Though the New York Yankees have shown more recent interest in pursuing an outfielder before baseball's July 31 trade deadline, it's generally presumed that general manager Brian Cashman will try to add a starting pitcher for the late-season playoff run.
Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke are among the big names presumably available. But each pitcher is going to cost a load of top prospects, and Cashman might not want to pay that price. Another arm that's available—one the Yankees were linked to in trade rumors last year—is Houston Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez.
Rodriguez has gotten knocked around in his past two starts, giving up a combined nine runs and 11 hits in 10 innings. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow could almost literally see Rodriguez's trade value evaporate with those performances.
Yet according to CBS Sports' Scott Miller, the Yankees were one of three teams (along with the Tigers and Royals—yes, the Royals) scouting Rodriguez Wednesday night as he was getting pounded by the steamroller that is the San Diego Padres.
The Yankees' interest in Rodriguez is curious. In the past, Cashman has shown little interest in pitchers who haven't pitched in the American League. The Yankees believe that facing tougher AL lineups with designated hitters is a prerequisite for the competition in the AL East.
Rodriguez is a career National Leaguer, having spent all eight of his big league seasons with the Astros.
Yes, he's been a decent strikeout pitcher, averaging almost eight Ks per nine innings during his career. But Rodriguez has also been very hittable, serving up nearly a hit per inning (8.9 per nine). If NL batters can hit him well, what will AL hitters do to him? And what would happen to him in a smaller park like Yankee Stadium?
However, Yankee Stadium—new and old—has been traditionally kinder to left-handed pitchers. With a left-field power alley at 399 feet and a center field distance of 408 feet, right-handed batters have a more difficult time hitting home runs in the Bronx. Apparently, the Yankees believe that those dimensions would help Rodriguez, as they have other left-handers over the years.
Rodriguez also likely wouldn't cost as much in terms of prospects than Hamels or Greinke. Oh, Rodriguez would cost money. He's owed around $5 million for the remainder of this season. Next year, he's set to be paid $13 million. And being traded would trigger a $14 million player option for 2014. But the Yankees have always been able to pay money.
Besides, if the Yankees agree to take on the full value of Rodriguez's contract, they probably wouldn't have to trade top prospects to the Astros in return. If Houston had to eat some of that $32 million, Luhnow would surely ask for top-tier minor league talent.
Yet Rodriguez appears to be trending badly.
His ERA in June was 6.00, and thus far in July, he's compiled a 4.84 mark. Are the trade rumors getting to Rodriguez? Does he need the ol' change of scenery? Would leaving a bad team like the Astros and going to a championship contender such as the Yankees give him a boost and sharpen his focus?
Determining whether Rodriguez's struggles are a case of malaise or something wrong mechanically are where the scouts come in, of course.
It seems like the Yankees could do better than Rodriguez. But he could be the right price this year, especially if Cashman is more focused on finding outfield help before the trade deadline. Could the Yankees get Rodriguez and a corner outfielder? Perhaps that's what Cashman has in mind.
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