At 53-35, the New York Yankees don't "need" any more players to win. But they have a huge opportunity to improve their starting rotation if they take a prudent approach to the trade deadline of July 31st.
Sure, Phil Hughes is returning from the DL, but his numbers in his four starts this 2011 season aren't exactly desirable. He'll have to jump back into the rotation and be in mid-season form immediately.
Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia have been excellent in their starts this year, but I can't help but wonder when the honeymoon will end with these two. Colon didn't play at all in 2010, and Garcia was originally signed to a minor league contract.
That means GM Brian Cashman needs to go out and find at least one more arm to add to his staff.
In very un-Yankee fashion, I have five low-cost starting pitchers that I'd recommend he take a long look at because 1) they wouldn't cost New York very much in the form of prospects, and 2) the Yankees simply don't need a stellar ace since they've scored the third most runs in the MLB.
It's highly possible that many of you reading this have never heard of Bruce Chen, the best pitcher on the Kansas City Royals.
But you really should get to know the steady veteran pitcher who in ten starts thus far has a record of 5-2 and an ERA of 3.26.
He spent most of May and June with a left shoulder injury, but has shown that he's healthy in his four starts since, where he had a 2.16 ERA, 19 Ks, and two wins.
Chen is a lefty, which is definitely a need for the New York Yankees, whose loan southpaw is ace C.C. Sabathia.
Playing on the bottom dwellers of the NL West, Aaron Harang has managed impressive 7-2 record and 3.45 ERA during the first half of the 2011 season.
The San Diego Padres are unlikely to get anywhere in contention, even in the tumultuous West (something tells me that the lack of Adrian Gonzalez is affecting them) and are certain to be sellers as the trade deadline nears.
In his prime, Harang could top 200 strikeouts in a season. If he were to get the kind of run support that he would get in pinstripes, I'd like to see him relax and just sling the ball around again. I bet we'd see that strikeout prowess again.
The best thing about Harang is that his contract ends after the season, which makes him a virtually risk-free rental for a deep playoff run for the New York Yankees.
Livan Hernandez is a mixed bag. He's capable of stringing together four or five outstanding starts together but is just as likely to have as many terrible starts in a row.
They key is to get the Washington Nationals ace at the right time.
Of course, Hernandez is just the ace for the 2011 season. Phenom Stephen Strasburg is the future of the team's rotation once he gets back next season from Tommy John surgery, which means the Nationals would be more than happy to get some trade value from Hernandez.
And as if this wasn't enough, Livan is the half-brother of former Yankee standout Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, a three-time World Series champion with New York.
If there is a seller in the MLB, it's the Houston Astros. They've had an absolutely terrible season and have a league low 30 wins at the All-Star Break.
Pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers as well as outfield Hunter Pence to a much lesser degree have been rumored to be available.
For the New York Yankees, the best pitcher of the two also fits their need of a second lefty starter, and that is Rodriguez.
He owns a 3.52 ERA and a 6-6 record while playing in lowly Houston. Rodriguez is on a bad string of starts, allowing five runs in three of his past four starts. When you factor those numbers into his current ERA, you understand how good has been until his recent skid.
As a bonus, he's under contract for three years and is 31 years old. The Yankees would look to add him primarily for this season, but he's a moderate investment for the years to come until New York can rebuild the bottom half of the rotation.
Ted Lilly is off to a sub-par start here in 2011. His 4.79 ERA and 6-9 record aren't up to his career benchmark of 4.22 and 119-105, but outside of Clayton Kershaw, what pitcher is excelling with the Los Angeles Dodgers?
At 35-years old, Lilly has been around the league in his career, including a three year stint with the New York Yankees during the 2000, 2001, and 2002 seasons.
Acquiring Lilly at the beginning of the second half is an even better idea when you learn that over the past three seasons, his second half ERA has been 3.17, compared to 3.97 during the first half.
Like Chen and Rodriguez, Lilly is a lefty, a need for the Yankee starting rotation.
His contract goes until 2013, but trading for Lilly is a move that simply bolsters the bottom of the rotation with a veteran that has postseason experience.