ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Yankees have been after starting pitching depth since the winter, a pursuit of Brian Cashman’s that continues on a daily basis.
But if the Yankees’ general manager is unsuccessful in landing a starter before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, Aaron Boone said the Yankees will be just fine.
“Whatever help comes or doesn’t, that’s kind of not in our hands,” Boone said Monday afternoon before his team started a three-game series against the Rays at Tropicana Field. “But I feel like the guys in there [the clubhouse] are capable of playing with anyone.”
And they have played with everyone, particularly when it comes to the best the American League has to offer.
Every season produces its own narratives, some of them accurate, some of them wildly off-base. Among the latter is that the Yankees simply can’t match up with the Red Sox and Astros — the Indians also are in that group if they get their bullpen in order — and their respective rotations.
Even with their shaky rotation, the Yankees are 18-8 against teams that would make the AL playoffs if they started on Tuesday. They’re 5-4 against the Red Sox, 5-2 against the Astros, 5-2 against the Indians and 3-0 against the Mariners. What has hurt the Yankees more than anything is their 19-13 record against the Blue Jays, Orioles and Rays, compared to Boston’s 28-8 record against the same trio of AL East rivals.
“I would say all the other top teams we’ve played, we’ve matched up very well against,” Boone said. “I don’t think there’s anyone in our room that doesn’t think, with the guys we have in there, can’t go up and beat the best and play against the best and match up with the best.”
Which isn’t to say the Yankees aren’t trying to upgrade.
Cashman has touched base with every team that might have a starting pitcher available. The prevailing speculation in the industry still has the Yankees as a heavy favorite to acquire Toronto lefthander J.A. Happ, 35, who has had an up-and-down season. He had a 3.48 ERA as recently as June 13 but went 2-3 with a 6.84 ERA in his next five starts, including an outing against the Yankees on July 7 in which he allowed six runs in 2 2⁄3 innings. Happ did rebound Sunday against Baltimore, allowing one run and striking out nine in five innings.
The Yankees had two scouts in St. Petersburg over the weekend. The Rays could move Nathan Eovaldi, who pitched Friday, and Chris Archer, who pitched Sunday.
Eovaldi, 28, is 3-4 with a 4.26 ERA this season after returning from Tommy John surgery, and Cashman might be reluctant to give him another crack in pinstripes after not-great results the first time around. Archer, 29, is 3-4, 4.30. He’s a long shot, given Tampa Bay’s preference not to deal him in the division and Cashman’s steadfast stance, as of now, not to part with any of the top prospects from a loaded farm system.
“That’s one thing, I know we’re in great hands, from Hal Steinbrenner on down through Brian Cashman and our front office,” Boone said. “I know we certainly have the resources, the wherewithal pouring the energy into finding the right deal out there if it exists. That makes it easy for me. I know they’re doing everything possible. And in the end they’ll make a good decision one way or the other for our club, not only in the short term but in the long term.”