Bold Moves That Could Spur the New York Yankees to Greatness
The New York Yankees are simply hanging around in the AL East standings this season.
Despite all the injuries, the Yankees have exceeded early expectations. They trail the division-leading Boston Red Sox by only three-and-a-half games as of June 21.
That is a great achievement for the cast and crew general manager Brian Cashman has assembled.
The fact is, though, the Yankees will not go far with how this team is currently constructed, and they will have to decide whether they will be buyers or sellers by the June 31 trade deadline.
For the sake of this article, the Yankees will be buyers.
Cashman can continue to make small moves that won't make any significant impact, or he could look to really shake things up with his roster and put the Yankees in a position to make the playoffs this season. Following are five moves that could help him achieve the latter.
Move Joba Chamberlain and Bring Up Prospect Mark Montgomery
The Joba Chamberlain experience must come to an end in New York. His once-promising Yankee career has officially disappeared, and he's doing more harm than good these days.
Joba has now given up at least one run in four of his past five outings, with a total of seven runs allowed during that stretch.
His ERA for the season sits at 6.06, and batters are hitting just under .300 against him. Despite those horrid numbers, the Yankees could still fetch something of value for him before the deadline.
A team could see value in a change of scenery for the 27-year-old.
If Cashman can get anything for him, he should make the move and replace Joba from within. One option is bringing up top prospect Mark Montgomery and inserting him into the bullpen.
Montgomery is a future closer who has the potential to strike batters out at will. He can help the Yankees in the middle innings before the game gets handed off to David Robertson and Mariano Rivera. It also can't hurt to get him in the same locker room as Rivera before the best closer of all time rides off into the sunset at season's end.
Trade Phil Hughes for a Corner Infielder
Like Chamberlain, Phil Hughes has overstayed his welcome. However, unlike Joba, Hughes still has significant value, due partially to his career record of 55-42.
The 26-year-old soon-to-be free agent has shown stretches of being an above-average starting pitcher, but unfortunately for the Yankees, the only thing consistent about his game is his inconsistency.
It's not always the best move to trade a pitcher in your rotation if you don't really have a replacement for him, but he is the only player on the active roster who could net the Yankees what they really need: a corner infielder.
I've always felt Hughes would suit the National League very well, and if the Yankees could sway the San Diego Padres into moving the struggling Chase Headley, it would be a great haul. The Padres' recent good run may prevent them from moving the third baseman, but it's worth the conversation.
If the Padres don't bite, I think a reasonable deal could easily be made with the Philadelphia Phillies to bring in a veteran like Michael Young. Young is an ideal fit for the Yankees due to his versatility at both corner positions and steady bat.
Get Michael Pineda into the Starting Rotation
The biggest reason the Yankees can part ways with the struggling Hughes is the arrival of Michael Pineda.
Pineda is in the midst of recovering from shoulder surgery, which has prevented him from making a single appearance in a Yankee uniform since being acquired in a 2012 trade with the Seattle Mariners. He has completed two rehab starts thus far, allowing only one earned run in just under nine innings pitched. He's looked great, topping out on the gun at around 95 mph.
"By the fourth or fifth rehab start we'll be able to compare to what we have up here and go from there," said Cashman earlier this month. If he's considering keeping Pineda in the minors once his rehab starts are complete, in my mind, that would be a poor decision.
If Cashman is really going to compare Pineda to what he has on the active roster, the best option appears to be putting him into the rotation as soon as possible.
Pineda's ceiling is greater than that of just about any player on the Yankees, and he could provide the type of spark their rotation needs.
Fans have waited patiently to see him pitch, and it would be disappointing if they had to wait any longer.
Call Seattle for a Package Deal
General Manager Brian Cashman would have to get creative, but making a phone call to the Seattle Mariners on a package-deal trade could pay huge dividends.
If the Mariners are willing to talk—and at 10 games under .500, they should be—the Yankees should target starter Hisashi Iwakuma and first baseman Kendrys Morales.
Morales by himself should be easy enough to acquire, as the switch-hitter's contract expires at the end of the season. And to New York's benefit, he is having a nice season in Seattle, currently batting .276 with eight home runs and 38 RBI on the season. Switch his home games from Safeco to Yankee Stadium and one would assume those numbers only get better.
The real haul would be if Cashman could convince the Mariners to part with their emerging stud, Iwakuma. Iwakuma has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season with his 7-2 record and an 2.06 ERA.
The only incentive the Mariners would have to deal him is to capitalize on what is more than likely his peak performance.
The Yankees would probably have to part with at least one top prospect, if not more, but the price would be worth it. Iwakuma is under contract at a very reasonable price for the next two seasons, and the Yankees are likely to lose three starters from their rotation at season's end.
Bringing Iwakuma into the fold would not only be a boost this season, but it would fill a spot in the rotation for years to come.
Get Alex Rios
The New York Yankees have finished the past four seasons either first or second in runs scored in the American League.
In 2013, the Yankees currently rank 12th in the AL in runs scored. They are having serious issues producing any kind of offense. Injuries have obviously played a significant role in that regard, but facts are facts and something needs to be done, as the Yankees are not getting any healthier anytime soon.
Rios is having another fine season, as the two-way player has 38 runs scored, 11 homers and 12 steals and is batting .280 on the year. Those statistics would all rank either first or second on the Yankees at this moment.
The White Sox could have some incentive to move Rios, who is under contract for one more season at $12.5 million, with a team option for 2015. They have the second-worst record in the American League and are already 10.5 games back of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central.
Rios would be an immediate boost to the Yankees lineup and would give them a very formidable one-two punch with Robinson Cano.
The cost for Rios could be a top prospect, but the White Sox could be interested in dumping the contract and letting Rios go at a discount.