As the deals begin to pick up steam in the waning moments before Saturday's MLB non-waiver trade deadline, inevitably the accompanying rumors have increased in frequency as well.
The last few days have seen a flurry of player movement with high profile players such as Dan Haren and Roy Oswalt changing teams, in addition to the numerous smaller deals that have been occurring around the league. Since adding Cliff Lee and Benjie Molina, Texas also just acquired Jorge Cantu to provide injury cover and bolster their lineup. San Diego obtained infielder Miguel Tejada to bring some veteran leadership and experience to their squad.
While most eyes focus on the blockbusters, keen observers are aware that contenders aren't usually in need of a massive deal to solidify their standing amongst the top teams in the game. They usually are in a contending position by July 31 because they already have a deep, talented team. Many times, a shrewd move for a veteran utility player with the versatility to play several positions can bring depth and stability to a team as they fight towards October.
Of course, everyone wants to know if bigger names like Prince Fielder, Adam Dunn, Lance Berkman or Derek Lee are bound for greener pastures. As a culture infatuated with celebrity, we're naturally enamored by the glamorous names splashed across the rumor pages.
Naturally, the big-spending teams like the Yankees draw a lot of attention at times like these. As they are often active in both free agency and in the trade market, teams and players always try to involve the Yankees in order to create leverage for themselves.
Clearly in the free agent market, an agent for a player almost always hopes to engage the Yankees in dialogue, expecting their free-spending ways to assist in driving the market up for whichever player they represent. Even when the Yankees are not even remotely involved, mysterious sources will often float purported rumors attributed to the team.
Conversely, when a team is trying to drum up interest in a player that they have made available on the trading market, they want as many teams involved as possible to attempt to secure the best potential deal they can for their franchise. Knowing that the Yankees are interested, along with their vast resources and willingness to deal, can serve to apply pressure and a sense of urgency when exploring the trade market. If a team knows that the Yankees are looming, it may force them into action, fearful that they might miss out if they hesitate.
True to form, the July 31, 2010 non-waiver trading deadline has seen the New York Yankees mentioned in connection with nearly every player who may or may not have been made available by their team.
Over the last several weeks, the Yankees have allegedly been close to deals on Cliff Lee and Dan Haren, they have been shopping for Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria. Various sources have linked them heavily to Prince Fielder, Adam Dunn, Ty Wiggington, and even a potential reacquisition of Hideki Matsui.
As fans, it's fun to read the stories and follow the rumors, but honestly, most of it is merely wishful thinking or completely fabricated nonsense.
You have to separate the fantasy from reality and seriously consider the potential impact of any such deal and how it could potentially fit into the fabric of the team as currently constructed.
Adam Dunn's patient eye, considerable on-base skills and powerful bat are alluring, but he is a terrible outfielder, we already have an everyday All-star first-baseman and we basically already have a nearly full-time DH in Jorge Posada. If you've been paying attention, Posada has not been able to play more than a game or two at a time behind the dish, and has often been serving as the team's designated hitter, while deferring to the superior catching skills of Francisco Cervelli.
Would it really serve the Yankees best to acquire a full-time DH like Dunn, which would necessitate an already injury prone Posada seeing increased playing time behind the plate? Forcing Posada into more catching action would greatly increase the likelihood of him facing more injury issues down the stretch. The team would then be in a very similar situation with Cervelli having to catch regularly while Dunn served as the DH rather than Posada.
The exact same scenario applies to the Hideki Matsui rumors, except for the fact that Adam Dunn is still a vibrant young man in the midst of his baseball prime. I greatly admire Hideki Matsui and his vast contributions to the Yankee cause throughout his seven years with the team. He is a consummate professional and class act in every sense, yet I can see no valid reason to bring him back to the Bronx after letting him ride off into the pinstriped sunset following his heroic turn as the World Series MVP.
Matsui is only able to suit up as a designated hitter, has been increasingly injury prone and his production has slipped considerably as a member of the Angels. Of course, the lack of the short right field porch can be held responsible for some of the power decline, but the performance has regressed in several respects, not solely the expected power drop-off.
Additionally, the Yankee plan has been to continually rotate some of the older players through the DH spot in order to rest them occasionally. Arod just turned 35, and considering his recent hip issues, is in need of the semi-regular day serving as the DH. Captain Jeter, although he wants to play every inning of every game, turned 36 in June and is finding it increasingly difficult to fend off the advances of Father Time.
The notion of bringing in a regular DH type player would only serve to create congestion in what has been a working rotation in that particular role.
The Yankee lineup has few holes currently, and with an already bulging payroll, it doesn't make a lot of sense to attempt to add another high-salaried player. If, like many predict, the Yankees are to target Cliff Lee in free agency after the season, then adding significant money now would only inhibit flexibility and reduce the ability to pursue such a player.
Realistically, the Yankees primary needs are a bullpen arm and potentially a versatile utility-man who could spell a few of the veterans occasionally to keep them fresh. Of course, the bullpen issue could be solved by moving for a starter and transitioning Hughes to the setup role for the remainder of the year. The starting pitching options are dwindling though and it isn't necessary to make a move simply for the sake of doing something. It's also possible that the nearing return of Alfredo Aceves could also help to stabilize the back end of the bullpen while Joba continues to try to master his inconsistency issues.
If there is a super-utility type player available, you can bet the Yankees have inquired about his availability. The addition of Jerry Hairston Jr. late last year, served to provide cover for several positions as Hairston played in every spot but pitcher, catcher and first-base. He has since moved on to more regular playing time and a current first-place standing in San Diego. Baltimore's Ty Wiggington has been scouted by the Yanks, his bat has cooled considerably and he is merely adequate defensive cover at 1B, 2B and 3B.
Ideally, it would be great to acquire an experienced player with a solid, if unspectacular bat with the ability to play SS in addition to the other infield positions. Ramiro Pena is a great defensive backup, but the prospect of him filling in for any length of time if something were to happen to Arod, Jeter or Cano is slightly unsettling. Players along the lines of St. Louis' Felipe Lopez or Anaheim's Maicer Izturis could be ideal candidates, but it is doubtful that either of those players would be available at this time. It never hurts to inquire though.
The Yankees are still likely to look to bolster their squad prior to the approaching deadline, but with the time and options dwindling it may not be the blockbuster deal that so many fans unrealistically pine for. This is the Yankees though, so nothing would be shocking, but I don't expect more than a supplemental move or two to fend off the advancing Rays of Tampa Bay.