Having already acquired Alfonso Soriano, and given Brian Cashman's initial hesitation to pull the trigger on that deal, the Yankees easily could take a pass on Wednesday's trade deadline and instead look ahead to the expected return of Curtis Granderson this weekend.
The team's greatest need remains offensive help -- assuming, of course, that CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte can straighten themselves out soon -- but the cost of such a commodity may be too high. Entering Monday night's action, 15 major-league teams were within five games of a playoff spot, which has created a super-competitive trade environment for limited resources.
In Cashman's case, he's looking at the double whammy of a Hal Steinbrenner-issued mandate to get the 2014 payroll below $189 million while still staying in this year's race.
The Yankees are on the hook for about $7 million of Soriano's remaining $24.5-million salary, and only $5 million in 2014.
Ideally, Cashman would love to pick up a player with an expiring contract, such as Phillies corner infielder Michael Young, who is due $5 million until the end of this season. As the Yankees wait to learn about Alex Rodriguez's eligibility, Young would be a potential replacement at third and provide platoon help for Lyle Overbay at first. As of Monday, it was unclear how available Young is -- or what the price tag would be in terms of young talent.
One thing has become clear: Cashman was uncomfortable with the level of prospect the Yankees surrendered for Soriano -- Class A righthander Corey Black, whom the GM described as a "flamethrower" capable of reaching 96 mph. Cashman would have preferred to talk to the Cubs a bit longer in an attempt to deal a lesser prospect, but he said he was overruled by Steinbrenner.
The Yankees, who will begin a two-game series against the surging Dodgers Tuesday night at Chavez Ravine, are fourth in the AL East, 71/2 games behind the first-place Rays. They are fifth in the wild-card chase, 21/2 games out in the race for the final playoff spot. Hardly insurmountable, but Cashman is starting to feel the pressures of a cost-benefit analysis for this year's playoff pursuit.
"I don't want to give up prospects -- I just don't," he said. "You're always balancing out your conversations about the future as much as the present. I definitely have stuff in the system that can pull things down, and I might need ownership's help to wrestle that final call out of my hands and say, yeah, let's do this."
Just getting to the playoffs is worth an average of roughly $15 million per game in stadium revenue, according to public records obtained by Newsday. So it's more than just Yankee pride pushing ownership to improve this struggling roster, and that's the kind of heat Cashman is facing in trying to protect his building blocks.
"That's why you get in the room with a group and you present things every day to the owners," Cashman said, "and then you map out a course of action."
Derek Jeter's successful return Sunday -- along with a four-hit performance by Soriano -- helped ease some of the Yankees' concerns about their poor righthanded production. Jeter's home run was the team's first by a righty hitter since June 25, when Jayson Nix went deep against the Rangers -- a drought of 28 games. Nix's blast also was the lone homer by a righthanded-hitting Yankee in a stretch of 58 games dating to May 23.
After what they showed offensively in the first half, the Yankees can't get any worse in that regard. But Cashman still seems unsure of how much better he can make the club before the deadline.
"Ownership's commitment is still the same," he said. "They have a strong desire to reinforce this team and find a way to get into the playoffs. The season is now shorter, and the best way to do that is to get everybody healthy."