As the trade deadline approaches, the first place Yankees profile as natural buyers. A piece or two could make all the difference in a tight postseason race, or even in the postseason itself should the team make it in, and the team does have areas that look like they could use an upgrade. In early July, Jason took a look at this, flagging up the pitching staff, second base, and the outfield as positions where the Yankees might look to add talent.
Brian Cashman could still make a move to address any of those positions. From his recent track record, a move could come with little warning and see the Yankees acquire a player they might not have even been heavily linked with in the current deadline run-up. In all likelihood there will be at least a minor acquisition made between now and July 31st. As it stands though, it appears the team might at least be looking to make the most of the organisational depth it already has.
The outfield depth is starting to resolve itself with Jacoby Ellsbury back healthy and Carlos Beltran on his way back. Slade Heathcott might not be too far away from beginning rehab games as well. At second base, the Yankees have proven to be at least willing to give Rob Refsnyder a chance to stick; the bat comes with a strong minor league track record and early reviews on his defense have been promising. It is far too early to see Refsnyder as the long-term answer; certainly Cashman is not precluded from seeking a upgrade like Ben Zobrist if available. However, he should take care not to pay a steep trade price out of perceived necessity.
This leaves the pitching staff, always the likeliest avenue for an addition. Even here, though, the team might not be overly disappointed to stick with what it already has. The starting five look fairly set for now, it would likely take an upper-tier pitcher like Johnny Cueto to dislodge someone from the rotation. If the Yankees were looking at a back-end starter to compete with any or all of Ivan Nova, Nathan Eovaldi, or CC Sabathia, they might be better off simply waiting until Adam Warren has missed enough starts to bring his projected innings tally back down to where the team is comfortable starting him again. The key question mark here, though, is depth; it hasn't been immediately obvious who the current sixth starter on the team is. Warren would make sense, only Joe Girardi would limit him to about 50 pitches or so, as quoted by Chad Jennings here. Chris Capuano could also be looked on for 50 pitches and until yesterday Bryan Mitchell was up with the team as a third reliever who could give the team length. Mitchell has just been sent down to get streched out though, so in a couple of weeks the team might have a clear sixth man, as opposed to relying on bullpen starts in case of rotation injury.
In probably the right move for the longer-term outlook, Mitchell was one of the top-15 or so prospects in the Yankee farm system coming into this year as a starter, and he was having a reasonably positive year in Triple-A before being called up to the major league bullpen. It is interesting timing that Mitchell is being sent to Triple-A now, as opposed to three weeks ago when Warren was sent to the bullpen; taking Mitchell's place as the primary right-handed middle reliever. Perhaps the Yankees were more comfortable sliding Warren straight back into the rotation over the last couple of weeks, but now that he's near a month removed from a starter workload the team has decided to look for a different answer for its rotation depth. It could also be that after taking stock of the trade market for starters, the team decided to stick to what it already has at least for now.
Having a locked-in starting five and a credible starting option waiting in Triple-A might allow the Yankees to carry less impetus into trade discussions. Just as the strength of the bullpen top-five might allow the team to be more selective in adding any veteran relievers who might become available. Hopefully as it will be at second base should Refsnyder perform well in the coming week. None of this stops Cashman looking at possible upgrades, but it will help for any move to come out of 'want' rather than 'need'. If nothing else, it will be a stronger bargaining position.