Next up in the Pinch Hitters series are Conor Cashel and Kevin Seefried, who looked into the future to find possible deadline additions who could help the Yankees this season.
From the About page of their blog, 6 Pound 8 Ounce Baby Joba: “At the age of 5, Conor Cashel and Kevin Seefried became die-hard Yankee fans. And nothing has changed since. From collecting baseball cards, to practicing John Sterling’s famous ‘Thaaaaaaaa Yankees WIN,’ to reading every article written about the Yanks, Conor and Kevin live, sleep, eat, and breathe Yankee baseball. The friends grew up in Westchester, New York, but have since moved to Denver, CO (Kevin) and Boston, MA (Conor). Inspired by the Hot Stove season, the blog was started in early December of 2008.”
Right around July 24th, every blogger, journalist, crazed fan, and third-string catcher pulls for an addition to their team. Sometimes it works out (2008, CC Sabathia, Milwaukee). Other times, not so much (2009, Freddy Sanchez, San Francisco). Regardless, baseball lovers won’t shut up about anything transaction-related during the last two weeks of July.
Mid-season holes are unpredictable. Couldn’t Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez or Robinson Cano get injured in a June freak accident? (Dear Lord Baby Joba, I hope not). A big injury to a positional staple would spark a hunt for a player in his contract year who could take over (like Felipe Lopez in Milwaulkee when Ricky Weeks moved to the DL).
Midseason moves cause a sudden impact, so triggers are often pulled prematurely. Brian Cashman isn’t known for July blockbusters; Shawn Chacon, Wilson Betemit, and Xavier Nady highlight an unimpressive “acquired by the Yanks midseason from 2001-2009” list. Still, he did bring in David Justice to help the Yanks win ring 26. Nick Johnson, Curtis Granderson, and Javy Vazquez are already in tow, but in the words of Kenny Williams, “There’s always another move to be made.”
The level of unpredictability in the Yankees rotation is pretty high (think Everest). CC Sabathia’s the only stable rock; A.J. Burnett has a jones for getting injured and has less consistency than Chuck Knoblauch’s arm; Andy Pettitte’s old (baseball years); Javy Vazquez is dealing with variables: new stadium, league switch, NY return; then there’s a half dozen arms duking it out for slot number 5. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a midseason deal for a co-ace to complement CC as the Yanks run for a repeat. Co-aces possibly entering their contract years include Brandon Webb, Josh Beckett and Cliff Lee. Of that trio, Webb is the likeliest to be available, as his squad may very well be out of contention by July.
Webb’s career to date is enviable by most every pitcher (non-King Felix division): 3.27 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and a Cy Young (plus, twice runner-up). His devastating sinker would induce grounders at a Bronx stadium where fly balls seem to party beyond the right field fence. Shoulder injuries kept him out from Opening Day onward in ’09, but if he’s back to his usual self, Arizona may look for a better return than two first round picks.
After dealing away Austin Jackson, Arodys Vizcaino, and Mike Dunn, though, Cashman may be reluctant to deal more top prospects. It comes down to A.J. and Javy, if they pitch to their potential, Webb will stay in the desert or find a non-Steinbrenner-owned home; if they struggle, Webb will feel how the pinstripes pop.
Barring an injury as catastrophic as the plague, the infield will go unchanged; the outfield, however, could see changes if Nick Swisher reverts to his Chicago form, Curtis Granderson’s sinistrophobia worsens, or Brett Gardner hits like Brett Gardner.
Josh Willingham, Rajai Davis, Hunter Pence, and Luke Scott may be made available when their teams fall out of contention; all earn more than the league minimum and their GMs wouldn’t mind shedding some salary and collecting young talent. The big fish, of course, is a Ray; Carl Crawford’s contract runs out at year’s end, but Tampa is likely to hold onto Carl. Even if the Rays fell out of the race, the Yanks won’t sell the farm for two months of Crawford; rather, they’d wait until winter and buy him.
Aside from Carl, the only promising outfielder with an expiring contract is Jayson Werth, who the Phillies don’t figure to have any interest in losing as they defend their NL Crown. The Yanks will sign either Werth or Crawford next winter (86.678% certain), which makes acquisitions of the signed-past-2010 quartet I mentioned earlier doubtful.
That said, I don’t see an impact outfielder arriving in New York any time after February 20th. The Yanks will either acquire someone before the season, or after it, the midseason options just don’t line up with their long-term plans.
As for the bullpen, don’t look for any swaps midseason. The Yanks have more depth than the Mariana’s Trench, and can demote/call-up as necessary until the ‘pen is tolerable. Cashman is the poster-boy of the “I don’t overpay for relief” philosophy, so the biggest bullpen addition will likely be Mark Melancon or Ivan Nova.
Deadline deals are meant to fill holes; which the Yanks don’t have any of the glaring genre… yet. Cashman won’t give up much for marginal upgrades (ie Rajai Davis over Brett Gardner), but if a move increases the probability of ring twenty-eight, he’ll look into it. Thus, a Brandon Webb acquisition is realistic, while there’s an ant-sized chance that Bronson Arroyo sports the pinstripes in 2010; Arroyo’s barely an upgrade over Sergio Mitre or any in-house starter; Webb, though, would give the Yanks a 1-2 punch for mowing through the playoffs. The deadline isn’t for six months, but already we can see July headlines shaping.