With last night's victory over the Cleveland Indians the Yankees remain in third place in the AL East, trailing the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays are losers of five straight but the Orioles have been on a bit of a hot streak as of late, winning seven of their last ten games. A struggling offense and pitching staff leaves the Yankees with a few holes to fill as the trade deadline approaches, but which holes should they be most concerned with filling either internally or from outside the organization?
This was supposed to be Carlos Beltran's spot, but he is too injured to play in the field and has struggled with the bat. Alfonso Soriano was a part-timer at the position before he was finally hitting and fielding so poorly that the Yankees decided to designate him for assignment. That leaves 40-year-old Ichiro Suzuki to man the position. We all saw what happened when Ichiro was played in an everyday role last season. Since June 1st, Ichiro has batted .269/.317/.290 with one hit for extra bases in 32 games. He can still beat out a few infield singles, but the power is pretty much entirely gone.
Jose Pirela has been used in the outfield at Triple-A, where he has good numbers for the RailRiders this season. He mainly played second base before being moved around the diamond to accommodate the promotion of Rob Refsnyder. Pirela is the only real internal move the Yankees can make in the outfield with a chance of getting an impact player. Zoilo Almonte is an option, but he seems more like a fourth outfielder than a player you want hitting every day, particularly with pronounced splits. Unless the Yankees feel that their best bet is moving Refsnyder back to the corner outfield he played in college, it seems like Pirela or a trade is needed.
Yangervis Solarte held down the spot for the beginning of the season before his bat dramatically trailed off. Kelly Johnson has also been charged with manning the hot corner, but his defensive shortcomings seem to pop up all too often. Zelous Wheeler may yet prove himself to be the temporary answer at third base since being brought up to replace the struggling Solarte, but it wouldn't be insane to see the Yankees look outside the organization for something a little more experienced. With Alex Rodriguez's return possibly looming for next season and much bigger concerns already existing around the infield, third base is probably not the first place Brian Cashman looks for reinforcements at the deadline.
Derek Jeter has struggled this season, both offensively (82 wRC+) and defensively (range of a pinecone). As bad as Brian Roberts has been, the Yankee Captain has been worse. Admitting it is the first step. Brendan Ryan is known as a defensive wizard, but he has barely played in favor of Jeter. There's no real reason to expect that to change in the latter part of the season. The Yankees are not going to be looking for an upgrade here until the offseason, even if they should.
Brian Roberts has been a popular hate vessel so far in 2014, but his 92 wRC+ is fifth on the team among players with at least 50 plate appearances. That doesn't mean that he isn't one of the problems. He isn't very good defensively and he seems to get his hits in bunches before disappearing for a few games. The thing that might make Roberts the most frustrating is that there is a clear replacement for him banging on the door of the majors in Rob Refsnyder. Refsnyder has blown through Double-A and Triple-A this season, hitting extremely well no matter where he went. He comes with defensive questions of his own, but few would rather see a veteran struggle to hang on to their big league career than to allow a kid to come up and adjust to the next level.
It seems like the Yankees won't pull the trigger on a Roberts-for-Refsnyder swap until Roberts either falls off a cliff (literally or figuratively) or becomes too injured to play. With many holes left to fill, second base is not likely to be addressed at the trade deadline. Blocking Refsnyder with another player isn't a good use of resources and Roberts is likely hitting well enough right now to keep his job.
Brian McCann isn't going anywhere. Accept that.
CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova are out for the season and Michael Pineda is still only throwing off flat ground. Brandon McCarthy might not regress the way his numbers suggest he might. Chase Whitley is rapidly approaching his career high in innings and it isn't even the All-Star break. To say that the Yankees should be desperate for a pitcher at the deadline is an understatement. Do they have the pieces to pull off a trade, though? To get a David Price or a Cliff Lee, probably not. Can a lesser pitcher still make a big impact?
If the team is going to upgrade in one spot only, it has to be the rotation. Right now the starters are held together with paper clips and rubber cement with little hope that they can keep their heads above water for the duration of the season. Brian Cashman knows this and has said that the lack of movement to this point isn't for lack of effort. He did manage to bring in McCarthy to replace Nuno with, but the majority of transactions will come closer to the deadline. It's just a matter of selling another team on his trade chips. Maybe John Ryan Murphy did enough in his major league stint, or maybe the Yankees feel like they can part with Gary Sanchez because of his recent attitude problems and Murphy's success. It would be surprising not to see the team bring in at least one more starter, even if they aren't the impact pitcher we'd all hope for.
The Yankees have one of the best 8th/9th inning combos in baseball with Dellin Betances and David Robertson currently striking out the world. Outside of those two, the options range from shaky to terrifying. There aren't a lot of internal options they can turn to unless David Phelps is able to move from the rotation back into the bullpen. A trade might be in order to give Betances and Robertson some innings relief. The big thing will be whether or not the staff can stop leaning heavily on the bullpen nearly every game that Masahiro Tanaka doesn't start. Maybe Cashman can find something inexpensive like a Shawn Kelley to help take some pressure off the late innings guys.
Which position do you think the Yankees need to go after the strongest before the trade deadline? Which position do you think they will find the most help for at a reasonable price?