One of Brian Cashman's claims to fame in recent years has been his "one man's trash..." mentality when pursing midseason trades and acquisitions. Preferring to hang on to his top prospects rather than make splashy deals, Cashman's adopted a beggar at the feast approach when seeking to improve his team. Stale biscuit? Day-old chicken thigh? Third baseman who looked done? Cashman's willing to take it on and give it a try so long as the cost is low.
We've seen Cashman's dumpster diving work out well at times. Chase Headley was outstanding enough in half a season as a Yankee last year to earn himself a new four-year deal. Martin Prado helped and got flipped for a promising young starter in Nathan Eovaldi. Brandon McCarthy was magnificent in 14 starts as a Yankee. Even an ancient Alfonso Soriano recaptured his youth for a stretch in 2013. Of course, we've seen the whole buy-low thing go wrong, too. Vernon Wells seemed shot as an Angel and was still shot as a Yankee. Stephen Drew was brutal in Boston last year and has been similarly poor in New York. Chris Capuano? Whole lotta meh. But the good thing about all these deals is that the price in terms of prospects and cash is paltry enough that the Yankees can cut bait at will, even if they're sometimes reluctant to do so.
It's still early but considering which teams and players are struggling so far, here are a few guys who might soon wind up on the discount rack.
Kyle Lohse, SP (Brewers)
With Masahiro Tanaka 's future as much a question mark as ever the Yankees figure to be seeking starting pitching depth at some point this year. Off to a 7-18 start, and having already fired their manager, Ron Roenicke, it looks like the Brewers will try and sell off some of their veteran pieces. At 36 in the final year of a three-year, $33 million contract Lohse will likely be among those shopped.
The owner of an ugly 7.28 ERA in five starts thus far, the right-hander was solid as recently as 2014 with a 3.54 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over 31 outings. His struggles so far can be explained in part by a ridiculously low 55.6 percent left-on-base rate and a just as ridiculously high 21.1 percent homer to fly ball rate. A 3.80 strikeout to walk rate and a decent 4.19 xFIP suggest that better things could lie ahead, though Yankee Stadium's short porch might not help matters.
Aaron Harang, SP (Phillies)
The Phillies pitcher who everyone will be talking about between now and July 31st is Cole Hamels, but he definitely won't come cheap, so let's take a look at a different one. Aaron Harang is pitching on a one-year, $5 million deal and has a 2.52 FIP, 7.52 strikeout rate and 16.0 strikeout to walk rate though five starts. Though the 36-year-old's career has seen several ups and downs, Harang was solid last year, too, notching a 3.57 FIP and 2.7 fWAR in just over 200 innings. Harangutan isn't a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium with a career fly ball rate of 40.8 percent that exceeds his 38.1 percent ground ball rate, but as back-end fodder, New York could surely do worse.
Ruben Amaro, Jr. is known for asking for the moon in trades - he reportedly demanded Aaron Judge or Luis Severino for Marlon Byrd last year - but when he actually makes them, he generally yields fairly little.
Aaron Hill, 2B (Diamondbacks)
Cashman told ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand recently that he has no plans to replace Stephen Drew internally, but what about externally? At 33, Hill is the same guy who once hit 36 home runs in a season for Toronto and who was a premier offensive threat in the desert in 2012 and 2013. He's also the same guy who had a 78 wRC+ and a negative fWAR in 2014 and as of Saturday was hitting a Beltranian .185/.228/.278 with a microscopic wRC+ of 37. But Hill has looked over it before and bounced back. His line drive rate this year is 6.8 percent, which has to get better and his ground ball rate is 54.5 percent, completely antithetical to his career mark of 38.5.
The Yankees dipped into the D-Backs' well for players three times in the past calendar year, snagging McCarthy, Prado and most recently, Didi Gregorius. Hill is owed $12 million in 2015 and another $12 mil in 2016, so Arizona would have to pick up a chunk of change to make this work. Still, a .774 career OPS vs lefties is something that could help in New York, just as a change of scenery might help Hill.
Ben Zobrist - 2B/OF (Athletics)
Admittedly, it's a reach to call Zobrist a "buy-low" option. The 33-year-old former Tampa Bay Ray hit .272/.354/.395 with a 119 wRC+ and 5.6 fWAR in 2014, which was his fourth straight season worth five wins or more and his fifth out of six years as a full-time player. Just four months ago, the A's gave up a really good prospect in Daniel Robertson and more to get Zobrist, so it's unlikely their opinion of him has changed that much in such a short time.
But hey...the A's are 11-15, and Zobrist is out until at least the latter part of the month recovering from knee surgery - and he had a 93 wRC+ and -0.7 fWAR in the 14 games he did play. If Oakland isn't in the race as the trade deadline nears, with Zobrist set for his first trip to free agency this November, there's a chance Billy Beane might be looking to make a deal (because, isn't Billy Beane always looking to make a deal?). With the Yankees showing needs in the middle of the infield and in right, Zobrist seems an almost perfect fit. Now that he's off the Rays, the thought of him in pinstripes is less of a sheer impossibility.