New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, out since April 17th with a sore elbow, has suffered another setback which could put the Yankees in the middle of several MLB rumors in the coming weeks. With several outfielders expected to be available at the July 31st non-waiver trading deadline, Yankees GM Brian Cashman will have his pick, assuming any of them strike his fancy.
One intriguing option is Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino who is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. With the 2014 luxury tax threshold looming over the Yankees, Cashman is not looking for a long-term commitment unless it is a team friendly deal. The Yankees want to be below the $189 million luxury tax limit.
The Phillies are known to be shopping Victorino, who they will most likely not be re-signed. However, he may cost too much in terms of prospects because there will probably be several teams interested in acquiring his services for the stretch run. Victorino has not had a great year, however, only posting a .246/.312/.380 slash line with 8 home runs, 38 RBI, but with 19 stolen bases. He could certainly help any team, especially with his defense, but at what cost?
I think Cashman will find the market to be a little too pricey for him and will look to in-house options instead. The Yankees recently claimed Kosuke Fukodome off of waivers from the Chicago White Sox. Fukodome is not exactly an ideal replacement but the Yankees could catch lightning in a bottle with him and get a few good weeks out of his bat. Another option is Jack Cust, who the Yankees have stashed away at AAA. He has hit 19 home runs with the Empire State Yankees, the temporary name of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees while their home field is renovated. Cust is not exactly an ideal fielder but he is an option.
The Yankees don’t have very many candidates to take over if Gardner is indeed out for the season. They would prefer not to use Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez in the field as much this season if they don’t have to but both have shown themselves to be valuable members of the team. There is also Dewayne Wise who has filled in very nicely in his limited playing time. Chris Dickerson, a fifth-outfielder type, is also down in AAA and has experience at all three outfield positions.
I don’t think Cashman will make a big move unless the right deal falls into his lap. Teams have historically asked more from the Yankees than from other teams or have only used the Yankees as a bargaining chip. However, there are a couple of decent options out there. One under-the-radar player could be former Yankee farmhand Justin Maxwell. Maxwell has been getting regular playing time with the Houston Astros. He has 8 home runs in only 129 at-bats. His one weakness is he absolutely cannot hit left-handed pitching. However, in terms of cost-effectiveness he could provide some pop off the bench or be a platoon player with Jones, who mashes lefty pitching.
Before any trades are made, expect Cashman to scour the waiver wire and all in-house options first. He will not allow the Yankees to be held hostage just for the sake of making a deal. And, quite frankly, with MLB’s best record right now I don’t think he has to do anything.