Don’t be fooled by what transpires over the course of the next week in the Bronx. If you look deep down, the following statements about the New York Yankees are true: They have scored the fourth least runs in baseball. They are in fourth place in the AL East.
Their offense is so anemic even though they have surrendered the least runs in the AL East, they have still scored five runs less than they have surrendered on the year. The Yankees are now 53-48, just five games over .500, after losing for the fourth time in six games since the All Star Break.
Need more proof this team is not actually a contender?
They have been shutout eight times. They are 22-24 since May 31st. New York is 17-10 in one run games. New York is two games below .500 in non-one run games. They are 2-3 against LA teams.
They are 13-18 against all the teams ahead of them in the AL East, not sitting above .500 against any one of them. They are 4-10 against the Rangers, Tigers and Athletics, the other three teams likely to be serious contenders come playoff time.
This means against the: Red Sox, Rays, Orioles Rangers, Athletics and Tigers, or in other words, the six teams the Yankees face the steepest competition against to win the pennant; New York is a whopping 17-28.
This team is not going to win in 2013.
Derek Jeter is working his way back for the third time and there’s no guarantee he will be completely healthy or effective after missing all but one game against Major League pitching.
Curtis Granderson began a rehab assignment and Jayson Nix just finished the first game of his, but they aren’t likely to return before the deadline and they aren’t likely to get hot until early to mid August, if at all.
Michael Pineda continues to pitch in the minor leagues and is now over 34 innings. He’s unlikely to be called up until September 1st.
If the Yankees were legitimately serious about revamping an offense which will take more than a shortstop recovering from major injury and an outfielder who struck out roughly 6,000 times last season, they would deal Phil Hughes, and either call up Pineda until David Phelps is ready shortly, or spot start to bridge that narrow gap.
But the Hughes’ trade market seems to mysteriously disappeared and Pineda is unlikely to see MLB action until September. Cashman can’t trade Hughes because he can’t declare the team a full “seller” but replacing him in the rotation would actually be an improvement this year, and not a focus for next season.
The fact of the matter is the Yankees’ offense is so bad, it would take multiple drastic moves to improve it. Trading top prospects doesn’t make sense to accomplish this so New York is stuck and Brian Cashman knows it.
It’s very likely Cashman will go ahead and trade for Alfonso Soriano anyway. He will have Theo Epstein eat a lot of money on the Cubs’ side so Soriano’s whopping 2014 contract is manageable. It will be a move looking at 2014 and have little to do with 2013 even though Soriano will be an improvement at just about every position except second base with the bat.
The Yankees already have: Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells under contract in 2014. They don’t NEED another outfielder. But acquiring Soriano now is a safety plan to duplicate Alex Rodriguez‘s best case scenario numbers and Soriano can DH if necessary on days when Jeter, in his own walk year, might be able to play the field.
Which leads to the next factor: A-Rod.
The Yankees may very well come out on top in this one. It’s safe to say MLB is planning something big to punish A-Rod. It’s also pretty safe to assume the Yankees don’t want Rodriguez back. If A-Rod were the least bit skeptical of his own health, he would not have made the public outcry he did on Wednesday.
New York saves 80% of his salary due to insurance if A-Rod misses the rest of the season. The Yankees will stop at nothing to make sure that happens. Short term it means because they know A-Rod’s bat won’t make enough of an impact and because they know long-term this is a smart move.
Still, if they were playing for 2013 they would risk it because A-Rod’s shell is better than what ever it is manning third base, but that’s not the case.
When MLB inevitably suspends A-Rod for all of 2014 as a compromise between a lifetime ban they will seek and less than the 100 games A-Rod and his lawyers will counter with, it means New York will not have A-Rod’s albatross contract count towards the one payroll figure to matter.
If A-Rod misses all of 2014, which has a good chance of happening, the Yankees save over $22 million in payroll.
It also means Rodriguez will have not played in the majors in two years and his likelihood of actually wanting to play in the Bronx again will be slim to none.
Not only will this almost guarantee the Yankees’ have the breathing room they need for the 2014 self imposed salary cap, but it means A-Rod’s departure from the Bronx will be immanent. And if it’s not, New York has the freedom to raise payroll again in 2015, when it most realistically can compete again.
Moves that need to be made
Cashman should trade Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, acquire Soriano and even try to move Granderson in a trade through waivers ala Boston in 2012 but he won’t. It would not be surprising if only the Soriano move happens because it’s the only one providing a sure thing next season.
The Yankees could offer Hughes a qualifying offer at the end of this season, but that too, makes no sense.
Phelps, Nova, Sabathia and Pineda are all under contract, and they can say goodbye to Hughes and Pettitte, along with Rivera, and use all of that money on Hiroki Kuroda for one more year and a bunch of very necessary spare parts.
Risking Hughes on an inflated one year deal even if he accepted it, would do very little, and the pick it would yield should he reject it is not worth that gamble.
This means Cashman, if he wanted to improve this year, would trade Hughes to a desperate suitor, but instead he will let him walk for nothing because it helps him save face for this season.
So suffice it to say Brian Cashman is a smart enough man with enough experience to know he can’t fix this offensive mess. And if you’re a Yankees’ fan, you should be at peace with a transition season or two. Every team has them and it’s the healthiest way to compete for multiple years in the future.
Cashman knows Soriano will make him look like he’s trying in 2013, but really it’s another chess move for next season ahead of time at a discount. The Yankees will save face at this deadline, but they will truly focus on next season as the team continues to fall out of contention in the hardest division in baseball.