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Masahiro Tanaka injury: Yankees still intend to be aggressive at trade deadline

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Press pause on those plans to sell.

Jim McIsaac

Finding out that the Yankees would be without their ace Masahiro Tanaka for at least six weeks while he attempts to rehab a partially torn UCL came as a painful blow in a season that seemed to be teetering on the edge of mediocrity already. The team's record is only around .500 just ahead of the All-Star break and their run differential suggests that they should be even worse. Thankfully, a weak AL East has kept them mildly relevant in the playoff picture. That was with Tanaka, though. Tanaka may not pitch again until 2016 if rehab and a platelet-rich plasma injection don't heal his arm. Does that mean it is time for the Yankees to consider selling and looking forward to next year?

While it seems like the vast majority of hope was depending on the health of Tanaka's right arm and some regression to the mean for hitters like Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, Brian Cashman and co. don't seem ready to throw in the towel just yet. The reasoning behind that may be two-fold: the Yankees don't really have much to sell that would yield an impactful return and they are still very much alive within the division. Do you want to be the one who tells Derek Jeter that the team is packing it in for his final season in July? Probably not. Being four games out of first place likely also gives them reason to think that a strong second half could possibly get them to the postseason where anything can happen.

Tanaka's injury just makes it more necessary that the team find a way to bring in starting pitching if they are going to be buyers at the deadline. There is some hope that their offense can snap out of the slump it has been in for the first half of the season with a few exceptions, but their rotation is nothing short of held together with paper clips right now. It's unlikely that they have the pieces to bring in a pitcher like David Price or Cliff Lee in a blockbuster deal, but it's possible that some kind of impactful deal can be made. Upgrades like Brandon McCarthy over Vidal Nuno are good deals, even if they aren't necessarily the difference between playoffs and not. Hopefully Cashman still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Whether the Yankees should be buyers or sellers is, of course, another matter entirely. It seems unlikely that they will be able to do enough to reach the playoffs without Tanaka, even if the six-week estimate is enough for him to get back on the field. When you go out and spend half a billion dollars in the offseason, you can't quit halfway through if there is a glimmer of hope. There is a glimmer, provided by other teams in the division having numerous problems of their own, but that flicker is just quite a bit dimmer without Tanaka.