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Trading to improve your postseason chances

Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies delivers against

Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies delivers against the Milwaukee Brewers at Coors Field. (July 14, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

That's right. Live chat at noon. I'm expecting an ultra-competitive affair for the coveted Live Chat MVP award.

So the Yankees prevailed over the Rays last night, despite an uninspiring effort from A.J. Burnett, so I wrote my column on the Yankees' pitching situation. Here are the Cilffs Notes of the column: Yes, the Yankees' starting rotation could really use help, but there isn't much of interest out there besides the highly-priced Ubaldo Jimenez, and they're looking like a pretty good shot to make the playoffs status quo.

The current Baseball Prospectus odds have the Yankees as 93.7 percent likely to qualify for the playoffs, and if you were to construct your own odds using little more than common sense and a ball of string, you wouldn't go much lower than that, would you? The Rays are in a situation where, unless they can rally quickly by July 31, they'll probably turn to sellers and try to reload for next year, with the likes of Johnny Damon, Kyle Farnsworth and B.J. Upton the most probable items on the sales bin.

Plenty of time exists for a wild-card rally by a club in one of the other two divisions, but it's hard to see from where that would be coming. At this point, the AL Central looks like it'll be a fun battle featuring at least three teams, if not four, while the Rangers are threatening to make the AL West as much of a snoozer as they made it last year.

Therefore, as they head through July and then the waivers period in August, the Yankees have to evaluate potential transactions at least partly through the prism of the postseason. As in, "We don't necessarily need this guy for the regular season, but how much would he help us win the World Series, and how much is that worth to us?"

There are two prominent examples, in recent years, of playoff shoe-ins making significant trades:

1) Anaheim, up 11 1/2 games in the AL West, acquired Mark Teixeira from Atlanta in July 2008. The Angels proceeded to lose to Boston in the ALDS, and then they lost Teixeira to the Yankees in free agency.

2) Texas, up 5 1/2 games in the AL West, acquired Cliff Lee from Seattle last July. The Rangers proceeded to advance to the World Series before losing to San Francisco, and then they lost Lee to Philadelphia in free agency.

The Rangers' deal carried a higher risk, since they were sending a top prospect (Justin Smoak) to a division rival. Had Texas been eliminated in the first round, then you could argue that the Lee deal didn't work out for them.

The Angels, on the other hand, didn't give up anyone of great consequence to acquire Teixeira _ Casey Kotchman, the primary piece, has bounced around and is actually enjoying a career-best season right now with Tampa Bay _ so their first-round demise didn't matter as much.

The better pitching options on the market, both of them long shots - Jimenez and Atlanta's Derek Lowe _ are signed beyond this year, so the risk-reward calculation would be different. Should the Yankees reverse field and make a run at Carlos Beltran, then they'd be dealing with the walk-year issue, plus the fact that Beltran can't (and probably wouldn't, any way) be offered arbitration.

All of the information and analyses go into the pot this time of year. And the fun part is that the ingredients, and their relative quality, seem to change by the day.


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