The July 31 trade deadline is fast approaching, and the Yankees aren't waiting until the very last minute to start making moves. On Sunday, they acquired right-hander Brandon McCarthy from the Arizona Diamondbacks for only Vidal Nuno in return.
McCarthy, who was 3-10 with a 5.01 ERA is 18 starts with Arizona this season, might not end up being much of a difference-maker for the Yankees, but it's a step in the right direction to make sure that Derek Jeter's final season doesn't end with a three-game series in Boston at the end of September.
With CC Sabathia likely done for the year, joining Ivan Nova, and Michael Pineda' return probably anther month away, at least, I still think the Yankees need to add another starter to have any real chance of winning this very winnable AL East, or even claiming one of the two Wild Card spots.
Because of the second wild card spot, there are now less teams willing to be sellers at the deadline, thinking they still have a chance at October, but that doesn't mean there won't be pitchers for the Yankees to target.
The Oakland Athletics took a pair of top choice candidates off of the Yankees' list last week, acquiring both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs. A few MLB insiders have said that the Yankees were in on acquiring both of those pitchers -- maybe not both, but at least one -- until the very end. Brian Cashman and the Cubs exchanged a few trade proposals, but in the end, Oakland had the prospect that trumped anything the Yankees could offer -- MLB.com's 11th ranked prospect, shortstop Addison Russell.
As for those still on the list, Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee has been connected to the Yankees for several years, and I wouldn't expect those rumors to go away during the deadline season this year. There are a couple of concerns over getting Lee, though. He's been on the DL for a while with an elbow issue and isn't expected back until shortly before the deadline. He's owed $25 million in 2015 with a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016. The Yankees don't have a left-hander in their rotation at the moment, and maybe eating up most or all of Lee's contract would keep them from having to give up a ton of prospects to get him. The injury concerns are there, but if given the chance to get him, I doubt Cashman will balk at the idea.
Lee's teammate, Cole Hammels, could also be on the market over the next couple of weeks, but it is yet to be seen if the Phillies have any real interest in moving him, given that he is one of the most valuable assets on their team. The 30-year-old Hammels is owed $90 million over four years with a vesting/team option for 2019. Again, Philly might not be willing to deal him, but if they decide to go into a full rebuilding mode, unloaded his contract off the books could be a way to go. The Yankees might not have the prospects to get him, unless they want to take a ton of that money off of the Phillies' hands.
Ian Kennedy, of the San Diego Padres, is an interesting name that has been brought to my attention a few times on Twitter. Kennedy, as many of you remember, is a former Yankee farmhand that I would assume will be available at the deadline if teams come calling. Kennedy has a 3.71 ERA, 2.93 FIP, and 9.7 K/9 in 116.1 innings this season out in San Diego. Kennedy hasn't been as good as his 21-4 year in 2011, but maybe coming back to the Bronx will be something that helps both him and the Yankees.
I think Justin Masterson is somebody you could look at if Cleveland decides to start selling -- they're 6 1/2 games out of the AL Central, and even though things aren't completely out of reach, I don't think they'll hang around much longer. Masterson only lasted 2+ innings against the Yankees on Monday night, giving up five runs on six hits. His 5.51 ERA is nothing to get excited about, but like McCarthy, he has a good groundball rate, which would play well in Yankee Stadium -- not necessarily with the Yankees' terrible infield defense, though. Masterson is a free-agent after the season and there is always a chance that the Indians hang on to him and give him a qualifying offer after the season, but if he's available, I wouldn't say no right away.
The Yankees have already taken one starting pitcher away from the D-Backs, so why not back after another? I'm talking, of course, about left-hander Wade Miley, who I think could be another great option beyond just this season. Miley has a 4.49 ERA in 19 starts for the D-Backs this season with 114 strikeouts and 35 walks in 120 innings. Arizona appears to be in a selling mode right now, so it wouldn't surprise me to see Miley be on the market, and if the Yankees can't land one of the Phillies' left-handers, then Miley could be the only one. Miley is under team control for several more years; he won't be eligible for arbitration until 2015.
There are several move options beyond the ones I listed above, and we'll get into those as we get even closer to the trade deadline. The Yankees have holes to fill on their roster, and there isn't really a shortage of candidates to fill those needs.