The July 31 trade deadline is still over two months away, but every baseball fan's (okay, maybe not every fan's) favorite day of the year is definitely something worth preparing a little early for.
The New York Yankees are in an interesting position at the season's quarter mark. With so many injured stars, the Yankees were expected to fall out of contention quickly. General manager Brian Cashman wanted absolutely none of that, so he acquired several "over the hill" players that have been big-time contributors to a first-place team.
Because so many stars will be returning, though, the Yankees really don't have all that many holes. Most of the bigger roster moves that will be made around the deadline will be the ones that reinstate veterans from the disabled list.
Regardless, Cashman will be monitoring the market closely for any players that catch his eye (of which I'm sure there will be a few). Any moves that Cashman could potentially make aren't really necessities.
These are very realistic moves that could help Cashman propel his Yankees to an even better showing in the second half of the season.
I'm a big fan of Tim Stauffer's.
In 2010, he posted a 1.85 ERA over 32 games (seven starts). His WHIP of 1.077 was fantastic. He also struck out 61 batters in 82.2 innings. By no means is he a power pitcher, but he can wring batters up from time to time.
As a starter in 2011, Stauffer posted a 3.73 ERA in 185.2 innings and won nine games.
Stauffer's case in San Diego is interesting. He's currently in Triple-A rehabbing his elbow (where he's posted an ERA of 3.16 in 42.2 innings), and has an opt-out clause in his contract that he can trigger on June 1. If he's not with the Padres by June 1, then the team has 24 hours to either call him up or grant him his release.
This is where the Yankees should swoop right in. San Diego could look to trade Stauffer before they release him (at which point many teams would likely look into acquiring his services). Brian Cashman could try his best to pick him up cheap for a mid-level prospect like outfielder Ramon Flores.
Stauffer could slot in at the back of the rotation and provide solid innings in place of Ivan Nova or David Phelps. It's a deal that could work for both sides.
The Yankees have received surprising production from the likes of Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli behind the dish this season.
Stewart has already hit three home runs and driven in six, while Cervelli (who is on the disabled list) is hitting .269/.377/.500 with three home runs and eight RBI. A total of six home runs and 14 RBI is not bad production from a spot that was considered a weak point entering the season.
That being said, there's no telling how reliable either will be later in the season. This is where another Padre, catcher Nick Hundley, comes in.
With Yasmani Grandal in the midst of a 50-game suspension, Hundley could be made available upon his return. Like Tim Stauffer, Hundley could possibly be gotten cheap. He's put together a decent season with the bat thus far (.259, three homers, 11 RBI), so it could be worth the risk for New York.
It would likely take a little more than a mid-level guy to acquire Hundley, as he plays a position where talent is at a premium. Maybe two decent prospects could get the job done, but San Diego could look to swap major league-talent in this deal.
Hundley and left-handed side-winder Joe Thatcher in exchange for outfielder Brett Gardner could work for both teams, but the Yankees may be reluctant to ship out their speedy center fielder.
The emergence of Evan Gattis as a viable major leaguer makes the chances of Brian McCann becoming available skyrocket. No longer a cornerstone of the Atlanta Braves franchise, McCann could benefit from a change of scenery.
McCann has played in just eight games this season, though he's already hit three home runs, driven in 10 and produced a line of .296/.375/.630. It's a small sample size, but McCann has always had this kind of offensive potential.
His injury history makes him a liability for New York, though. The last thing Brian Cashman should want to do is acquire yet another veteran player that is bound to find his way onto the disabled list. McCann is healthy now, sure—but who knows how healthy he'll be come August or September when the Yankees need him for a playoff push?
McCann likely wouldn't come cheap, either. Even though Atlanta has another option behind the plate, there's really no need for them to deal McCann. Gattis is versatile enough to play each corner outfield position, so manager Fredi Gonzalez can find other ways to get his bat in the lineup.
The Yankees may have to part with a Slade Heathcott or a package of outfielder Ben Gamel and right-handed pitcher Adam Warren to even get talks started.
New York's willingness to acquire veteran talent makes this option realistic, although I'd personally prefer if they went the Nick Hundley route.
The Miami Marlins are going nowhere fast (even though it will be a long season in Miami), so some of the team's better players will likely be available at the deadline.
One such player could be outfielder (and right-handed bat) Justin Ruggiano. The Yankees have been seeking a right-handed bat for quite some time now, and Ruggiano would be a perfect fit. Even though he plays the outfield (an area which is currently crowded in New York), Ruggiano can pinch-hit and be the designated hitter if need be.
Ruggiano posted great numbers in his first real opportunity in 2012. In 288 at-bats, he hit 13 home runs, drove in 36, stole 14 bases and put together a line of .313/.374/.535. Those type of numbers would not have gone unnoticed had he played anywhere other than Miami.
He's off to a slow start this season (.218, seven homers, 16 RBI), but the potential is clearly there for more.
New York has struggled to hit left-handed pitching this season because of their lefty-heavy lineup, so acquiring a right-handed bat should be a top priority for Brian Cashman. Ruggiano could be had for a couple of prospects, especially because Miami is likely looking for ways to continue to re-stock their farm system.
Double-A shortstop Walter Ibarra and outfielder Shane Brown could be enough to get a deal done, though swapping out Ibarra for Triple-A shortstop Addison Maruszak would certainly sweeten the deal.
Manager Joe Girardi has relied on Boone Logan to be the sole left-hander out of the bullpen for a majority of the season, but he hasn't always been the most consistent left-handed specialist in the game.
Do you know who has? Scott Downs of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, of course.
Downs hasn't posted an ERA above 3.15 since 2006 when he pitched to a 4.09 with the Toronto Blue Jays. The following season, he appeared in a league-high 81 games. All in all, Downs is one of the best at his craft.
The Angels are struggling mightily out of the gate. Their collection of superstars was supposed to lead them to the playoffs, though they're middling in the American League West with a record of 15-25 through 40 games. It's difficult to say they'll be out of contention at the trade deadline given their talent, but don't be surprised if some loose ends are shipped out by that time.
Downs is a free agent at the end of the season, and the Angels could look to get something in return before they lose him entirely.
Maybe swapping Joba Chamberlain (who is also a free agent at the end of the season) and Downs could work for both teams, but it will likely take minor league-talent. Chamberlain and minor league pitcher Sam Demel would certainly be enough to pry Downs away from the Angels.