A baseball official with knowledge of the Yankees' thinking was asked, if you had to list the team's needs as the July 31 trade deadline approaches, what would be on top?
"Shortstop," the official said.
On Thursday, Jeter is going to the doctors to find out if he can ramp up his "baseball activities" and condition himself for a second-half return. Still, Jeter may not be the full answer.
Jeter is turning 39 in less than two weeks and is coming back from a serious ankle injury. Legend or not, it's unclear what kind of durability and skill level he will have. The best-case scenario probably has Jeter hitting as he hit last season, but still needing some time off, even if he will insist he doesn't.
Jeter might beat Eduardo Nunez back to the Bronx, because Nunez can't seem to shake an oblique injury that has kept him out a month and counting. Nunez is squandering a big opportunity. Nunez, who turns 26 on Saturday, has not done enough with the bat for the Yankees to feel confident in him. He has a .565 OPS. Jeter's OPS was .791 in 2012.
Plus, although the Yankees were thrilled that Nunez played better defense, they can't be sold yet that they can completely trust his glove and right arm. Meanwhile, Jayson Nix and Reid Brignac are not the answer. Nix is a useful utility guy, but the Yankees might need more at short whether Jeter comes back or not.
The Yankees wouldn't trade for a top-of-the-line starter because that will be Jeter's job, but they could use a more serviceable backup. The official mentioned Seattle's Brendan Ryan, who doesn't hit much but picks everything at short, as the type of player the Yankees could acquire.
In the outfield, Curtis Granderson should be back by the end of the month. Granderson and Brett Gardner will be set at two of the outfield positions, while Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells could platoon at the other. While Wells has been slumping, he is still hitting lefties; he had a .300 average and .795 OPS against lefties entering Wednesday. Ichiro can still play defense and, when he does reach base, he is a threat.
The Yankees do have trade chips, most notably pitching. With Michael Pineda on his way back, the Yankees really have eight legitimate starters, which includes Pineda, Vidal Nuno and Ivan Nova. Heck, Adam Warren has pitched well as the long man.
This is the time of year when GM Brian Cashman always acts as if he won't do anything. There are limitations on Cashman this year because of the $189 million payroll mandate looming in 2014, but Cashman usually does something to try to give manager Joe Girardi a little extra help down the stretch. Shortstop, Jeter or no Jeter, could be where he looks to upgrade.
UP NOW: Wally Matthews has all the news and views from Wednesday night's game.
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