One of the things that comes with being the marquee franchise in baseball is that you're inevitably linked to just about every star player on the rumor mill.
Now that Cliff Lee is off the table, this trade deadline figures to be a relatively boring one for the Yankees. They have no glaring needs, the holes in the roster are small, and the single best way for this team to improve going forward is not by trades but rather from getting good health and consistency from three certain infielders who shall remain nameless.
That isn't to say Brian Cashman will stand pat. The Yankees, and most teams for that matter, could certainly benefit from upgrading roster spots 22-25, the guys who make up the middle relief corps along with the backup outfielders and infielders. However, the names that fill these spots aren't sexy, and it really boils down to money, as very few teams have it to spend period, let alone on backups.
Akinori Iwamura - Despite a rough 2010, Iwamura is still a pretty decent player, providing around league-average offense with the ability to play a pretty solid third base and a passable second. He doesn't play shortstop, which means he can't entirely bump Ramiro Pena off the roster, but the odds are that somebody other than A-Rod is going to have to play third base fairly often this season, and unlike Pena, Iwamura can both hit and field.
Ty Wigginton - Along those same lines, Wigginton offers a little more with the bat and a little less with the glove than Iwamura. He can play a passable third base and both outfield corners, and hits well enough to even DH occasionally. Wiggington figures to garner some interest as his salary isn't that high - about $3.5 million for 2010 - and with the Orioles going nowhere this season and the probability that he won't be more than a Type B free agent this offseason, salary relief may be what the Orioles are after. This is good, because the Yankees rule the roost when it comes to salary relief.
Jhonny Peralta - Peralta would be another salary relief target. The Indians are languishing under .500, and he is exactly the type of player who seems to be getting the squeeze in the current economic environment. He's still useful, combining a league average bat with defensive skills at shortstop and third base that, depending on which fielding metric you like, range from average to slightly below average. He's due $4.6 million for 2010 plus a $250K buyout on a $7 million option for 2011 that nobody will be picking up.
Aaron Heilman - Heilman has put together a solid season for an Arizona team that is going nowhere in 2010. I would say he's the Chan Ho Park of the trade deadline - in other words, a solid veteran you'd be happy to have at the right price. Since Heilman is a free agent after 2010 and is less likely to be tied to draft pick compensation, and since his salary for the season is fairly low ($2.15 million), there figures to be interest from a number of teams. Whether he becomes a real possibility for the Yankees probably hinges on whether other teams are stupid enough to trade legitimate prospects for this kind of middle relief help.
Chad Qualls - Here's a guy who's just been broken, beaten, and scarred this season. His FIP is less than half of his actual ERA (8.33), and he's allowed nearly a .500 average on balls in play. There's a very, very good chance that he regresses to the mean (in a good way) because his career numbers are excellent (3.62 ERA, 3:1 K/BB ratio) and his peripherals are pretty good for the season. If somebody was willing to eat the remainder of $4.2 million salary for this season, the Diamondbacks would probably give him away.
Like I said, it's a boring list, but that's more the result of the fact that the Yankees have few holes, and Brian Cashman knows enough not to trade away good prospects for two-month rentals (at least for anything less than ace-type pitchers). And that's a good thing.
Previous team previews: