The New York Yankees, who in recent years have been perennial trade deadline buyers, surprised most by standing pat on July 31. Despite what some believe to be clear needs—another starting pitcher or a left-handed reliever, for instance—the Yankees remained faithful to the team that currently trots out to the field every night.
That does not mean, however, that New York will not make a move this month. The Yankees, along with every other team, can make trades in August for players who have cleared waivers.
But do they need to? Reason tells us they should; after all, no team is without a weakness or hole, and the Yankees have historically been apt to try and improve whenever possible.
Most likely, it will be a matter of who is available and for what price.
Nevertheless, the Yankees do not have to make a trade in August in order to be primed for the playoffs. But, if they are to remain stagnant, then certain things have to go right for them.
Here are the five most important ways in which the Yankees can survive without making a waiver deal.
With Damaso Marte and Pedro Feliciano both injured and likely gone for the year, Boone Logan remains the only left-handed reliever available at Joe Girardi's disposal.
With lefty sluggers like Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Josh Hamilton and Travis Hafner on the Yankees' primary American League competitors, his role will be very important from this point forward.
Logan struggled against lefties earlier in the season, but he has improved during the last couple of months. Overall, he has held lefties to a .246 batting average but a more unnerving .449 slugging percentage.
A left-handed reliever is possibly the most important piece the Yankees can pick up, but it may also be the most difficult to acquire, given the overall demand across Major League Baseball. If Logan can continue to be consistent, the Yankees may be able to move forward while relying solely on him.
Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia have truly been blessings for the Yankees this season. Both were picked up with fairly limited expectations attached, yet both have anchored the back end of the rotation in superb fashion.
Colon is 8-6 with a 3.30 ERA; Garcia is 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA.
Many people expected the trade deadline to mark the end of at least one of these unlikely tenures on the pitching staff. But the Yankees didn't trade for Ubaldo Jimenez, or Felix Hernandez or even Hiroki Kuroda.
The Yankees, it seems, are sticking with this surprisingly competent duo.
As the season reaches its conclusion, it is essential that at least one of the two keeps pitching as well as he has. If both Colon and Garcia keep up what they've been doing, that's definitely an added bonus.
But if CC Sabathia continues on his Cy Young Award campaign, A.J. Burnett doesn't implode and Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova convincingly wins the currently open spot in the rotation, a reliable fourth starter is all the Yankees will need.
A fifth starter in the playoffs is nothing more than a luxury, and if the Yankees find themselves fighting for a playoff spot in the final weeks of the season, they can turn to Sabathia, Burnett and possibly Hughes to pitch on short rest.
Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano are all going to mash.
But there is only one catalyst currently in the starting nine, and it isn't leadoff hitter Derek Jeter. Brett Gardner, who should be batting first, has emerged over the last couple of years as the guy who can make this offense go.
Between his gritty at-bats and blinding speed, Gardner offers what no other Yankee hitter can.
His 32 stolen bases lead the team, his .278 batting average ranks third and his .357 on-base percentage is fourth.
The Yankees need a consistent way to score runs that doesn't involve waiting for the home run. Especially in the playoffs, where they will face the toughest pitching the league has to offer, being able to create runs is all the more essential.
Gardner can lead the charge in that respect, but he has to keep getting on base.
Don't think I'm contradicting my last point, but Alex Rodriguez's return is crucial for the Yankees' success.
As potent as the rest of the offense is, it is largely left-handed-heavy. Derek Jeter and Russell Martin are the only pure right-handed hitters in the everyday lineup, and neither is particularly reliable for driving in runs.
Rodriguez also offers a presence that perhaps only Robinson Cano can match on this team. These two batters are the only ones who consistently spark fear in the opposing pitcher.
Mark Teixeira has obvious power, but he doesn't hit for the average he once did (.251 in 2011). Curtis Granderson is having a tremendous year, but he still strikes out enough (115 this season, most on the team) to allow the opposition to believe they can beat him.
Rodriguez has been out since July 7 due to a torn right meniscus, which he has since had surgery to repair.
The Yankees' offense is still strong without him, but a healthy, productive A-Rod can provide a huge pick-me-up, both on the field and for the team's confidence.
Rodriguez may be back during the second week in August.
Okay, so not everything is in the Yankees' control.
Right now, New York holds a healthy American League wild card lead over the Los Angeles Angels and Tampa Bay Rays. But there are no sure things in baseball, and anything can happen over the last two months of the season.
The Yankees are also close enough to the division lead that they should not become complacent. But, from what the season has told us so far, the Boston Red Sox are clearly the superior team.
Adrian Gonzalez is an obvious MVP candidate, and his acquisition has bolstered the Boston lineup to make it even stronger than it was before. (Keep in mind, they were second in all of baseball last year with 818 runs scored.) Josh Beckett looks like the pitcher who destroyed the Yankees during the 2003 World Series, while Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz seem to be impervious to bumps, bruises and age.
The Red Sox also happened to have just completed their most successful month in franchise history.
Even if the Yankees do everything right, they probably won't catch the Red Sox if the latter play up to their potential.