Monday, June 29, 2009

At the Deadline, 2009 Looks Like 2008....Sorta...

With the All Star Break fast approaching, teams are beginning to have to make that most-crucial of decisions: buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?

With the Yankees, there isn't much of a question--with the third best record in MLB and first place in the Wild Card race (though no one's looking at this quite yet), it's clear that the Yankees are buyers.

So now the question becomes threefold:

1) What do the Yankees need?

2) Can they solve this problem from within?

3) What price are they willing to pay to solve the problem from the outside?

Strangely, although in many ways this season has felt much different than 2008, the needs in 2009 are strikingly similar at the same point in the season.

This might be attributed to the fact that Xavier Nady and Dámaso Marte have been non-entities this season (although credit should be given to Nady for trying to come back ahead of schedule and avoid a second TJ surgery, though that no longer looks possible).

Thus, the Yankees need, right now, the same sort of thing that they needed last year: an additional bat that can spell some of the outfielders if need be, due to age or slump, and a reliever.

The good news is that the Yankees do not necessarily need a left-handed reliever (although they wouldn't say no, I don't think, if the right one is available); but I'm thinking that the idea here is to have another decent (ie, not Veras/Ramirez/Albaladejo) reliever so that the Yankees have the option of bringing Hughes back to the rotation and not substantially weakening the bullpen.

Or, you know, giving the Yankees the option to not have to pitch Brett Tomko, or Proctor Phil Coke or Alfredo Aceves.

The bat is simple here: you want someone better than Cody Ransom available to come off of the bench if need be. As Ramiro Peña can field well, run well and is not an automatic out, I can't see the Yankees sending him down to AAA, even if that would ultimately benefit him the most, unless they can land a bat that can do these things, also. The cost for that, however, would likely be prohibitively high, and while I can't see the Yankees mortgaging the farm for anyone, they would like something better than what they have.

Could the Yankees solve this issue from within?

For a while it looked like the Yankees would be able to solve the relief pitcher issue from within, with Mark Melancon, but after a short stint in the majors where nerves seem to have gotten to him, he's struggled again in AAA. Some other relievers have performed well, but nothing that is that inspiring--except, perhaps, for the ambidextrous Pat Venditte, and he is only just promoted to High A. Certainly not Major League ready.

As for the suggestion that Austin Jackson should be promoted to the Major League level, the answer is a resolute: No. He is progressing nicely at AAA. He is not blasting through the system a la Chamberlain, but everything seems to be coming in time. He is performing well for his level of competition, but he is not, in no way, shape or form, overmatching it. The worst thing the Yankees could do right now is mess with his development.

John Rodriguez is another name that's been thrown around, but he's recently been placed on the DL with a hamstring injury, and as fun as Shelley Duncan is to root for, he's not really as versatile defensively as the Yankees would probably like--not to mention he strikes out way too often.

It's still pretty early, in terms of the trade deadline, and we're not entirely sure which players are available for the right price.

For the Yankees the price is always going to be high--since every other team out there knows the Yankees can pay it.

Let the speculation begin.