In a 162-game schedule, it is nearly always a mistake to act as if any three-game stretch before September can determine the direction of a team. But this weekend in Boston might give the Yankees some more clarity as to how they should approach the July 31 trade deadline.
If they were to sweep the Sox, they would have momentum and, more importantly, they would cut Boston's lead in half in the AL East. If they were to get swept, well, they would be nine back, and the idea of winning the division with this lineup would all but vanish.
So let's examine some of the options.
New York Yankees
1. Trading Phil Hughes: We went through this a little bit in the First Pitch. The idea ESPN Insider Dave Cameron put forth was to trade Hughes for Raul Ibanez. I don't see the Mariners' motivation for such a deal, since Hughes can become a free agent in the offseason and Seattle wouldn't be allowed to make him a qualifying offer under the new CBA.
Would be the Yankees be better off keeping Hughes, offering the qualifying deal and possibly reaping a first-round pick? I would say yes, because a stopgap player like Ibanez or Kendrys Morales might help, they likely won't put this Yankees club over the top. If Hughes -- who is not suited for Yankee Stadium -- accepts the qualifying offer, it gives him another motivated season in pinstripes.
So unless you are getting a young player or players back, I wouldn't deal Hughes.
New York Yankees
2. Trading Joba Chamberlain: The end seems near. I would bet he is dealt before the deadline. Chamberlain, who was once nearly as big a young star as Matt Harvey is today, has seen his Yankees career devolve from season savior in 2007 to potential ace to Mariano Rivera's heir apparent to setup man to seventh-inning guy to, now, mop-up man.
The handling of Joba and the Joba Rules will be an eternal Yankees debate, but his Bronx career is not going to end in glory. If the Yankees don't trade him, they will let him walk in the offseason.
What can they get for Chamberlain? Not much. His value is at an all-time low by virtue of his ineffectiveness and the fact that he is an impending free agent. Still, with no meaningful role on the team, it would be better to turn him into some minor league asset, at the least.
San Diego Padres
The Yankees don't really have the best assets to bring in a big-time talent. Plus, even when the Yankees are really good, Brian Cashman is reluctant to sacrifice minor leaguers for stars. (Remember, Eduardo Nunez might have been the difference in a potential trade for Cliff Lee in 2010.)
The Yankees' best prospects are in the lower levels, which isn't what teams trading top talent are looking for. There are not that many big-time bats out there anyway, and with Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and possibly Alex Rodriguez returning, the Yankees are receiving reinforcements.
So could they pick up some slight upgrades? Yes, but I tend to doubt Cashman will be inclined to do anything big.
San Francisco Giants
4. Making a relatively big deal: Besides Headley, a guy like Hunter Pence makes sense for the Yankees. They know they need a right-handed bat, and Pence would be a great remedy for their struggles against lefties. He has a .942 OPS versus lefties. The problem? The Giants, like most teams, want to try to make the playoffs, despite their struggles. Pence has been unavailable so far.
Morneau might not be better than Lyle Overbay. Morneau has a .737 OPS compared to Overbay's .745. Young would fill a bunch of needs -- he can play all around the diamond -- but if the Phillies were to trade him, there might be other suitors more aggressive than Cashman.
New York Yankees
5. Cleaning house: Teams have asked about trading for Robinson Cano, according to an official with knowledge of trade talks. The Yankees have said no.
Cashman declined comment.
The Yankees' goal is to re-sign Cano and the idea that they would forgo trying to make the playoffs with the idea of building a better foundation for the future is not going to happen.
If they were to go the clean-house route, it would mean trading Cano, seeing if Hiroki Kuroda would waive his no-trade, and getting rid of Hughes and Chamberlain. If Granderson gets healthy, it would mean trying to unload him, too.
There is very little chance of this happening. The Yankees have the pitching to get to the playoffs, and they are going to try to ride that.
QUESTION: What would you do if you were Cashman?