If you missed it during your Fourth of July celebrations, the Athletics and Cubs kicked off the trading season as we march toward the July 31st deadline. Oakland acquired both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel for their top two prospects in Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, as well as Dan Straily. Now that one of the most sought-after pitchers is off the market, and probably one of the better alternatives to said pitcher are off the market, where do the Yankees turn now if they want to improve their own starting rotation? I'm here to tell you that all is not lost, at least not yet, and while there are certainly some players out there that are just not worth it, there are also still some options left that can improve the club, but they have to act fast.
First of all, there was a Twitter rumor going around last night stating that the Yankees were nearly involved in a three-team trade for Russell and Hammel, which has to be pure nonsense. This organization has pieces to trade, but nothing that will get them a top 10 prospect. They wouldn't even be looking to make that trade if they are still trying to stay in the race anyway. If it were true and the Yankees were unable to impress one part of the trade, the transaction would likely have fallen through at that point. Now that that's settled, let's look at who the Yankees might actually be able to get.
Someone that really needs no introduction is Cliff Lee, and while there isn't much indication that he is available in a trade, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has to see the writing on the wall that he has to sell at this point. The team is in last place and he has a highly paid player that teams actually want to take on. I think any of us would pick up a 30-year-old Cole Hammels for $90 million over four years and a vesting/team option for 2019, but Philly has no real reason to part with him just yet and the Yankees likely don't have the pieces for someone that big, unless they take on a ton of that money. Cliff Lee, on the other hand, is nearing the end of his deal with $25 million owed to him in 2015 and a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016. He is currently rehabbing an elbow injury, but it doesn't seem to be considered too serious. While the injury might add to the risk, he'd essentially replace CC Sabathia in the rotation at this point.
With the Indians under .500 at this point, Cleveland might finally be ready to deal their ace Justin Masterson, who becomes a free agent after the season. Admittedly, Masterson isn't having the best season with a 5.19 ERA, but he actually has a quality 3.97 FIP coupled with a 59.3% ground ball rate. What his troubles likely come down to is terrible infield defense, which is something no Yankee fan should cal out another team on, but the Indians actually have one of the few infields that are worse than New York's. Even a slight upgrade in defense could help Masterson drop below a 5.00 ERA, eat up innings, and become more useful than Chase Whitley currently is. Brian Cashman might be able to get him for a little less, but there's also a chance that Cleveland just holds onto him and extends him a qualifying offer in the offseason.
This is really weird to think, but a reunion with Ian Kennedy might not be the worst thing ever. The former Yankees draft pick has a 3.87 ERA and an outstanding 2.88 FIP to go along with a 9.5 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. He has actually improved his batted ball tendencies this year and kept the ball on the ground and out of the air. The Padres have him under team control for another two years, but with their organization sitting in complete disarray, the Yankees might be able to get the team to sell off some pieces in order to bring in new players for a new regime.
Aside from these three pitchers, the Yankees could also look into Brandon McCarthy, whose peripheral are better than his results this year, and–if the Giants continue to lose–Tim Hudson, who at 38, might be having the best year of his career and is signed through 2015 as well.
As you can see, there are still options out there. It's just that there are only a few of them left, so the Yankees really need to move things along here. At some point, the players left are just not going to be worth what it would take to acquire them and at that point, you might as well start selling. Brian Cashman keeps saying that there are no trades to be made yet, but it looks like that's changed in a hurry.