Trouble in the Bronx: 10 Trade Options for Yankees if Phil Hughes Can't Hack It

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistApril 10, 2011

Trouble in the Bronx: 10 Trade Options for Yankees if Phil Hughes Can't Hack It

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    The Yankees are like that good-looking high school chick who seems to have it all, but there are always some underlying problems.

    With an explosive offense, solid defense and a top-of-the-rotation pitcher in C.C. Sabathia, the Bronx Bombers have everything in place to be penciled in for October, right?

    Not just yet.

    While everything is glitter and glamor on the outside, the underlying problems are quickly rising to the surface. These alarming issues are led by the starting pitching, with Phil Hughes acting as the front-man.

    Considering that Hughes' "potential" was a major reason the Yankees felt comfortable in not signing a big-name arm in the offseason, his performance thus far has been downright sluggish. 

    The 24-year-old is currently 0-1 with a 16.50 ERA, with only one strikeout in six innings through his first two starts of the season.

    It may, however, be too early to diagnose Hughes as the main suspect in the Yankees' rotation.  But, considering Hughes has been a notoriously mediocre second-half pitcher, you can only imagine what his season will look like if he doesn't pick it up soon.

    His first two starts this season have shown that he can neither beat an above-average offense like the Detroit Tigers nor compete with a top notch in-division opponent like the Boston Red Sox.

    If New York is aiming to land a spot in October-fest, they'll surely need better pitching than what Hughes is currently giving them.

    With that said, if the young gun is unable to right the ship and falls faster into the depths of inconsistent pitching, who would be most suitable to take on a big-time pitching role in the Bronx?

    With Felix Hernandez, Andy Pettitte and Francisco Liriano making headway, here are the top 10 candidates to replace Phil Hughes and bolster the Yankees' rotation.

10. Justin Masterson

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    Remember him?

    Before disappearing into the AL Central last year, Masterson was one of the best up-and-coming pitchers the AL East had to offer.

    However, the Boston Red Sox were unable to find a spot in their rotation for the 26-year-old, ultimately sending him to the Cleveland Indians in the Victor Martinez trade.

    Masterson's 2010 campaign with the Indians was nothing spectacular, as he sported a 4.70 ERA through 180 innings. It was his first season as a full-time starter, and, again, he was pitching for the lowly Indians.

    While he has struggled with consistency over the past two years, at times Masterson has looked like he has the raw makeup of a top-of-the-rotation guy. 

    Currently 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA through 13.1 innings to start the season, the former Red Sox spot starter may find himself back in the AL East by the trade deadline, this time as a full-time gunslinger wearing pinstripes.

9. Carl Pavano

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    If the Yankees decide to pull off a Javier Vazquez "round two," why not test the waters with Carl Pavano?

    Having pitched for the Yankees from 2005-2008 even while plagued by injuries throughout that tenure, Pavano still understands the demands for pitching in the Bronx and as a big-time rotation guy.

    2010 was a great year for the 35-year-old righty.  He went 17-11 with a 3.74 ERA through 221 innings for the Minnesota Twins, easily his best performance since his breakout 2004 season.

    Now healthy, Pavano is currently pitching on a two-year, $16.5 million contract and looking to earn a bigger payday when eligible.

    His current contract would be a perfect fit for the Yankees, who would get a solid innings-eater for a little more money than what they're now paying Damaso Marte.

8. Felix Hernandez

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    I know this is a big stretch, but it's always good to aim high.

    Felix would be the best-case scenario for the Yankees. Arguably the best pitcher in the MLB, King Felix has pitched his way to an elite status that pitchers dream of.

    While I can list his impressive stats over the past six years, I'll save my time and hope that everyone realizes how good this 25-year-old kid is.

    For the Yankees, who were rumored in the offseason to have some interest in Hernandez, it would mean giving up some serious talent. Well worth it, but the acquisition would cripple New York's farm system.

    If the Yankees were that sold on trading for Felix Hernandez, counting on the fact that the Mariners are even willing to hear offers, they'd have to surrender not only Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Jesus Montero but maybe even more.

    By being one of the most coveted pitchers in the league, Hernandez is a high-price/high-reward player.

    A move like this would send a category-five hurricane up and down the AL East standings, allowing the Yankees to walk their way into the playoffs.

7. Ted Lilly

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    A 35-year-old journeyman coming to New York and saving the Yankees' rotation?

    Crazier things have happened.

    After pitching for the Yankees from 2000-2002, Ted Lilly has not only pitched for four different teams but looked downright dominant at times.

    In the second half of 2010, Lilly went 7-4 with a 3.17 ERA, compiling 101 strikeouts in 96 innings. Those are some impressive stats, considering the Dodgers' lineup and relief pitching were extremely inconsistent last year.

    Lilly, who re-signed to a three-year, $33 million contract with Los Angeles in the offseason, would be more than capable of consistently pitching from one team to another, NL to AL.

    The Yankees wouldn't really have to give up much; maybe a solid prospect and buy out his contract. 

    Any hope of acquiring Lilly lies in the future of the Dodgers. If they find themselves within reach of the postseason come the trade deadline, Lilly will more than likely be off-limits. 

    However, a slow start from the Dodgers could mean that not only Lilly would be available for trade, but even Chad Billingsley.

    How ironic would it be to see Don Mattingly send one of his best pitchers to New York to help the Yankees puzzle together their World Series squad?

6. Jake Westbrook

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    While he isn't Felix Hernandez or Ted Lilly, Jake Westbrook would be more than capable of pitching well in New York.

