The New York Yankees enter the final few days before the July 31 trade deadline with one primary goal: to improve their pitching.
The Bombers' rotation has not been too shabby in 2011, posting a 3.65 ERA—sixth-best in the American League. Yankees starting pitchers also lead the league with 48 victories.
But there is still cause for concern. The pitching staff is anchored by Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, both of whom everyone still looks at skeptically despite their impressive seasons. Phil Hughes, recently returned from the disabled list, has struggled with his stuff all year; he has only 16 strikeouts in 31.2 innings pitched.
And A.J. Burnett—well, no one ever seems to trust him very much.
Here are five starting pitchers the Yankees have shown interest in, and the latest news involving their negotiations.
Rumors courtesy of MLBTradeRumors.com.
The Yankees appear to be one of two teams best prepared to make a deal for Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez, the other being the Cincinnati Reds. However, Colorado's asking price is currently too high for New York's liking.
The Rockies are looking for three top-rated prospects in return for Jimenez, including one who can take the vacant spot left in the rotation. The Yankees have four young players that pique Colorado's interest—pitchers Ivan Nova, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, and catcher Jesus Montero—but the Yankees are hesitant to part with two of that group, let alone three.
If the Rockies don't lower their demands, the most likely result may be that Jimenez stays right where he is. Though there have been as many as eight teams rumored to show interest, no one appears very close to a deal just yet.
Jimenez, though having a sub-par season compared to last year, would be the solid No. 2 starter the Yankees are looking for to back ace CC Sabathia.
The Yankees are one of five American League contenders interested in Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda. The Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers are still in the mix as well.
However, conditions on the Los Angeles side complicate matters. Many believe the Dodgers don't actually want to trade Kuroda, while also wondering whether Kuroda would even waive his no-trade clause should a tempting offer arise.
So far, however, no official deal has been proposed, and Kuroda isn't disclosing any of his intentions until there is one on the table.
The 36-year-old Japanese pitcher has a disappointing 6-12 record this season, but he does have a 3.11 ERA. Perhaps what's most enticing to the Yankees is Kuroda's consistency; he has not pitched fewer than five innings in any 2011 start, and he's only walked as many as four batters once.
The Cubs are almost desperate to get rid of the hot-headed pitcher, even offering to eat a considerable portion of his hefty contract. Zambrano also informed the team in June that he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause.
But the Yankees are smart not to touch this matter. Not only is Zambrano emotionally unstable at times, he also just isn't having a very good season. He's 7-6 with a 4.59 ERA and, possibly more discouraging, he only has 87 strikeouts in 129.1 innings.
The Yankees reportedly tried to negotiate for Florida pitcher Ricky Nolasco, but the Marlins declined. Nolasco and fellow starter Anibal Sanchez are off limits, according to Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman.
Nolasco is under team control through 2013, so it isn't terribly surprising the Marlins are unwilling to move him. Still, there was speculation that the Florida franchise, in preparation for the move into its new stadium, would clear payroll in order to become a major player for this winter's free agent class.
The Yankees were interested not only to obtain the 28-year-old Nolasco's steady arm, but also to reunite him with former Marlins manager Joe Girardi. Nolasco spent his rookie season under Girardi and perhaps would have benefited from playing for him again as a more seasoned pitcher.
Interest in Gonzalez is easy to understand, as is the reluctance to trade him. Gonzalez has a 2.67 ERA this season and 124 strikeouts.
The Yankees would love another left-handed starter to help CC Sabathia handle the formidable lefty sluggers in the American League (Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Josh Hamilton, Travis Hafner, etc.). But it looks like they'll have to look elsewhere.
One may have thought that Gonzalez himself would be tempted to join forces with the Bronx Bombers after his most recent outing, but it is not his decision to make just yet. Gonzalez will be arbitration-eligible after this season.