There isn't a team in Major League Baseball that couldn't use an upgrade or two at the 2014 trading deadline. Sure, it's still months away, but the trade deadline is extraordinarily important for one team in particular: the New York Yankees.
While the Bombers are already a far different team than they were in 2013, there is still work to be done. The lack of infield depth is far too prevalent to ignore. Brian Roberts and Mark Teixeira are injury risks, and Derek Jeter needs more days off than he has in years past.
Yangervis Solarte and Kelly Johnson have produced (thankfully), but manager Joe Girardi can't rely on them forever. He needs more weapons at his disposal.
The bullpen could also use an arm or two. More specifically, it could use a reliable lefty. Matt Thornton is getting older, and Vidal Nuno is in the rotation (for now). Girardi could use another LOOGY (left-handed one-out guy).
There aren't a ton of names on the trade market just yet, but here are some predictions as to who the Yankees might look to acquire to tighten up their roster this summer.
Candidates: Matt Dominguez (HOU), Chase Headley (SD), Matt Adams (STL)
The Yankees really need a corner infielder. Given Roberts' health issues, there's a real situation that could arise where the right side of the infield is Teixeira and Johnson, leaving the hot corner wide open. The No. 1 guy to target, in my opinion, is Houston's Matt Dominguez.
Dominguez is a defensive stalwart at the hot corner. He won the Astros 2013 Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award last season:
On his personal blog, Peter Gammons noted back in March that the Yankees could be a fit for Dominguez. Dominguez wouldn't come cheaply. He's under contract through the 2018 season, and his glove work speaks for itself.
He also boasts good power. His 21 homers last season were coupled with 77 RBI and 25 doubles. In the bottom third of the Yankees lineup, Dominguez would find success.
Another candidate, Chase Headley, has been linked to the Yankees so many times that it's surprising to see that he's still not in pinstripes. Headley has regressed since his breakout 2012 season, but the Yankees should still be interested if the price is right.
Matt Adams is the dark-horse candidate on this list. He has unbelievable power and would thrive in Yankee Stadium. He's starting at first for the St. Louis Cardinals right now, but Oscar Tavares' impending promotion to the bigs could push Allen Craig from right field to first, thus making Adams expendable.
He'd be expensive, but Adams is an option worth considering.
Candidates: J.J. Hardy (BAL), Mark Ellis (STL)
It's time for the Yankees to start sniffing the market for the shortstop of the future. If it's not going to be Stephen Drew, then they'll need to start scouring the market. One quality option is J.J. Hardy, whose contract talks with the Baltimore Orioles have apparently broken down:
J.J. Hardy on possible extension talks with #Orioles. “There’s been no talk. There was going to be talk, and then there wasn’t.”— Rich Dubroff (@RichDubroffCSN) April 20, 2014
Trading in the division will prove difficult, but Hardy is a player worth pursuing. He has hit at least 22 home runs each of the past three seasons while also winning a Gold Glove in the past two. Hardy has a unique blend of power and defense.
Replacing Jeter in the future won't be easy, but the last thing Brian Cashman should want to do is have a revolving door at the position for a few seasons. Hardy is a player that can come in and produce right from the start. Cashman probably wouldn't hesitate to lock him up to a multiyear extension, either.
A trade for a guy like Mark Ellis is probably more likely, however. Ellis is buried behind Kolten Wong in St. Louis, and the veteran second baseman would provide solid depth to the infield. He has played all infield positions in his career, but nearly all of his games have come at second.
The 36-year-old isn't a long-term fix, nor is he a guarantee to hit .270-plus. That said, he's a gritty veteran that has a history of success and has played on some good teams. He would come cheaply and would be worth a gamble for Cashman.
Candidates: J.P. Howell (LAD), Oliver Perez (ARZ), Joe Thatcher (ARZ)
When David Robertson is healthy, the bullpen has some potential. Robertson, Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren and Dellin Betances have the potential to form a strong back end of the bullpen. They get outs and can handle the pressures of late-game situations.
The lack of a consistent lefty specialist is concerning, though. Thornton hasn't been truly dominant since 2011, and it isn't smart to rely on just him as a southpaw. Girardi has used dual lefties in the past (Boone Logan and Clay Rapada), so it makes sense to add another.
J.P. Howell is a lefty specialist that is so effective that the Los Angeles Dodgers are apparently looking to expand his role:
Looks as if Dodgers will split 8th inning between Chris Perez and J.P. Howell, rather than using Brian Wilson.— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) April 20, 2014
The Yankees know Howell well from his time with the Tampa Bay Rays. He has a slow breaking ball that keeps hitters off-balance and induces grounders and weak flyouts.
Oliver Perez and Joe Thatcher are both options as well. Both are pitching well out of Kirk Gibson's bullpen for the Arizona Diamondbacks, which could cause their price tags to rise come July.
It's clear that Girardi doesn't want to rely on Cesar Cabral, so staying in-house probably won't occur. Look for Cashman to go out and grab a lefty at the deadline.
Follow me on Twitter (@kennydejohn) to debate potential Yankees trade targets.