The Yankees are currently 59-34, leading the AL East by 2.5 games. They have either been tied for the lead or held it since June 13, but that doesn’t mean that they lack weaknesses. In the rough and tumble AL East a couple of flaws can set a team a long way back.
Buy or Sell
While the Yankees might be vulnerable in some aspects, they’re pretty solid in terms of regulars. The team ranks second in the league in wOBA, and doesn’t have a position that would require an upgrade. They also have five solid-to-excellent starters and an elite closer. This leaves few areas for improvement.
The one semi-regular spot the Yanks could see fit to augment is center field, where Curtis Granderson has continued to falter against left-handed pitchers, producing a .250 wOBA in 97 PA against them. The Yankees do want to get him straightened out against lefties, but for this year a platoon partner will help further their championship goals. A versatile RHB outfielder like Cody Ross, who can take a corner while Brett Gardner slides into center, might help when facing lefties.
An upgrade at utility infielder could also be on the shopping list, since Ramiro Pena continues to be one of the lightest hitting in the business. He can pick it like anyone, as the Yankees commentators are fond of saying, but he produces almost nothing at the plate. At this time last year the Yankees acquired Jerry Hairston from the Reds, and they could see a similar player at the deadline this year.
In the first half the Yankees’ bullpen represented one of its weakest points. Outside of Mariano Rivera almost every reliever performed below expectations. While the team maintains faith in Joba Chamberlain as the primary setup man, that might need to change. Whether that means moving David Robertson into a more prominent role or bringing in someone from outside the organization, the relief corps figures to see a few changes in the next week and a half. The relief options are slim, of course, and most contenders could use a bullpen upgrade, so we might not see movement on this front. But it won’t be for a lack of trying.
The one other area the Yankees could upgrade is in the starting rotation. The Yanks like what they have for the most part, but they do have a few issues. Andy Pettitte is currently on the DL, and estimates for his return vary depending on whom you ask. Even if he is out for only another three weeks, the Yankees could still use another starter to supplement the rotation. Not only could they find someone better than Sergio Mitre to replace Pettitte, but after Pettitte’s return they could use the extra starter to help ease Phil Hughes’s workload. The 24-year-old hasn’t pitched more than 111 innings since 2006. He is currently at 106.
On the Farm
The Yanks have already tried to use their best minor league player, Jesus Montero, in a deal for Cliff Lee. That has fallen through, and GM Brian Cashman has said that there are no other options on the trade market that would tempt him to trade his 20-year-old AAA catcher.
After Montero the team’s best prospect is fellow catcher Austin Romine, but since the Yankees think he’s more likely to stick behind the plate they could be reluctant to trade him. They also have a number of arms with decent upsides, but few would bring back a big name in return. That works for the Yankees, since they’re not looking for a major player.
For the most part, the farm will be used to help supplement the bench and the bullpen in August.
Most observers don’t think that the Yankees have a real budget, even though they worked with the constraints of one this winter. Even last summer they had a chance to add payroll and declined. Cashman had worked out a deal for Mike Cameron, but Hal Steinbrenner nixed it because of the payroll the team would absorb. With a smaller base payroll for the 2010 season perhaps they’d be more open to adding salary. But, again, given the players they seek it shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.