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Yanks have the pitching to go far this postseason

Baseball fans can breath a sigh of relief as the intense trade deadline has come and gone, leaving just a few waiver-induced deals to take place in the month of August. Many big names changed uniforms, but none of them put on the pinstripes, and the Yankees’ only deal came in the form of acquiring third baseman Casey McGehee for reliever Chad Qualls.

There were reports up until the final minutes that the Yankees were very close to acquiring the NL-ERA leader Ryan Dempster, but instead Texas jumped ahead and acquired the 34-year old. Though I and other Yankee fans were hesitant on giving up any solid prospects for a three month rental, there is little doubt Dempster would have improved our chances in the postseason.

In the end, the Yankees were unable to nab any starting pitchers to help bolster their currently weak and hobbled rotation. It’s certainly not the end of the world, but the Yankees are going to have an uphill battle to climb this October.

To me the team is caught in a very difficult state right now. Recently joining Andy Pettitte on the disabled list is their (at the time of his injury) hot-hitting slugger Alex Rodriguez. It seemed he was finally turning it around, but one pitch to the hand ended any chance of a second half surge – A-Rod won’t be back until late September, and will have to work very hard to get back his strength and be ready for October. We all remember last year, when he was on and off the DL and produced mostly nothing for the Yanks in the ALDS.

As for Pettitte, he recently felt soreness in his ankle while rehabbing, and though that is nothing serious, it got me thinking about the southpaw. What if he’s not the same when he returns? He was simply awesome when he came back after his one-year retirement, pitching better than he did before he left. As much confidence as I have in Andy, it will be very hard for him to get back to that form at the age of 40. Also, as we saw in his original return, he needed a good amount of minor league rehab starts to get in shape, so September 1st seems like a stretch for his return, and if it is, he’s in trouble – the minor league season ends that day.

Now I know Brian Cashman was trying in the end to get Dempster, but now that he hasn’t, it seems the Yankees are now in “once we get Andy back..” mode. Meaning their mantra no matter what happens is that once Pettitte gets back the Yankees will be fine and will have a strong enough rotation to go deep in the playoffs.

Unfortunately, that’s not something I can really buy into at the moment, given the recent acquisitions by other teams and their already formidable pitching staffs. Also, add our ongoing RISP failures and a bunch of injuries to the mix, and the Chase for 28 may not be so simple to complete this fall.

But, trying to be confident, the Yankees’ rotation would not be the worst and most surprising staff to win a World Series. The 2011 Cardinals’ rotation was nothing spectacular, yet by just coming up in the clutch the Cards beat a ferocious Texas team with both a solid lineup and rotation.

Also, look at the ’09 Yankees. Heck, they only used three starters, and one of them was A.J. Burnett! (I’m only kidding.)

But the point I’m getting at is the Yankees do not need equally good or better pitching than Texas and LA to win. They just need consistency and players coming up in the clutch, which isn’t necessarily something that either the Rangers or Angels just acquired.

Looking at the likely rotation we’ll have when the season ends, the Yanks could go with CC, Pettitte, Kuroda, and Hughes in that order for the playoffs. And no matter what anyone says, that is a solid postseason rotation. Each pitcher has experience, and most of all, success on the big stage, which is not something the Angels or Rangers can say about their starters.

And you cant’ forget about the bullpen either – the Yankees still have one of the best bullpens in the majors, and so combine experienced solid starters with an experienced strong bullpen and you get a championship-caliber pitching staff. Simple math!

It’s funny how when I set out to write this article, I was thinking down on the Yankees and their chances of winning the World Series. But as my negative thoughts normally deteriorate and the positive ones start flowing through my head, anything is possible in sports and the Yankees are by no means a weak team or the underdog in the American League. They’re still a great team with a great chance to go far this October, and it would be awesome to see them go out and prove everyone, including myself wrong. Go Yankees!

What do you guys think? Are the Yankees doomed, have a puncher’s chance, or will be the cream of the crop come playoff time?

What would help this team at trading deadline?

What will Cashman look to add?

