Something has to be done with this New York Yankees team before a realistic playoff push can be made.
Brian Cashman has a tall task ahead of him. His roster is aging, decrepit and has few big-time assets to deal. His starting pitchers are nearly all on the mend, and the big money he spent this offseason really hasn't delivered that great of a return.
The Yankees were thought to be a contender for the playoffs in the wide open American League East this season. Now sitting at 47-47 at the All-Star break, the Bombers are one game back of the Toronto Blue Jays and five back of the Baltimore Orioles in the division.
To get the edge on these two clubs, Cashman will have to start making some calls.
For the Yankees to make the playoffs in what has been an overall disappointing season, Cashman needs to propose these three blockbuster trades.
Brett Gardner has quietly been fantastic. Jacoby Ellsbury has been steady, yet streaky from time to time. The Yankees can live with that. It's right field that has become an issue.
With Carlos Beltran constantly mending some sort of injury (freak or otherwise), Ichiro Suzuki has found time in right. While not a horrible hitter this season (.297/.347/.337), Ichiro offers no pop at all. Fifty-three of his 60 hits have been singles.
Alfonso Soriano has also been officially released, so that leaves the Yankees in a bit of a bind in the outfield. Youngster Rob Refsnyder is certainly an option if the Yankees want to let the kids learn this season, but if the team wants to contend, then going after another bat is the right move.
I suggest Matt Kemp.
The Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder hasn't seen regular playing time this season, as Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig have commanded nearly all of the at-bats. This has led to comments from his agent, Dave Stewart, that he'd be open to a trade, via Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal:
Whatever they want to do we’re favorable to, as long as it gives him an opportunity to play every day. He’d like to eventually go back to center field. He’s not opposed to right or left. But his hope at some point is to get back to center.
While center field is Ellsbury's job, the thought of full playing time should intrigue Kemp. Even when Beltran returns, the 37-year-old is likely bound for DH duty. This leaves Kemp with nearly no competition in the field.
Kemp, 29, is hitting .269/.330/.430 with eight home runs, 35 RBI and 21 doubles in 305 at-bats this season. He won't be a free agent until after the 2019 season, so he is awfully controllable. Of course, he'll make at least $21 million per year for the rest of the deal.
Naturally, the Dodgers would have to pick up a bit of the tab in a deal. For Kemp and cash, the Yankees would be forced to part with top prospect Gary Sanchez, possibly along with a pitcher like Luis Severino. This should be enough to entice the Dodgers to make a deal.
While upgrading at the plate is important, shoring up the rotation is the priority. Cashman needs to do more than just bringing in Brandon McCarthy.
The 35-year-old lefty is expensive and rehabbing an elbow injury of his own, but the Phillies might not ask for top-level prospects if the Yankees were willing to assume the remaining $50 million or so on Lee's contract.
Lee is a free agent following the 2015 season, and he can certainly still be effective when healthy. Through 10 starts this year, he is 4-4 with a 3.18 ERA, 2.70 FIP and 1.279 WHIP. He doesn't walk many hitters and tends to keep the ball on the ground, so that will bode well in Yankee Stadium.
Acquiring Lee must be done if the Yanks don't have to deal top prospects. Assuming $50 million would be tough to swallow, but it's better than jeopardizing the future of the club.
Mason Williams (a lost cause at this point) and Greg Bird should be enough to get the Phillies to part with their lefty. Williams might find his talent again in the Phillies organization, and Bird is far enough away from the bigs that the Yanks shouldn't regret dealing him immediately.
Plus, for another full season of control of Lee, that's a fair price to pay.
The Phillies have two pitchers that the Yankees should be in play for, as Cole Hamels is probably also on Cashman's radar. Hamels is younger at age 30, under contract until after the 2018 season and has generally stayed quite healthy during his career.
For now, let's look at a Hamels deal apart from a deal for Lee.
To acquire solely Hamels from the Phils, Cashman would likely have to part with Sanchez, Severino and another prospect like Bird. Dellin Betances will probably be the first name general manager Ruben Amaro brings up in talks, but Cashman should scoff at that. Betances needs to stay in pinstripes.
Those three prospects could net the Yankees their man. Now let's say they go for a package deal of Lee and Hamels.
The Yanks would still have to take on Lee's salary. They would also still need to deal Sanchez, Severino and Bird. But now on top of that, Williams and possibly Jose Ramirez will get thrown into the mix. Those are five of the Yankees' best prospects for two left-handed aces.
While that's a tough pill for the farm system to swallow, remember that the team just spent big internationally and has retooled a bit on the farm. This is something that makes sense for the Bombers.
A potential rotation this year of Lee, Hamels, Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka (if they both return) would dominate the rest of the AL East.
Next season, a rotation of Lee, Hamels, Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Pineda or David Phelps would be just as good.
Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR