As the trade deadline approaches the New York Yankees figure to be linked to almost every name that is even speculated to be available. It should come as no surprise that there are already rumors floating about that the Yankees might be interested in some Philadelphia Phillies including catcher Carlos Ruiz, first baseman Michael Young and second baseman Chase Utley.
With Mark Teixeira out for the year, Kevin Youkilis out for 10-12 weeks and Alex Rodriguez out until an undetermined date the Yankees could use some reinforcements. While Lyle Overbay has done an admirable job filling in for Teixeira, GM Brian Cashman will always be on the lookout for an upgrade and acquiring Utley or Young to play first base could be an upgrade, even if it is a small one.
The really intriguing rumor surrounds the Yankees showing interest in Ruiz. The Yankees have gotten decent, if not surprising production from Chris Stewart who has done a nice job filling in for Francisco Cervelli who was having a nice year before getting hurt. However, the Yankees know that Stewart could revert back to the light-hitting, defense first pumpkin at any moment and Austin Romine has struggled mightily in limited time behind Stewart. Ruiz would certainly be an upgrade over Romine, Cervelli and Stewart but any deal surrounding Ruiz wouldn’t be free of red flags.
Ruiz, 34, is coming off of a 25-game suspension for violating MLB’s substance abuse policy as well as a hamstring injury. He has struggled to find his stride this year and is hitting just .257/.291/.284 with three RBI in 74 at-bats. Last season was the best of Ruiz’s career as he hit .325/.394/.540 with 16 homers and 68 RBI.
Ruiz is an outstanding defensive backstop and doesn’t strike out a lot (he has never fanned more than 54 times in a season) and has some pop but last season was the only time he ever eclipsed 10 home runs in a season. Ruiz is a free agent at the end of the season and probably won’t cost much in terms of prospects but catchers who can hit don’t exactly grow on trees, even if they are rentals.
While Ruiz might be tempting the Yankees should focus on upgrading their offense in other areas. There are too many questions surrounding Ruiz for him to be worth any prospect investment. In fact, none of the three Phillies players mentioned so far have any real appeal. Sure, Utley is intriguing if he can regain the form that made him one of baseball’s best players only a few years ago. However, injuries have robbed him of a lot of his power and offensive ability. The one plus with Utley is his potential versatility but even that is questionable given his health. Like Ruiz, Utley is also a free agent after this season.
As for Young, he is an older player, 36, who is on an obvious downturn. Defensively he might be able to fake a game at third here and there but the only position he fits on a regular basis is first base and he isn’t that much of an upgrade to warrant parting with prospects for. Young is also due to hit free agency at the end of the year.
The Phillies might wish to sell some of their impending free agents but there is a reason they are struggling this season and that is because the roster has aged quickly and the Phillies have not restocked with capable young players. The Phillies might be looking or prospects that will contribute and the Yankees don’t have many and none of these players mentioned are worth a Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin, or J.R. Murphy. If the Yankees can pry away one of these players for an acceptable price it might work but none of the Phillies represents a clear upgrade worth the price and would only add more questions to a lineup riddled with them.