Cashman: Expect Yanks to be active in trade market
Bronx Bombers' GM says his club can always improve, and should absolutely try
NEW YORK -- Yankees general manager Brian Cashman wouldn't come out and actually say it on Wednesday, but it's obvious he doesn't believe the Yankees, as currently constituted, can compete for their 28th World Series championship this season.
They made a well-placed $175 million investment in Masahiro Tanaka this past January, and so far, that has paid amazing dividends. Tanaka, at 11-1 with a 1.99 ERA, is 10 games over .500, and the Yanks are 12-2 in his 14 starts.
Then there's the remainder of the starting staff, which is 16-20. New York is 25-32 when Tanaka didn't earn the decision or another pitcher started.
"He's been a huge addition," Cashman said about Tanaka hours before the Yankees took on the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. "We're obviously benefiting from his performance a great deal while we've lost some guys to injuries or had some bad performances from other guys."
That's why Cashman is trolling the market for a trade that might seriously improve the team. Cashman was directly asked if the Yanks, as is, are capable of winning.
"I feel that we need to get better from within, and I think I can speed up the process if I run into something outside at the same time," he said. "We usually make moves every year, so I expect to make moves again."
That didn't actually answer the question.
"I think you have to play it out," Cashman added. "I'm not going to do something just to do it. I took a team in 1998 that won 125 games and lost only 50. That was one of the best teams of all time, and that team wasn't perfect, either. You always have to pursue the opportunity to improve it, and even if you're in the postseason to the very end, you see the areas of weakness."
The Yankees have their weaknesses. Their offense has been anemic, and other big offseason acquisitions are not performing up to their normal levels. Catcher Brian McCann, a .274 lifetime hitter, entered Wednesday batting .220 with seven homers and 28 RBIs. Carlos Beltran is far off his .282 pace. He was at .218 with six homers and 18 RBIs when play began Wednesday, having missed a chunk of the season nursing a sore right elbow.
The rotation behind Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda has been decimated, and the best Cashman could predict about a return of injured CC Sabathia (right knee) and Michael Pineda (right shoulder) is that they could be back by early August. By then, the season for the Yanks could be beyond redemption. Both pitchers are in different phases of rehab, and Pineda has yet to even pick up a ball again after his most recent setback. Ivan Nova is gone probably until late next season after Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
The replacements -- David Phelps, Vidal Nuno and Chase Whitley -- are like rolling the dice on a craps table. Sometimes you hit your lucky number, but most of the time, you don't.
"Some people are certainly doing an admirable job with the opportunities they're given, while others are obviously struggling a little bit," Cashman said. "We're hoping to get CC and Pineda back when they're ready, and in the meantime, we're always open to opportunities that present themselves. There are players that will become available in the trade market, and I'll assess whether they are obtainable."
Cashman can't talk about players he may covet, but already there are teams listing badly with big pieces that could help the Yankees.
The Padres have former Yankees right-hander Ian Kennedy and third baseman Chase Headley, who is in his walk year, but struggling along at .202 with six homers and 23 RBIs. He's better defensively than anybody the Yanks have to play third base, but not much of an upgrade at the plate, though he does have a 2012 season in which he hit .286 with 31 homers and 115 RBIs on his resume.
The D-backs have second baseman Aaron Hill and veteran left-handed reliever Oliver Perez, who could help, but they come with a price tag. Hill is in the middle of a three-year, $35 million deal, and Perez has one more year left after this one at $2.5 million. There's also right-handed starter Trevor Cahill, languishing in the Minors after a disastrous season in Arizona. The D-backs owe him about $17 million for the rest of this season and next, plus a club-option buyout for 2016.
Then there are Cubs starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Samardzija, at $5.35 million, is arbitration-eligible next season and then becomes a free agent. Hammel, at $6 million, will be a free agent. Both will almost certainly be dealt somewhere before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
The question is whether the Yankees have the pieces to trade in return. Their most-coveted player is big 23-year-old right-handed reliever Dellin Betances, who has become a strikeout machine this season filling a setup role for closer David Robertson. Betances had 68 whiffs in 40 2/3 innings entering play Wednesday.
Cashman may not want to trade away a probable future closer to try and win this season. But then again, this is the Yanks, and there's always pressure from the top to win right now.
"I don't want to wait," Cashman said about making a deal. "But the sooner you move, the higher the price is, typically. It's that dance you have to do on a daily basis. You include the people above in the process and you see where it takes you. You can't do everything, but I'm certainly going to try and improve it to the best of my abilities.
"That's what [principal owner] Hal Steinbrenner would always want and command. I just say let it play out. We'll either get it done, or go down swinging trying."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.