The New York Yankees have already made a big splash at the trade deadline by acquiring the hottest bat in Alfonso Soriano. Soriano’s right-handed bat with pop is something sorely needed in New York, and the Bronx Bombers will need to improve at catcher and third base along with the right-handed side of its lineup even more so if it wants to compete.
While New York is not in a desperate position since it’s unlikely to make the playoffs regardless, acquiring another big bat could at least make things interesting, especially if Derek Jeter or Curtis Granderson could come back healthy.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves started the year as the hottest team in baseball. After a magic month of April, the Upton brothers story has widely flamed out and even more vital, the rotation needs help. Tim Hudson‘s season ending injury is the latest hurdle Atlanta’s hurlers will have to overcome and it is now being lead by a struggling Kris Medlen and an overachieving veteran in Paul Maholm.
Adding someone who can duplicate Hudson’s numbers is top priority in Atlanta, and the team is rumored to not want to give up big prospects in exchange for a middle of the rotation arm.
The Yankees face its own rotation dilemma. The team with the third best ERA in the AL has David Phelps battling back from injury and in the midst of a rehab assignment. They have Michael Pineda continuing to build arm strength in the minor leagues, ready for a call-up any week now.
CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova are all healthy, and while Sabathia has struggled, all five have pitched well enough, or are being paid enough, to stay in the rotation.
Of course, Sabathia’s contract is unmovable (and the Yankees would not and should not consider dealing him), Pettitte and Kuroda are not tradeable and Ivan Nova is under team control and doesn’t have a big game resume yet. Phil Hughes has quietly started to turn his season around, having a solid July with a 2.63 ERA in 24 innings.
Hughes’ June was the second lowest ERA by month and he has shaved his numbers down to a 4.33 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and only two hits more than innings pitched. The main issue? Giving up 18 long balls, mainly a product of a short porch in right for a fly ball pitcher.
Hughes has a 3.02 road ERA this season, has a solid career ERA vs NL opponents, has bullpen experience and big game success. All of this is criteria Atlanta is reportedly searching for. The best part of all? Hughes is a rental and it may not have to cost the Braves prospects at all.
New York also has Joba Chamberlain‘s arm to offer as relief help. Chamberlain is on the upturn as well, posting a 3.60 road ERA and giving up one run in six innings in July.
Offering two arms with expiring contracts could be just the sort of deal the Braves will need to go from obvious NL East choice to elite contenders in the NL.
Of course, the Braves will need to give something up in exchange for Chamberlain and Hughes, two players Atlanta was scouting before the All Star Break.
And while the Yankees could offer a second tier prospect in addition, Atlanta may consider parting with Evan Gattis or Brian Mccann depending on which direction it sees itself going in the future.
Gattis is without a track record but has team control and will be turning 27 next month. He’s capable of catching and may not have a present position. It’s unclear if him or McCann is the catcher of the future in Atlanta.
McCann, is in a walk year and is 29-years-old. Long-term, he’s a stud and if he stays healthy the rest of the year would still stand to get a massive contract after this season, a deal the Braves may not be willing to make with: B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla and Justin Upton all making eight figures per year for at least the next three years.
Considering Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Kris Medlan will all get expensive soon, committing a long-term contract for a player who spent most of the first half injured and who plays a position which does not age well, may not be in the Braves’ best interest.
Having Hughes and Chamberlain for a playoff run would be a better franchise decision than having McCann turn down a qualifying offer and collecting a supplemental round pick.
Atlanta can shift Gattis back into the catcher role and would gain a middle of the rotation starter who would thrive at Turner Field, plus a relief arm they sorely need.
The Yankees would get another big bat and it would not count towards the 2014 payroll crunch the franchise faces after this season. Two teams who may be fading out of contention should be willing to take short-term risks, and moving three expiring contracts around with none of them likely to resign would qualify as the exact type of deadline move these teams should make.