Tha Yankees ended the first half of the season with the third best record in baseball. The marquee free agents signed in the offseason have lived up to expectations, carrying the team at times. The offense leads the AL in most categories, including runs, home runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
When you look closer at the team, the cracks in the foundation begin to show.
The teams run differential actually places them in third place in the AL East. The really bad news is that this run differential is likely to get smaller as the season plays out based on the Yankees pitching trends and the inevitable decline of the offensive production from the over 35 set (Damon, Posada, Matsui).
Can the Yankees remain lucky and maintain the win/loss pace? It happened with Seattle two years ago, but they were the exception that proved the rule.
As long as the Steinbrenner family owns this team, waving the white flag is not the option. What moves can Brian Cashman make to improve the team without giving up on the season and the billion dollar ballpark?
Mostly Money-Based Trades
1 - Trade Matsui to a West Coast team (Seattle, San Francisco). Eat some or all of the contract to get a good return.
2 - Trade Damon to a NL contender. Again, eat some or all of the contract for a good return.
These two trades will leave the Yankees with an outfield of Cabrera (RF), Gardner (CF), Swisher / Hinske (LF). Could the Yankees call up Jackson and give him a taste?
More importantly, it leaves the Yankees with the opportunity to have Posada as the everyday DH. The Yankees can bring back Cervelli and possibly give Moreno a look.
This improves the overall defense of the club without a significant downgrade offensively. The lineup would be Jeter (right), Cano (left), Tex (switch), A-Rod (right), Posada (switch), Swisher (switch), Cervelli (right), Cabrera (switch), Gardner (left).
It is my belief that Cano does not have the attitude nor the desire to fully utilize all the tools that he has. If the Yankees organization feels the same way, trade him now while his numbers still project to All-Star level (he's entering his prime).
Pitching Rotation Moves
1 - Joba to Bullpen.
I believe that he has more value to the Yankees as a starter. My suggestion is to move Joba only after he has pitched 125 innings as a starter. Young pitchers that throw more than 40 percent more innings from the previous year tend to have injury problems.
This should lessen that risk by allowing Joba to throw relatively stress-free for about 15 innings as a reliever. He's had a long and stressful year with lots of 3-2 counts. Kicking him to the bullpen should help him regain his mojo (and likely begin another year of where does he belong questions).
2 - Hughes is the eighth inning guy.
3 - Coke is the other eighth inning guy.
4 - Brian Bruney is NOT the eighth inning guy. And you can forget about the seventh, too.
5 - Aceves is your seventh inning guy. Joba should be used here once back in the bullpen.
Note that suggestions 2-5 are about staying young, throwing gas,and building confidence in the players that have been in the organization.
6 - Pettite should only pitch on the road. Bring up someone from the minors when in NY. They can't do much worse than Pettite's home ERA of 5.72.
7 - When healthy, Wang should be the only reliever on deck when Joba pitches.
We know that Joba is only going five innings, so let Wang pitch the next four. If he straightens out in the pen, then he can take over Joba's roll as a starter. If not, then a demotion to the Staten Island Yankees so that he can regain what he's lost.
8 - Use the position players above to bring in starter. Given the way that the park is playing, a sinker-baller would fit best.
These are not earth-shattering trades. The players on the move are not in the Yankees long term plans. They may have more to offer to other teams. If the returns are all in the form of pitching, this should shore up the Yankees biggest weakness.
Only time will tell.