(Expect stealth again from Cash this season at the deadline)
A few weeks ago, I mentioned the upcoming trade deadline as one of the reasons the Yankees will win the AL East this year. This past offseason was another all-or-nothing one, as it usually seems to be for the Yankees, but the trade deadline is always a great opportunity for them to right some offseason wrongs or fill in-season gaps created by injuries or poor performance. At the time of that "5 Reasons" post, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte were still on the active roster and the Yankees held a 5-game lead in the AL East. In the 2 weeks since they've upped that advantage to 7 games, and were it not for a HR that D-Rob allowed late in Chicago and a couple of games they absolutely gave away in Tampa, that lead could be even bigger. That being the case and me having a chance to step back and look at the big picture right now, I think we're headed for another very quiet trade deadline season in Yankeeland.
The comfortable division lead helps, but even from a team makeup perspective the Yankees are currently in the best shape out of any team in the AL East. The Blue Jays are once again showing that they are who we thought they were- a team that can hit the crap out of the ball but can't pitch to save their lives- and they're already rumored to be looking to sell at the deadline. The Fraud Sawx have more injury issues than anybody in baseball, many of them to key contributors, and even their healthy starting pitchers aren't pitching well. It's going to be a struggle for them just to battle for one of the Wild Cards. The Rays have played mediocre baseball for a while now, and there's still no definite timetable for Evan Longoria's return; there's only so many game-winning Sean Rodriguez HRs you can count on if you're a Rays fan. And the Orioles are slowly coming back to the pack after their hot start, and still don't seem to have the overall depth, talent, or experience to contend for a full 162 games. The Yankees have the depth, the talent, the experience, and the 7-game cushion to use to recover from their injuries.
On the topic of injuries, with the Yankees' current DL contingent, they're potentially going to be picking guys up before, during, and after the deadline who will help improve what would likely be their major target areas at the deadline anyway. CC is scheduled to return from the DL in a week, and Andy sometime in late August to help add depth back to the rotation. Joba Chamberlain is gearing up for the start of his rehab assignment this week, and with any luck David Aardsma will join him in the bullpen by season's end along with whoever gets booted from the rotation. And assuming he doesn't have another setback and the doctors decide to amputate, Brett Gardner should return to the lineup at some point later this summer to add speed and roster flexibility to the lineup. More starting pitching, added bullpen depth, and more bench options. What else could you ask for at the deadline if you're the Yankees?
Even if the Yankees weren't looking at getting all those guys back, with the way their upper-level MiL system has performed this season, they probably don't have the pieces to add a significant name at the deadline even if they even wanted to. To add a Cole Hamels, B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, or Matt Garza, they would need to cough up some high-level, Major League-ready talent and there just isn't any to be found right now. The supposedly deep Empire State rotation has been ravaged by injuries and underperformance all season (save for David Phelps), Austin Romine has still yet to play in 1 game, and packaging a bunch of their top low-level guys would likely be counterproductive to both the Yankees' future plans and their trade partner's current plans. The most trade-able MiL piece the Yanks have right now might be Francisco Cervelli, and with the poor showing they've got from the catcher spot this season, they might be better served holding onto Frankie.
With as unpredictable as this season has been on the injury front, nothing is set in stone. But if we don't get any more unpleasant surprises in that department I think we're looking at another deadline season headlined by inactivity. Maybe a small "for a PTBNL" deal here or a waiver pickup there, as those types of moves have been Cash's specialty of late, but nothing more. The Yankees just don't have the pieces to play with this year, they've got more incentive to hold onto some of those pieces if they're serious about the $189 million budget, and there's nothing in the current AL East landscape that necessitates them making a big splash. It might make our lives as fans (and bloggers) a little less exciting, but I can live with that in July as long as there's excitement in October.