Now that we’ve hit July we can start to turn our attention to the July 31st trading deadline. I know you’d like to drop Chan Ho Park off a cliff, send Mark Teixeira for therapy, and tar and feather A.J. Burnett. But as I see it, the Yankees biggest need at this point is a right-handed hitting outfielder that can play off the bench.
Don’t confuse this need with the 2000 Yankees, who flirted with names like Sammy Sosa, Juan Gonzalez, and Jim Edmonds before settling for David Justice. This need is much more subtle.
Brett Gardner has proven he can play every day, but he gets banged up enough that he’s not available every day. That’s not going to change given his style of play and his build. Add to that Curtis Granderson’s continued struggles against left-handed pitching (.209/.243/.313 through June 30), and you have a need for a right-handed bat.
Here are some players that could be available before July 31st:
Jose Guillen (KC)—Still owed about $6 million of a $12 million deal rest of this year, so Royals would love to move him. At age 34 putting up some numbers (14 HR and 50 RBI through June 30). A longshot, but provides the consistent power they are lacking from Chad Huffman, Marcus Thames, etc. Makeup issues in the past, but was 5 for 11 in his only postseason series (2003) and could be Ruben Sierra-type in a veteran Yankee clubhouse.
Xavier Nady (CHC)—played well for Yanks second half of 2008, lost 2009 to injury, numbers down this year in Chicago but a professional that fit in well in Yankee clubhouse. Signed with Cubs for $3.3 million. Still strikes out a lot. Marlon Byrd is actually a better fit off that team, but he signed a 3-year deal last winter and is owed $12 million through 2012. That probably means no fit for Yanks.
Austin Kearns (CLE), Andruw Jones (CWS), Reed Johnson (LAD)—all three players are on one-year deals making less than $1 million, though Jones and Johnson have some modest performance bonuses. Yanks were interested in Johnson (career .300+ hitter vs. LHP) last winter. Jones might have been a decent option in April (6 HR), but was a dreadful 3 for 35 in June! Kearns has some OBP and power potential.
Cody Ross (FL), Josh Willingham (WASH), Corey Hart (MIL)—all three of these players signed for between $4.4 and $4.8 million, owed about half that now, all arbitration eligible and under team control until after 2011 season. All have pop, Ross plays all 3 outfield spots, which makes him best fit of this group.
Because the need here is more for an OF rather than a 1B/DH type, I would say Lance Berkman, Derek Lee, Ty Wigginton, Mike Sweeney are all longshots, though Wigginton and Sweeney might be cheap enough especially if Nick Johnson (remember him?) doesn’t make it back in the second half.
*Think about what Cliff Lee accomplished this week. When he beat the Yankees on Tuesday night, Lee picked up his third win at new Yankee Stadium in the last 15 months. And he did it in three different uniforms!
Lee the Cleveland Indian won the first official game at the new Stadium last April 16th, 10-2. Lee the Philadelphia Phillie won Game 1 of the World Series last October 28th, 6-1. And then Tuesday night Lee the Seattle Mariner threw a complete game to beat the Yanks 7-4.
He’ll get a chance to go 4-for-4 at some point as well. That fourth might be a Yankee uniform.
While talking to one GM this week, I argued that the Yankees didn’t really need Cliff Lee right now given the depth of their rotation. The GM shot back, “Everybody needs a Cliff Lee.”
Still, I’ll be shocked if the Yankees trade for him this summer. I might be more shocked if they don’t sign him this winter.