Baseball officials often say they like to break the season down into one- thirds. The first third is to evaluate your team’s strengths and weaknesses. The middle third is to look for solutions to your problems and to make changes – and the final third is to make a push with the new/improved team you’ve assembled. The Yankees are in that middle phase now and have gone through a lot in the season so far. They struggled for the first 42 games and had a .500 record on May 21st. They then went on an amazing 20-4 run that just ended with back to back losses to Atlanta. Now that we’ve seen their worst and their best baseball, I think it’s a good time to evaluate what this team needs to make a push for their 28th Championship.

Bullpen

The pen has been their strong point all season. Even after surviving the loss of 2 All-Stars in Mariano Rivera and David Robertson they still have kept it together. They are 3rd in MLB in bullpen ERA with a 2.73 mark and have blown a league-low 4 saves in 24 opportunities. With Rafael Soriano looking comfortable in the Closer’s role and Robertson returning healthy, the Yankee bullpen is set. Boone Logan & Clay Rapada have been absolutely excellent vs LH hitters and Cody Eppley and Cory Wade are serviceable in their roles. There may even be a chance that Joba and/or David Aardsma come back at some point this year so there is no need for them to look outside of the organization for relief help.

Rotation

The starters have been pitching tremendously in June and on the season they are 5th in the A.L. with a 4.14 ERA. The one disturbing trend is that they lead all of baseball in HRs allowed with 65 and are 27th overall in opposing hitters OPS at .780.  However, all the starters are pitching better as of late and right now the top 3 of C.C., Andy Pettitte & Ivan Nova look pretty strong.  Kuroda is solid as a #4 and Hughes is OK as the #5 man. So the question is, can anyone out there help them? Read the rest of this entry

Cashman and Theo to Trade?

Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein have never talked trades with each other before. As general mangers of two division rivals, a trade between their teams would never occur.  Teams rarely trade within their division because there is more risk of the trade coming back to hurt you. However, Cashman and Epstein did maintain a good relationship that may come in handy now that Epstein is the new Cubs GM. Epstein told Alex Speier that he is interested in talking trades with Cashman. The two former rival GM’s trading with each other is an intriguing possibility.  http://fullcount.weei.com/sports/boston/baseball/red-sox/2011/11/13/theo-epstein-and-brian-cashman-finally-find-middle-ground-in-vermont/

There are three players on the Cubs that would intrigue me for the Yankees to consider.  Carlos Pena is actually a free agent, but for the sake of this article let’s say the Cubs re-sign him. The Yankees were interested in Pena at the trade deadline, and I was a big proponent of trading for him to fill the DH role.  Jesus Montero is expected to get a chance to fulfill that this year, but there is no reason Pena could not get AB’s there as well. Obviously Pena is worthless against lefties and would get no AB’s there. However, Pena’s righty splits (.255/.388/.504./.892) are very good. Pena has great power and would easily take advantage of the short porch in left. He would be a good bat of the bench when the Yankees are in need of a game tying home run. Pena also is an exceptional fielding first baseman and could spell Teixeira from time to time. I would never give up a big time prospect for him, but I think he would be a good bat off the bench.

The other two players who intrigue me on the Cubs are Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza. They are solid pitchers who would help the Yankees rotation. Dempster, while getting up there in age, has been an innings machine for the Cubs. Dempster has pitched over 200 innings for the Cubs for the last 4 years. With Dempter advancing in age, I would not give up a lot for him but he would be very good for the back of the Yankees rotation.  However, on the other end of the spectrum I would give up some good prospects for Matt Garza. Garza is young, has a good contract, and has had success in the AL East. Garza has had an impressive start to his career in his first 4 years of being a full time starter. Over those years Garza has gone 44-41, with a 3.72 ERA, and a 1.25 WHIP.  Garza is not the biggest strikeout pitcher in the world but he tends to keep the ball on the ground. He has good fastball velocity and an excellent slider. I could see giving up a group of prospects led by Dellin Betances for Garza.                                                                                                                                                                   

It will be interesting to see how much Cashman and Epstein talk. Maybe they were just playing nice for the media, or they really do want to talk trades.  It is fun to come up with what if scenarios, but of course it all comes down to the GMs.  Cashman and Epstein are two of the brightest minds in baseball and it will be fascinating to see if they come up with anything.