    Over the past few seasons Westbrook has become one of the best ground-ball pitchers in the MLB, ranking fourth in 2010 behind Tim Hudson, Carl Pavano and Roy Halladay. 

    Considering that balls are NASA-launched out of the new Yankee Stadium, Westbrook's ground-ball ability and inning-eating swagger could be a perfect match for the Yankees.

    Acquiring Westbrook would be easier than trading Victor Zambrano for Scott Kazmir.  His two-year, $16.5 million contract, ironically the same as Pavano's, would be chump change for the Yankees' big suits. 

    With Adam Wainwright out of the loop for the entire season and offensive issues revolving around Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, the Cardinals' misfortune in 2011 could lead to a Yankees treasure find.

    By not being a flashy pitcher with a big name, Westbrook's value around the league is somewhat underrated. 

    For the price the Yankees can get him at and the outs he could provide in a fly-ball stadium, Jake Westbrook would be a fine fit to replace the lackluster pitching of Phil Hughes.

5. Ian Kennedy

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    Welcome back, Ian!

    Is it more ironic that the Yankees could reacquire one of their former top prospects, or that Ian Kennedy is looking like a better pitcher than Phil Hughes?

    After battling for years to be called the Yankees' best pitching prospect, Ian Kennedy's and Phil Hughes' joust came to an end. Kennedy was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks to acquire Curtis Granderson and Hughes was given a rotation spot to run with.

    Well, while Hughes has been jogging around the track and trying to gain his balance, Kennedy has been running laps in the NL West.

    In 2010, Kennedy broke out as a top-of-the-rotation option by posting a 3.80 ERA through 194 innings and striking out 168 with a 1.20 WHIP.

    Fortunately for the Diamondbacks, Kennedy hasn't slowed down one bit. Off to a great start in 2011, the 26-year-old looks poised to eclipse 200 innings and 15 wins. What more can you ask for?

    The loss of Kennedy may end up being a big one to swallow for the Yankees organization, but if they manage to pry him away from Arizona and back to the American League, New York may have what they need to make a push for the AL pennant.

4. Brett Myers

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    After 2005, Brett Myers looked like one of the more promising young arms in the MLB, but after numerous inconsistent years in Philadelphia his stock dropped considerably.

    Well, it's now 2011 and Myers has been dominating the NL Central for the past year. Rebounding from his tenure as a Philly, Myers went 14-8 in 2010 for the Houston Astros, posting a 3.14 ERA with 180 K's through 223 innings.

    Currently sporting a two-year, $23 million contract, Myers falls into that category of cheap pitching that will get you innings and wins. Yet another contract the Yankees could monetarily swallow.

    Houston looks to be out of any sort of playoff race fairly early, so fishing for Myers in a month or two is not out of the question.

    The only problem with the 30-year-old is the fact that he had many problems with the pressure of pitching in a big baseball city like Philadelphia, so if he hasn't turned over a new leaf New York is not the place for Myers. 

3. Fausto Carmona

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    Like Justin Masterson, Fausto Carmona is a Cleveland Indians pitcher who should be available for trade come July.

    Carmona posted a decent stat line in 2010, going 13-14 with a 3.77 ERA, but he's been relatively inconsistent over the past few years.

    If the Yankees were to trade anything away to acquire an unproven 27-year-old arm like Carmona, they'll have to see some sort of dominance before the trade deadline in July.

    That could be a problem considering Carmona pitches for the Indians, but by posting a solid ERA and a respectable WHIP, he could find himself pitching in pinstripes sooner than later.

    This is sort of a last ditch effort for the Yankees if they're unable to land a big-name pitcher or if Phil Hughes continues to shoot himself in the foot.

2. Andy Pettitte

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    Well, this is obvious.

    What makes more sense than the Yankees talking Andy Pettitte out of retirement to come back and rescue a struggling rotation?

    Maybe that 2+2=4?

    Either way, Andy Pettitte has already stated that he's more than capable of physically pitching at a high level. It's his mental determination that's in question.

    If the Yankees are absolutely sold on the fact that Andy Pettitte is the only pitcher who can spell Hughes' possible breakdown and solidify their rotation, it will be extremely surprising to see New York not get their man.

    Money is apparently a non-issue for Pettitte, even though the Yankees will be more than happy to cut him a healthy paycheck.

    So for the Yankees, it comes down to reaching out to Pettitte by using current players like Jeter and Rivera, and try to slap the cleats on the former Yankees great and make one more run at a World Series championship.

1. Francisco Liriano

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    When you have an impending free agent like Francisco Liriano on the market, what team wouldn't be interested in trading for him?

    Not many, and while teams will line up for Liriano if the Twins consider themselves out of contention, the Yankees are more than capable of cutting fellow franchises and landing the 27-year-old.

    Liriano's rebound performance in 2010 proved he is still one of the best left-handed strikeout pitchers in all of baseball.

    At times inconsistent, Liriano for the foremost has been a reliable starter and a professional strikeout artist, posting 201 K's in 191 innings last year.

    Now healthy, hungry for success, and looking for a big payday in 2012, Liriano should be poised to have one of the best years of his young career.

    Trading for Liriano may mean giving up Phil Hughes or Jesus Montero, but if the Yankees decide to re-sign him upon trade or in the offseason, every angle seems reasonable.

    He's 27, strikes out the competition, could counterpart Sabathia as the "other" lefty in the rotation and can basically be rented for the rest of year.