As the end of July approaches, it's more likely than not that the Yankees will be tied to almost every player put on the trading block. It almost aways ends up being a game that other teams play to drive up the price with the whispers of being in competition with the Yankees and their deep pockets. With the Yankees currently owning the best record in baseball, it's unlikely that there will be many drastic moves made in the next couple of weeks unless some news about Brett Gardner or Andy Pettitte takes a turn for the worse. Brian Cashman already re-declared his love for Russell Martin yesterday, so hopes of an upgrade at catcher are most likely a pipe dream at this point.
It never hurts to keep options open, and if someone becomes available that the Yankees think can help them extend their division lead and make it to the postseason, they will almost certainly listen to what other teams are offering. Names like Cole Hamels, Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, and Zack Greinke have already been thrown around as players who could potentially be on the move sooner than later, but it seems as though the price is either too high or the return is too disappointing for the time being.
There are players who you can bank on not going anywhere, like Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, and those who are similarly entrenched, but there are players the Yankees could stand to part with that wouldn't undo their plans of competing for the World Series this season. These are the players who wouldn't be part of any big splash trades that the front office may have in mind.
Kevin Whelan: The Scranton closer has put two successful season together in 2011 and 2012, but hasn't been given a chance to perform in the majors outside of a difficult 1.2 innings last Fall. Whelan has 12 saves and three wins in 25 innings for Empire State so far in 2012 and could provide bullpen help for a team that hasn't been able to turn their middle relievers into gold mines like the Yankees. He is on the 7-Day DL right now, but had pitched well until that point and could be a good throw-in if nothing else.
Cody Eppley: The right-hander has pitched extremely well out of the Yankee bullpen in 2012, but with Joba Chamberlain beginning his rehab assignment, Eppley's days could possibly be numbered. A 65.2% ground ball rate has helped him pitch to a 2.70 ERA in 23 innings, but his chances in New York will likely become fewer and farther between once Chamberlain joins the team to push Eppley back in the ranks. The Yankees would probably be happy to keep him, but trading him for another valuable piece wouldn't spell doom for the bullpen.
Chris Stewart/Francisco Cervelli: Offense for Yankee catchers seems to be an afterthought, and in limited time this year, Stewart has hit only .256/.276/.293 with a 49 wRC+. He, like Russell Martin, is supposedly not here for his offense and his defense hasn't really been magical enough to think that the Yankees should definitely keep him over Cervelli or Austin Romine once the latter is back from the disabled list. Should the right offer for him come along, as a throw-in or otherwise, Cervelli may end up as a trade chip because his job in serious jeopardy once Romine returns this summer. If the Yankees are determined to keep Chris Stewart in the majors, Cervelli would become a backup catcher in AAA while Romine gets the majority of the starts. He has managed to turn his offense around a bit since a dreadful start to the season after being sent down, and a major league team in need of offense at the position may be willing to take a chance on him.
Russell Branyan/Raul Ibanez/Jack Cust: Once Brett Gardner returns and Raul Ibanez is no longer needed as the every day left fielder, any one of these guys could admirably take over as the Yankees DH. Both Cust and Branyan bat left-handed, which is precisely the same role that Ibanez was brought in to fill. With the way both guys are hitting the ball in AAA, it may be worth giving one of them a shot, whether it be on the Yankees while Ibanez is traded or with another DH-needy team willing to give them a spot. Scranton's offense would be almost unwatchable without those two, so it would soften the blow a little if getting a chance in the majors with the Yankees was the reason for their departure.
Adam Warren: His Yankee debut went poorly and he hasn't had the best year in AAA the second time around. It's always important to have depth, especially this year when pitchers have seemingly dropped like flies, but Warren finds himself eligible for the Rule V draft at the end of this season with a lot of guys ahead of him on the depth chart for 2013. The Yankees may have no issue burning a 40-man roster spot on Warren, but if they are at all reluctant to protect him, it may make sense to trade him this offseason if they can get any piece of value in return. Otherwise, he'd likely be facing a third season in AAA in hopes of the need for spot starts.
David Adams: More famous for his ankle breaking down the Cliff Lee trade in 2010 than almost anything else, Adams finds himself blocked in the system by Corban Joseph at AAA and Robinson Cano at the major league level. It remains unlikely that the Yankees let Cano walk when his contract is up, leaving Adams without a path to the majors with this team anytime soon. With AA Trenton this year, he's put together a .300/.367/.418 line with three homers, so a team with an open spot in AAA at second base may definitely be willing to give up a decent player in return.
Most of these guys are fringe major leaguers, but that's the kind of deal it would make the most sense for the Yankees to make while sitting in first place. Of course they could make a big splash in trading away Mason Williams or Gary Sanchez for an outfielder or starting pitcher, but that doesn't seem extremely likely at this point if you believe what Brian Cashman says, which obviously requires a bit of caution. Why would they do that anyway, when the first half saw inconsistent offense and multiple injuries still leading them to the best record in the majors? Their best baseball may still lie ahead. What's more likely is trading away a package of bench and bullpen depth for hopefully improved bench or bullpen depth. No one here is worthy of a blockbuster trade, but again, that shouldn't be what this team is looking to do.
Plenty of people will be around to clamor for trading the biggest and best prospects for Hamels or whoever the biggest name rumored to be available this week is, but doing so would be counterproductive by weakening the farm right before trying to cut payroll to satisfy luxury tax limitations. Building a great team that can win this season doesn't necessarily require selling off the future, and when the team is already in first place, there probably aren't a ton of moves that need to be made anyway.