Coming into the 2011 season, many questioned whether the New York Yankees would have enough starting pitching to be considered a serious contender. With nearly a third of the season in the rear-view mirror, the Yankees occupy a familiar spot at the top of the American League East, but their journey there has been foreign.
Although they have scored an American League leading 264 runs, the Yanks have endured struggles from their usual anchors, Derek Jeter (.259 BA) and Jorge Posada (.159 BA). Mariano Rivera has also blown three saves. In addition, Alex Rodriguez (.277 BA) has struggled periodically, and his average has dipped as a result. For all of the home runs the Yankees have been able to produce (80), they do not have a single starter batting .300 this season.
The great surprise of the 2011 season has been that the Yankees have been saved by their perceived weakness: the back end of their rotation. Between Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova, the Yankees have 10 wins this season, and both Colon and Garcia boast 3.26 ERAs.
The strange irony of the Yankees' season this year, then, is that if they want to return to the playoffs, they are going to need another starting pitcher, not another bat. As good as Colon, Garcia and Nova have been, they have also been spotty at times and the Yankees are going to need at least one more reliable arm if they are going to have any success in the playoffs. With 264 runs scored, its clear that the Yankees can generate offense (even if it is only with the home run). So they need to start thinking hard about dealing some of their offensive players who are having unusually good seasons in order to get defensive value.
With all that in mind, here are five players Yankee fans should keep in mind looking forward to the trade deadline.
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The biggest problem the Yanks are going to face is that there just are not going to be a lot of great starting pitchers available at the break. If the Cardinals were not playing so well, they might have had a shot at Chris Carpenter. No shot at that one. If the Phillies were struggling to hit, like many thought they would, they might agree to part ways with Roy Oswalt, but instead they have scored 225 runs. No reason to give a potential World Series opponent a number two starter.
What the Yankees are likely left with are pitchers a step down from that caliber, like Mark Buehrle. Playing for a struggling White Sox team, Buehrle has had a solid season. With a 3.91 ERA, he has won four games for the Chicago Sox. No number two starter, but he’s a solid career pitcher who could give the Yanks some insurance down the stretch.
This guy could be the kind of starter the Yankees really need. With an impressive career 3.20 ERA, Hernandez had a career best 2.27 ERA in 2010 and has already won five games in 2011 for a Mariners team that has struggled to hit.
At only 25 years old, this right-hander has a ton of upside, and the Yankees will really need to make a good offer to get a pitcher of this caliber. Unfortunately, at this point, rumors indicate that the Mariners are not interested in trading him. But if the team continues to slide, they may change their minds.
The Mariners have been known to deal big-time players in the past, and their cash flow will prohibit them from keeping Hernandez forever.
If the Orioles continue to slide, this is another guy who could be on the market when the trade deadline rolls around. Like Buehrle, Guthrie is probably a step down from a Felix Hernandez-type in quality, but the Yankees would be getting a very solid starting pitcher who could help maintain some stability down the stretch on a team with untested starting pitching.
If the Yanks get Guthrie, they can expect to be getting a guy with an ERA typically below four who can go out and win ten games a year for them. He is also a pitcher who shows a lot of promise. With a WHIP of 1.14 this season, Guthrie may compete better in a city like New York, where the run support will be there. He only walks one batter every six innings, so his control is there.
And, best of all, he’s pitched in the AL East since 2007, so he’s very familiar with the arch-rival Red Sox.
In 2008, Russell Martin was an All-Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers. So, when Brian Cashman picked him up this off-season with a one-year, $4 million deal, it was a no-brainer. To say that the Yankees have gotten their money’s worth from Martin this season would be an understatement. Aside from his great defense, which has saved countless breaking-balls in the dirt for A.J. Burnett, Martin is having a career year offensively. Sporting a .363 OBP, Martin has also hit 9 HR and 26 RBI in 44 games behind the plate already this season.
It might seem counter-intuitive then to trade Martin, but the fact of the matter is that his trade value has never been higher, and the Yankees have a budding star waiting for a shot in AAA. The third-ranked prospect in the country before this season, Montero has hit well in Scranton this spring, with a .306 BA and 3 HR. Bringing up Montero may be a step down from Martin for this season, but if the Yankees can use Martin’s value to bring in an arm, they have do it. They can score enough runs without Russell Martin, but to become serious contenders for a title, they need another starting pitcher.
Again, Joba has been very good for the Yankees this year, but his trade value may not have been this high in several years. The Yankees right-hander is currently making $1.4 million this year with the Bombers and his price tag will also make him easy to move to other teams.
Joba currently owns a 3.12 ERA, but his WHIP is an impressive 0.962, and he’s looked very sharp so far this season. Joba has become a solid right-handed arm coming out of the bullpen, but probably not much more than that. Also, with the way David Robertson has been pitching this season, the Yankees will likely use him as a set-up man instead of Joba in the post-season.
If they Yankees can move Joba and get better value, they should do it.