The Yankees' front office showed a willingness to blow past their $189 million payroll goals this offseason to bring in players like Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran. Almost half a billion dollars later, the Yankees are still looking for upgrades due to a rash of injuries among their starting pitchers. Ivan Nova won't be see again until sometime in 2015, CC Sabathia has been diagnosed with a degenerative knee injury that will only continue to worsen for the remainder of his contract, and Michael Pineda is out with a muscle injury until June at least. A weak AL East has allowed the Yankees to keep their heads above water with the likes of Vidal Nuno and David Phelps getting regular starts, but betting on that lasting would not be smart. Even getting Sabathia back is no guarantee for future success considering how the supposed ace has pitched of late. Hopefully that improves once he's healthy, but it seems unlikely that a knee issue caused the multitude of problems the lefty faced.
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Hal Steinbrenner told the New York Post that he's willing to spend what is necessary at the trade deadline to make necessary upgrades. Unfortunately, money alone won't solve the problem. The Yankees need to hope that their farm system continues to play well, unlike last year, so that they have some hope of finding a worthy trade chip. The insane number of pitchers falling victim to torn UCLs won't help the Yankees on the trade market either. Teams will be desperate for pitching and others will be desperate to hold onto the healthy pitching they have. Add that to the fact that it seems like other teams are always ready to fleece the Yankees in trades (remember Manny Banuelos, Ivan Nova, Jesus Montero, and Dellin Betances for Ubaldo Jimenez, anyone?) and you have a bit of a dilemma.
The Post speculates that names like Cliff Lee of the Phillies, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel of the Cubs, and Bronson Arroyo of the Diamondbacks could be available at the deadline. If the Yankees are willing to take on salary, as Steinbrenner claims they are, then it should put them on a more even playing field with teams that have better prospects to give up. Lee is under contract through 2015 and shows no signs that age is starting to slow him down. Attempting to land him would mean trading prospects for a year and a half of control, which is better than giving away players for nothing more than a rental. Samardzija is in his second year of arbitration with the Cubs, pitching very well on a team that isn't going anywhere this season. He has a 1.45 ERA in 56 innings this year, but he has never shown the ability to be that good over a full season. He pitched to a 4.34 ERA in 213.2 innings a year ago.
Acquiring Hammel would be a rental situation with his one-year contract being up at the end of 2014. He currently has a 2.45 ERA with the Cubs in 47.2 innings this year, but his numbers didn't look so good last time he was in the AL East with the Baltimore Orioles in 2013 with a 4.97 ERA in 139.1 innings. Arroyo would also be under team control in 2015 after signing a two-year, $23.5 million contract with the Diamondbacks this offseason. He has a 4.15 ERA so far this season, but had found a bit more success with the Cincinnati Reds over the last few years. Arroyo is the oldest of these options at 37 years old, while Samardzija would be the youngest at 29.
Whether or not any of these options are worth trading away the likes of Gary Sanchez or another top prospect remains to be seen. There is still a lot of baseball to be played before trade season really heats up. Pitching is obviously the team's greatest need right now, but with Beltran's elbow possibly requiring surgery and Brian Roberts' noted fragility, who knows how the landscape will change in the meantime. Luckily, it sounds like those writing the checks realize that they may need to make necessary upgrades to keep the team competitive in a season where the AL East could be anybody's to take. Bringing in Alfonso Soriano at the deadline last year was a move that really boosted the anemic offense. Hopefully they can find a similarly good deal to help out a depleted and struggling pitching staff this time around.