Watching the Yankees offense of late, it seems impossible to believe this team is contending for a playoff spot in October. The Bombers’ mighty offensive struggles have been well documented but it still bears repeating: The Yankees have the second-worst lineup by OPS in the American League.
Barely edging out the lowly Astros for second-to-last.
The Yankees are regularly trotting out position players, who are right at, or below replacement level. Season-long players or recent acquisitions, it matters not. Players such as Brent Lillibridge, Austin Romine, David Adams, Travis Hafner, Eduardo Nunez and Vernon Wells are all hurting this team.
The Yankees, on most nights, have an atrocious batting order that is only saved by Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and, occasionally Ichiro Suzuki and Lyle Overbay. Everyone knows how much the Yankees have suffered from the injury bug this season and there's no way to ignore how badly that has affected their year.
Derek Jeter is supposedly close to coming back and is eligible to come off the disabled list this weekend. However, he may be held out of the lineup for longer. The A-Rod saga continues with no end yet in sight and Curtis Granderson and Francisco Cervelli are not quite ready to return to the majors.
The public stance from the Yankees suggests they believe they may not need to make a deal given the amount of injured players they expect to return and play over the season's final two months. Yet that's posturing at best and ignorance at worst.
Even with Granderson returning, one has to assume both Jeter and potentially A-Rod will be healthy and able to contribute over the final 50-60 games of the season. As we already found out with Jeter after one game—that is hardly a guarantee.
This much is clear: If the Yankees want to show they're serious about contending for a playoff spot in 2013, they absolutely need to make a trade to acquire one or two productive hitters before next week's MLB deadline.
Anything less is a resignation, an admission that they don't believe they can hang with the big boys this season. Frankly, after watching how good this pitching staff has been from top to bottom, and giving a closer look to the statistics, the facts show that simply isn't the truth.
Entering play on July 25th, the Yankees have the third best ERA in the American League, a ranking that has vacillated between second and third throughout the last few weeks. Yankees starters have combined for the sixth-best ERA in the AL and, Yankees relievers have the fifth-best ERA in the AL.
The Yankees have a bona fide ace in Hiroki Kuroda and very credible, veteran starters in Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia (even though both have struggled of late). Ivan Nova has been sharp of late and even Phil Hughes can keep the Yankees in games the majority of the time, as he did on Tuesday night.
Complement that with the greatest closer in the game and one of the best relief pitchers setting him up in the eighth inning, the Yankees have this pitching thing down pretty darn well.
Should the Yankees be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?
Here are some names of possible targets the Yankees can pursue: Kendrys Morales, Mike Morse, Raul Ibanez, Chase Utley, Michael Young, Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham, Alfonso Soriano and practically any player worth pursuing from any non-contending teams like the White Sox, Marlins or Brewers.
All of these players are reasonable acquisitions for the Yankees based on salary, contract expiration date and the cost the Yankees would have to give up in major league and/or minor league talent. The Yankees have already shown interest in Alfonso Soriano and some of the aforementioned names have been floated around previously.
I don't believe any of the above players are world beaters. I don't believe any of the above players make the Yankees significantly better. But given who the Yankees are walking out to the batter's box each day, any of the above players will be an upgrade based on who they currently have.
Of course, the Yankees would have to look at parting with any of the following players: Phil Hughes, David Phelps, Ivan Nova, Joba Chamberlain, Eduardo Nunez and David Adams. Maybe they won't be able to get much of a return on any of these players. But there's only one way to find out.
The Yankees also offer a financial savings for many teams looking to unload big, expiring contracts either this season or in 2014. The Yankees are reaping some insurance compensation on Mark Teixeira for this season and may possibly receive some for Alex Rodriguez either now or in the future.
Contrary to the belief of some Yankee fans, Phil Hughes could definitely add value to a team if employed in a more defensive-friendly ballpark. If you don't believe that, just wait until this offseason to see what some teams will be willing to pay for Hughes.
Ivan Nova also is a live, still fairly young arm that is showing signs of a big turnaround of late. Nunez and Adams have demonstrated potential but not much more.
The Yankees may have to part ways with prized prospects in the minors such as Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin or Rafael De Paula. On the surface, this would seem like a very foolish move. Hasn't the new strategy been about holding onto "the future" and not mortgaging it away?
But ask yourself this question: Can the Yankees truly say they regret giving away any of their "big" prospects over the years not named, Austin Jackson? Jackson has gone on to play very good baseball for the Tigers.
Otherwise, I don't believe there's a single player worth losing sleep over.
And it’s not like the Yankees gave Austin Jackson away. Remember, the Yankees received a player in the prime of his career who just happened to lead all of baseball in home runs for two straight seasons the past two years.
Yes, while Curtis Granderson has been a non-factor in 2013, he was absolutely a difference maker the previous three years. The Yankees have missed him terribly this year.
Ian Kennedy? He had a sensational first year in Arizona but the one-and-a-half seasons since have been mediocre at best. And what about the countless number of players whose names are so forgettable, most fans struggle to even remember?
Even the likes of Jose Tabata and Jesus Montero have hardly made a difference in the majors. Relief pitchers Mark Melancon and Tyler Clippard have made all-star teams but relievers tend to be the most replaceable players on a baseball club.
And, the Yankees are hardly in need of help in the bullpen.
There's a lot of fiction and a lot of short- and long-term memory loss when it comes to the Yankees' supposedly untouchable, can't-miss talents. The overwhelming, resounding evidence is that most of the Yankees top prospects have either not made the majors or haven't made a difference when they've reached the majors.
Only 3.5 games currently separate the Yankees from the lead in the wild-card race in the American League. There are still 60 games left to play, plenty of time to mount a rally if some reinforcements come in to make the difference.
Time to see whether Yankees' management feels this is a season worth pursuing.