardner experience more delays. Gardner could help the Yankees both on offense and defense. How much he'll impact the team probably won't be seen until after the trade deadline.
Alex Rodriguez's Massive Contract
The only thing bigger than Alex Rodriguez's contract is probably all the money The Avengers is making. He's making $30 million dollars this year. He made $31 million last year, and next year, he'll still be making an absurd amount of money.
The good news is A-Rod's contract is front-loaded, which means he'll make less and less each season until he's making about $20 million as a 42-year-old. Still a lot of money, but at least it's not $30 million.
A-Rod's no longer the .300 hitter with 50 home runs of years gone by. He's still an above-average hitter and is capable of handling third base. He just has a tendency of striking out a lot and getting old, but there's not much anyone can do about that.
All of that money is being spent on one player when the New York Yankees could use that to fix some of their other problems. $10 million can get you a decent enough player, so theoretically, the Yankees could have an extra three players for the price of A-Rod.
That means the Yankees could have another pitcher (either starter or bullpen), probably an everyday DH that isn't 40 years old and a decent bench player. I'm sure many Yankee fans would jump at that if the situation was offered, but sadly, it will not be.
He has too big of a contract to move him. Not to mention he isn't exactly the worst baseball player around, so the Yankees are inclined to keep him as long as he produces. But speaking of large contracts...
A Payroll That Can Afford Its Own Team
The New York Yankees have a salary of over $195 million. Three players are making over $20 million. Many of these players are under contract for several more years going forward. It's highly likely that the Yankees will continue to have MLB's largest payroll.
Of course, what good is a payroll that large if it doesn't produce any championships? That's the question Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner brothers are going to have to ask themselves if the Yankees don't win it all.
2014 is the year Hal Steinbrenner wants the team's payroll to be under $189 million. That won't be easy, considering some of the contracts they currently have and will have when 2014 swings by.
As long as the Yankees keep winning, the payroll shouldn't be a problem. However, if they have another dry spell like they did in late May, expect Cashman and the Steinbrenners to be questioning if the money is worth it.
Their large payroll and large contracts make it nearly impossible to move any players. This is made even harder considering that the Yankees plan on cutting their payroll by 2014. That means no contracts that run past the 2013 season, thus limiting who they can get if they decide to make a trade this season before the deadline.
Teams aren't going to take on contracts like those of Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia or Mark Teixeira without the Yankees either helping to pay that contract or taking some large contracts from those teams. Don't expect the Yankees do be able to pull, or even be willing to pull, a salary dump like they were able to with A.J. Burnett.
All of these large salaries also makes it harder for internal movement. The number of people who can be called up or sent down is limited by what contract that player has.
Which means that someone who's doing pretty well might get sent down because they need to make room for another player who might be able to impact the team instead of sending down a struggling player who's making millions. That also means many of the Yankees' top prospects won't be seeing the majors until September.
Hopefully it won't be too late.