2011 Trade Deadline: 5 Starters the Yankees should look into

Over the past month, I have noticed a lot of concern from Yankee Nation on Twitter and Facebook about the team’s starting pitching. Yes, the Yankees have CC Sabathia, who they can trust in a big spot. However, the other four starters are still a question mark. With the recent rumors of Ubaldo Jimenez and even rumblings of Felix Hernandez rolling around, starting pitching is something I wanted to address this week in the trade deadline series.

Keep this in mind: Next Friday night, I will be recording a special trade deadline podcast over at YanksGoYard.com where I will break down what the Yankees need in more detail and give my take on who they will obtain next Sunday by 4:00 EST. I want to hear from you guys as always. Questions and Comments as always will be taken for the show and put on air.

Well, let’s get to it. Here are five pitchers I think the Yankees will look at to help the rotation, but they are in no particular order.

  1. Wandy Rodriguez (Houston Astros) – The Yankees would love to have another lefty in their rotation for the playoffs, even if it is from the lowly Houston Astros. Rodriguez is not the sexiest choice, but he is a very efficient pitcher. He is 6-6 with a 3.67 ERA in seventeen starts. Now, his record is not pretty in any of his seasons in the Lone Star state. The positive on Rodriguez is that he has a 1.37 WHIP, which is pretty good and he has only given up 44 ER in 17 starts. The negative is that he is under contract till after the 2013 season, where he will make $13 million. The Yankees are a team that will spend money, but not that much on a number three starter at best.
  2. Anibal Sanchez (Florida Marlins) – I have been sticking up for Anibal for the past two weeks on Twitter. We all know this guy has no-hitter stuff since he has thrown one and nearly threw another one back in April. He is 6-3 with a 3.52 ERA and has great stuff. It shows with his two complete games. The only problem is Florida might want to keep him and put him in the rotation of the future in their new ballpark. The only starter they are really putting on the block is Ricky Nolasco. His strikeouts are up (9.3 K/9), but his asking price might be way up despite being a free agent. I would love him as a Yankee, but I do not see that happening.
  3. Chad Billingsley (Los Angeles Dodgers) – You know that a lot of teams will be looking at players from the Dodgers because of their financial situation. One of their pitchers in Hiroki Kuroda has already publicly he said he would not play on the East Coast. Former Yankee Ted Lilly just got a new deal with LA last year, so why not take a look at Chad Billingsley. The former Dodgers’ ace is 8-8 with a 4.07 ERA in 2011. Can the City of Angels afford to pay him over 10 million dollars in the next few years? Probably not. The guy does have postseason experience, but he is only 1-2 in four starts and went 0-2 in the NLCS back in 2008. Kuroda is a more reasonable option, but with his lack of desire to change time zones, I look for the Yankees to pursue Billingsley or Lilly as they always do.
  4. Ryan Dempster (Chicago Cubs) – This name came across me when I was listening to Mike Francesa’s conversation with SI.Com’s Jon Heyman on Tuesday. He has pitched much better in the past two months. He went 3-1 back in May with a 2.55 ERA and impressed the Yankees back in June during the series at Wrigley Field. His contract expires at the end of the year, but has a player option of $14 million. New York has Colon and Garcia who have pitched more effectively than the 7-7 Dempster, but Chicago might give them the right hander for practically nothing since they are trying to dump payroll.
  5. Ubaldo Jimenez (Colorado Rockies) – Yes, I saved the best for last. Jimenez has not been the same Ubaldo that went 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA before the All-Star break last year. I find it rather strange that GM Dan O’Dowd wants to trade him even though his contract is very manageable over the next couple of years. Ever since he defeated the Yankees back in June, he has seem to regain some of that arm strength on his fastball. The only problem is he doesn’t control his pitches well and pitching coach Bob Apodaca has tried very hard to fix those issues. The price is reportedly very high on his services and it’s not surprising since he is 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA in the month of July. Unless the price goes down, I don’t think the Yankees will trade for him.

2009 – No Roy Halladay

2010 – No Cliff Lee

2011 – Why would it be yes Ubaldo?