The Yankees want to upgrade their talent, but they would prefer a rental compared to taking on money into next year and beyond, a baseball official with knowledge of their thinking told ESPN New York.
The Yankees are always big-game hunters, so they are in on all talks, but they know the Red Sox wouldn't consider them for a Jon Lester deal, and they don't feel compelled to be the team to "overwhelm" the Phillies into trading Cole Hamels. David Price, if he is traded anywhere, is not headed to the Bronx.
As far as Cliff Lee, the Yankees are acting like everyone else -- scared off by his large contract and his lack of health. They also know Lee would make it through waivers in August, so if he were to pitch better and they were to feel they were one starter away, he would likely still be out there. They would have to change their minds on Lee, though, for that to happen.
White Sox lefty John Danks also falls into the too-much-money-for-too-little-production category at the moment. Plus, the Yankees could add Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka next month, which would be serious upgrades.
On the outfield market, a source said Marlon Byrd was more likely than Alex Rios, but didn't sound terribly optimistic either would end up in the Bronx. Byrd is owed $8 million for next season and, with 600 at-bats in 2015, can vest a 2016 option for another $8 million.
Rios has a team option for $12 million for 2015, although if he were traded to the Bronx, the Yankees could buy him out of that season for $2 million. Still, they aren't going to give up upper-echelon prospects for 14 months of Rios, let alone two months.
That said, both would be substantial upgrades over Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro's OPS is .636, while Byrd's is .803 and Rios' is .766.
The Yankees do have some interest in 27-year-old Cuban free agent outfielder Rusney Castillo, but New York should not be considered the favorite. When asked to grade Castillo on a Yasiel Puig-to-Andy Morales scale, one international scout said simply, "[Castillo] is not Puig. He's 27 and 5-foot-10, at best. He's got impressive tools. Puig has insane tools."
The Yankees just spent a total of $250 million on outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran, so one source said they will not "go crazy" over Castillo. Castillo is said to profile like Ellsbury and Gardner as a player. Since some have questioned having two of that type of outfielder, it is hard to see the Yankees going for the hat trick.
There has been some speculation that Castillo could play second base, which is a need position for the Yankees going forward.
They have top prospect Rob Refsnyder at Triple-A, but he is trying to transition from the outfield to second. The Yankees have at least thought about the idea that Castillo could be a second baseman. However, the international scout said he didn't think Castillo could play the position in the majors.
Question: What would you like to see the Yankees do before the deadline?