'I'd be shocked," Brian Cashman said yesterday afternoon, "if I could trade for anything better than what I'm getting off the DL, both with starters in [Bartolo] Colon and [Phil] Hughes and in the bullpen with [Rafael] Soriano."
Then the Yankees, behind a strong outing by A.J. Burnett, defeated Milwaukee, 5-2, at Yankee Stadium for their fourth straight victory and 11th in 14 games since Derek Jeter went on the disabled list.
The Yankees love life at the moment, and they don't love the trade market. However, they're smart enough to know how quickly everything can change, so Cashman's stated pessimism -- what's he gonna say? "This market is so plentiful, shame on me if I can't get something done?" -- represents nothing more than words.
They'll look under every rock for upgrades, particularly in the starting rotation. Because they know that surpluses quickly can turn into shortages.
With the returns of the injured Colon and Hughes appearing to be close, giving the Yankees six starting pitchers for five jobs, Cashman said, "Maybe if I get lucky, I'll find seven guys for five spots. I'll make it eight."
Hughes, out since April 14 with right shoulder inflammation, delivered a stellar performance for Double-A Trenton Wednesday, pitching stuff that Cashman called "explosive." His next start could come in the majors, although the Yankees appeared to be leaning toward having the righthander throw once more in the minors.
Until we see Hughes pitch consistently well, we'll naturally be skeptical that he overcame the unusual condition that sapped his strength on the mound.
Soriano, out since May 13 with right elbow inflammation, is throwing off flat ground and, in the best-case scenario, he'll be back right after the All-Star break. Considering how this season has gone for Soriano, this is another case of "Let's believe it when we see it."
If Colon and Hughes return shortly, then the Yankees must act. Said Joe Girardi: "We have a lot of people throwing the baseball good in our rotation, and that's a good problem to have. But we're going to have to make some decisions."
It seems pretty easy: Shift Ivan Nova to long relief work.
But that won't be all. Last year, Cashman nearly traded for Cliff Lee even though the Yankees didn't have a crying need in their rotation. So with serious questions surrounding everyone besides CC Sabathia, the Yankees will keep searching.
Minor-league catcher Jesus Montero, who has regressed this year, would be dealt for the right pitcher; Right now, however, there probably isn't a pitcher available that would merit Montero -- even diminished-- as a return component.
Stuff happens, though. A year ago, it seemed unlikely that Arizona would deal Dan Haren or that Houstony would let Roy Oswalt go elsewhere. So Cashman and his lieutenants will keep their ear to the ground, knowing how quickly the market can evolve. And don't be shocked if Colon and Hughes aren't the only rotation re-enforcements between now and Aug. 1.