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Michael Pineda: Return Could Impact the Yankees' Trade Deadline Strategy

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 17:  New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman talks on the phone on the field during batting practice against the Detroit Tigers during game four of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park on October 17, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Joe GiglioContributor IJune 11, 2013

As Sports Illustrated boasted on the cover of their 2003 Major League Baseball preview issue, you can't have too much pitching.

A full decade later, emboldened by the success of those American League championship seasons, the Yankees are taking the same approach to their current roster.

If Michael Pineda continues his rehab path to the Bronx, the franchise will be staring at a surplus of young, cost-controlled starting pitching candidates like David Phelps and Ivan Nova.

While either, especially the recently effective David Phelps, could slide into rotations around the sport or see time as the long-man out of the Yankees bullpen, there could be teams asking for them in potential moves at the July 31 deadline.

Both have value, but the return of Michael Pineda could open up a different can of worms in New York.

As the offense, especially Vernon Wells, continues to stumble along, fans will clamor for Brian Cashman to make a move for a bat.

If New York heeds that advice, an impending free agent could be a major trade chip.

Phil Hughes, set to hit the open market at the end of the 2013 season, has the ability, stuff and pedigree to help many contending teams in the sport right now.

He's also not likely to be back in New York in 2014.

That has much, much more to do with the organization's goal of positioning themselves under the $189 million luxury tax threshold and resigning Robinson Cano and/or Curtis Granderson than it does with the organization's view of Hughes' ability.

The fan base may downgrade him as "only" a fourth starter. It sometimes feels as if he's viewed out of tinted glasses because he didn't live up to the hype of a future ace: a label placed upon him as he rose through the Yankee farm system.

As his detractors will be quick to remind you, Hughes is consistently inconsistent and a fly-ball pitcher in a home run hitter's haven. While seven of his last 10 starts have yielded two or less runs allowed, the other three saw five, six, and seven runs cross the plate, respectively.

Pineda, a possible Hughes replacement, is now viewed through optimistic eyes and in comparison to what he was in 2011: Matt Harvey before Matt Harvey.

In reality, the Yankees need help offensively, but Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and returns of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez can probably suffice.

If anything, moving Ivan Nova or Joba Chamberlain (also a free agent at years end and in a bullpen that has even more depth than the rotation) could be enough to secure another complimentary hitter.

Unless Brian Cashman is blown away with an offer that includes parting with Hughes, it's hard to imagine moving the best combination of youth and durability on his current staff.

It's easy to envision Pineda sliding into Hughes' role and excelling, leaving the 26-year-old as an expendable resource, but rarely are things that simple.

Injuries or regression from CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte or Hiroki Kuroda could make both Hughes and Pineda vital to the stretch run in 2013.

Come August and September, the most efficient route for New York to take back October is sending out a rotation of Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte, Hughes, and Pineda.

Any surplus of talent will lead to speculation of major roster maneuvers, but don't expect Brian Cashman to subtract from New York's biggest strength to fix a weakness.


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