New York Yankees: 3 Adjustments the Yanks Must Make to Secure AL East
They currently hold the second-best record in baseball, behind only the defending AL Champion Texas Rangers. Yet, the Yankees are clinging vehemently to a mere 2.5-game lead over Baltimore in the East.
Just behind the O's are the Tampa Bay Rays, the only team other than the Yankees to take the division crown in the last four years.
While the Yanks may be on top now, nothing is certain—not to mention the fact that we haven't even reached the All-Star break yet.
Whichever team ends up winning the AL East will have made an incredible run to do so.
Here is what the Yankees will have to do to be that team:
Bring Back Brett Gardner
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New York left fielder Brett Gardner has been out of the lineup since April 17.
Despite his team's success without him, Gardner is a big piece of this Yankee ball club.
He is their most dangerous baserunner (really, their only legitimate base-stealing threat), arguably their best defensive outfielder and an excellent run-producing hitter.
The Holly Hill, SC native hit .321 with a .424 on-base percentage through the nine games he played in April.
That kind of production added back to the already potent Yankee lineup would be huge.
Gardner attempted to make a return a couple of times over the course of the last two months, only to be sent back to the disabled list.
Recently, however, good news has come out of the Gardner camp.
Jeff Bradley of the New Jersey Star-Ledger (from NJ.com) reported that last week, Gardner said he expects to make a return as early as next month and is eager to be back on the field:
"'I’m hoping to be 100 percent right around the All-Star break,' Gardner said last week...It was tough to be sitting out. But it’s been easier lately, with the team playing so well. I am a pretty competitive person, so I don’t enjoy doing nothing.'"
Though the Yankees have been finding a way to win without Gardner, his return would probably make their lineup the most dangerous in the division.
Add Wandy Rodriguez
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In this photo, Houston's Wandy Rodriguez is wearing a white pinstripe uniform.
And if he's wearing the white pinstripe uniform by the July 31 trade deadline, the Yankees will be well on their way to winning the AL East.
Rodriguez is one of the biggest names being thrown around in this year's trade market.
Matt Garza may be a more enticing addition, but it is not yet clear whether the Cubs will try to deal or sign the 28-year-old right-hander.
However, it does appear as though the Astros will be hearing offers for Rodriguez, and that the Yankees are among the teams interested in him.
Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports' YardBarker.com reported that Houston will listen to offers for the lefty as this year's trade deadline approaches.
The Astros will listen to offers for Rodriguez, sources say...Tuesday night in Houston, sources say representatives for the Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, Red Sox and Blue Jays were in attendance as left-hander Wandy Rodriguez allowed two earned runs over seven innings in a 2-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
The addition of a starting pitcher isn't an absolute need at the moment, as the Yankees' staff has stepped it up in the month of June, highlighted by Ivan Nova's 1.27 ERA in four starts.
But, since when did the Yankees' front office make moves solely based on need?
If Rodriguez or Garza were brought in, Phil Hughes would figure to be the odd man out of the rotation.
Phil Hughes to the Bullpen
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Phil Hughes has been New York's least effective starter this season, especially given the recent success of Ivan Nova.
But Hughes has been very effective out of the bullpen in the past.
Especially as the season wears on, the Yankees' relievers will become increasingly important and leaned on for more crucial innings.
There have been many strong performers coming out of the Yankee bullpen, but there is one reliever who has shown that he cannot be consistently relied on.
Freddy Garcia used to be one of the most feared pitchers in the MLB. But it appears as though his time has come, as he has accrued an unacceptable 7.16 ERA in relief.
If the Yanks are able to add Rodriguez, Garza or another starter, Hughes could be sent to the pen as a much more reliable reliever than Garcia.
Though Hughes has a 4.94 ERA as a starter, that number would stabilize with his move to the pen, where he is obviously more comfortable and confident.
This would make the already solid Yankee bullpen that much better.
There aren't a whole lot of adjustments the Yankees need to make, or even can make, at this point.
It's hard to imagine anyone out there cracking the star-studded lineup in the Bronx.
Second base is sewn up by one of the Yankees' best overall players in Robinson Cano.
At short, a seemingly revitalized Derek Jeter (in his 18th season in pinstripes) has silenced his doubters at age 37 by leading the Yankee starters in batting average.
At first, Mark Teixeira is well on his way to earning his fifth Gold Glove, while driving in 42 runs at the plate.
At the opposite corner, Alex Rodriguez has had a mediocre season at the plate, and his team could certainly use more production out of him. But, I don't see anyone taking on his $30 million salary. Nor do I see anyone else just taking his place at the hot corner in New York.
Curtis Granderson has been his usual self—a defensive menace—in center field, while belting a team-high 21 home runs.
In right, Nick Swisher has had one of the best seasons of his career at the plate, leading the Bombers with 45 RBI, despite being a little banged up with a recent quad injury.
In left, Raul Ibanez has done well at the plate filling in for Gardner. But I'd still like to see Gardner back, especially for his defensive and running abilities.
The bullpen has been solid—one of the best in the league—and could improve even further with the addition of Phil Hughes.
The starters, thanks to the addition of the veteran Andy Pettitte, are more than capable of carrying the Yankees to a division crown. They would be even more capable if one more dominant arm was added.
If you have any bright ideas as to some small adjustments the Yankees can make, or moves you would like to see happen, feel free to share below.
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