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The Yankee Rumor Mill

Posted By Bruce Markusen On July 28, 2007 @ 8:12 am In Bronx Banter | Comments Disabled

In less than 100 hours now, we’ll know whether the Yankees have made any substantial moves to beat the trading deadline. As well as the Bombers have played since the All-Star break, general manager Brian Cashman cannot afford to stand pat. The acquisition of backup catcher Jose Molina is a small step in the right direction, if only because it forced the incompetent Wil Nieves off the roster. Still, the bench and bullpen remain primary areas of concern, as does the back end of the starting rotation. At the same time, Cashman shouldn’t trade his two prized pitching prospects, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, not unless the Cardinals are suddenly offering Albert Pujols. (After all, he wasn’t good enough to play unless the All-Star Game went extra innings.) With all of that in mind, let’s consider some of the many rumored possibilities…

There’s been a lot of talk this week about a Mark Teixeira deal, but I don’t see him coming to the Yankees when all is said and done. I’d bet on the Braves instead, followed by the Orioles as a longshot. Embattled Rangers GM Jon Daniels needs a big return for Teixeira, especially considering how many of his recent deals have flatlined for Texas. Daniels will almost certainly insist on either Chamberlain or Hughes, both of whom are close to untouchable in Cashman’s mind. (Furthermore, both figure in the Yankees’ immediate future, Hughes as the No. 4 starter and Chamberlain as a possible set-up man for Mariano Rivera.) If Daniels is willing to consider a lesser package featuring Melky Cabrera, Tyler Clippard, and/or Ian Kennedy, the Yankees might bite. But then again, can the Yankees really afford to trade Cabrera given Johnny Damon’s fragile body and diminishing outfield range? And will Teixeira, who has only 13 home runs this season, ever show the kind of power that he showed in 2005, when he peaked with 43 home runs? Given these questions and obstacles, I just don’t see the Rangers and Yankees getting together on a major deal involving Big Tex…

The Yankees would be smarter to pursue a deal with the Devil Rays, who have two useful players that interest the Yankees. For the price it would cost to acquire Teixeira, the Yankees could probably land both Carlos Pena and Ty Wigginton. How about a package of Clippard, Scott Proctor, Ross Ohlendorf, and Chris Britton (currently on the minor league DL) for the pair of 29-year-old power hitters? The lefty-swinging Pena could then platoon with Andy Phillips at first base (and isn’t that a lot more appealing than waiting for Doug Mientkiewicz to return in September?), while Wigginton could serve as a platoon partner for Robinson Cano at second base and as a valuable bat off the bench. Wigginton’s ability to play second, first, third and the outfield make him especially attractive—and might be enough to bump Miguel Cairo from the 25-man roster…

Speaking of second baseman, the Yankees are once again showing interest in Houston’s Mark Loretta, just as they did during the off-season when he was a free agent. Like Wigginton, Loretta could platoon with Cano and could provide another option at first base. Unfortunately, Astros GM Tim Purpura is notoriously conservative and needs a federal proclamation to make any trades of substance…

What about the bullpen? Scott Linebrink has already been traded, leaving the Rangers’ Eric Gagne and the Royals’ Octavio Dotel as the biggest names available in a thin market of relief pitching. The Yankees have some interest in both pitchers, (more in Gagne than in Dotel, whom the Yankees already had in 2006), but probably not enough to outbid teams like the Indians, Tigers, Dodgers, and Mets. As for lesser names, David Weathers and Salomon Torres are both available, but neither seems like an ideal guy for the eighth inning. Rather than a trade, the Yankees are far more likely to pursue solutions from within their system, such as Joba Chamberlain or Chris Britton… Then there’s always the theory of addition by subtraction, which explains the rumors that have the enigmatic Kyle Farnsworth headed back to the Tigers for a C-level prospect…

The Yankees and White Sox have engaged in recent discussions, enough to merit the White Sox sending scouts to follow the New Yorkers on their current road trip. While Jose Contreras and Javier Vazquez are both available, the Yankees have little interest in re-visiting either of those options. Vazquez’ mechanics are too problematic and Contreras has lost too much off his fastball, so forget about either of those right-handers. Jon Garland, however, is another story. The Yankees so covet the 27-year-old ground ball specialist as a mid-season replacement for long-in-the-tooth Mike Mussina that they are considering the surrender of some of Cashman’s stockpile of pitching prospects. The White Sox would also have interest in center field prospect Brett Gardner, given the disaster area that position has been for Chicago since the departure of Aaron Rowand. With the potential additions of both Garland and Hughes, the Yankees could then jettison both Mussina and Igawa to the bullpen, where they would presumably replace some combination of Proctor, Farnsworth, Mike Myers, and/or Ron Villone…

One final note: some recent trade talk has centered on Johnny Damon, who is apparently being shopped around both leagues. I’m sure that the Yankees would love to trade Damon, but his contract is so prohibitive that it makes the chances of a fair exchange nearly impossible. If the Yankees are smart, they’ll work with Damon on a new conditioning program, switch him to left field fulltime in 2008, and hope that he can regain some of the power he showed in 2006.


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