The regular season is almost halfway over, and the trade deadline is roughly six weeks away. Yankees' GM Brian Cashman recently stated that he expected the team to "make moves" prior to the deadline, which begs the question of what exactly he's looking for. The obvious answer is starting pitching.
Although he was in the starter competition during spring training, Vidal Nuno did not win that job. He wasn't really supposed to be in the rotation. It's only because of the plethora of injuries to Ivan Nova, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda that Nuno found his way into the rotation. Now it seems like he has to stay because the Yankees have so few choices to replace him. After Nuno's abysmal start on Saturday, Joe Girardi had this to say: "This is what we have. It's not like there's just starting pitchers lying around out there...he'll continue to go out there and compete and we'll do the best we can." Well, it's a good thing that there's this cool part of baseball where you can trade some of the players on your team for players on another team. If the Yankees don't trade for a starting pitcher, we might just be stuck with Nuno for the rest of the season.
CC Sabathia should be back in the next few weeks, but prior to his DL-stint, he was not pitching so well. 46 IP 9.39 K/9 1.96 BB/9 1.96 HR/9 .350 BABIP 5.28 ERA 1.48 WHIP 4.73 FIP 0.2 fWAR. If CC had been experiencing knee pain all season, and his comments have made it sound like that might have been the case, that certainly could have contributed to his numbers, though sadly not to his down velocity. One positive is that Sabathia's numbers this season are almost all better than Nuno's, although Nuno's BABIP is lower and he has the lower WHIP by .02. Nuno has also been worth negative fWAR (-0.2). There has been some grumbling about CC and whether he'll be able to help the team, and it's impossible to say how he'll pitch when he returns, but even injured CC was pitching slightly better than Nuno. We at least know that CC has the potential to pitch well.
Until CC is ready to return, it looks like we'll be seeing Nuno every five days. The only other real option (excluding a trade) would be to have Adam Warren replace Nuno in the rotation, but Warren isn't stretched out, and that would take time. Furthermore, adding Warren to the rotation would eliminate one of the Yankees' strengths in the bullpen. It makes the most sense to trade for a starting pitcher. That way, the Yankees could DFA Nuno without waiting for CC to come off of the DL. Then when CC returns, David Phelps could rejoin the bullpen as a long reliever.
This article says that the Yankees should even be in the market for two starting pitchers. Joel Sherman thinks that the team could build a trade around John Ryan Murphy or Gary Sanchez for the likes of pitchers such as Andrew Cashner, Mat Latos (who's recently returned from elbow, knee and forearm injuries), John Danks, Jason Hammel or Ian Kennedy.
Cashner: 76.1 IP 6.96 K/9 2.59 BB/9 0.24 HR/9 .284 BABIP 2.36 ERA 2.78 FIP 1.19 WHIP 1.5 fWAR
Latos (2013): 210.2 IP 7.99 K/9 2.48 BB/9 0.60 HR/9 .299 BABIP 3.16 ERA 3.10 FIP 1.21 WHIP 4.4 fWAR
Danks: 88.1 IP 6.32 K/9 3.57 BB/9 1.02 HR/9 .265 BABIP 3.97 ERA 4.54 FIP 1.31 WHIP 0.7 fWAR
Hammel: 89.1 IP 8.56 K/9 1.91 BB/9 0.71 HR/9 .273 BABIP 3.02 ERA 3.00 FIP 1.02 WHIP 2.0 fWAR
Kennedy: 97 IP 9.56 K/9 2.41 BB/9 0.84 HR/9 .314 BABIP 3.90 ERA 3.03 FIP 1.21 WHIP 1.7 fWAR
At least with additional starters, the Yankees could have some insurance to protect against any injuries that might pop up. Seriously, there are no good replacement options if anyone in the rotation was injured today.
If the Yankees hope to remain competitive for the remainder of the season, it's pretty critical that they get at least one starting pitcher. Maybe even two. CC has said that his knee is feeling a lot better, but who knows how it will hold up. There's also no telling if Michael Pineda will be ready to return this season. Better to have too many starters than too few.
Which starting pitcher do you think is the most realistic trade target, and what kind of prospect package would it take to get them? Comment with your ideas below.