The Yankees are in heavy pursuit of starting pitching help - currently the weakest link on the roster - with Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray at the top of their wish list. The issues are the prospect cost and reports that there are as many as six other teams scouting the 27-year-old.
They could land the hurler (or a fallback option), and still have some significant problems to deal with as they try to maintain grip on a playoff spot.
When the Yankees went on a 38-23 run to begin the season, the offense was their biggest catalyst. After a swath of injuries and simple regression for others, the offensive production has been in flux.
Since June 13, the Yankees are averaging 4.4 runs per game versus 5.9 runs per game before that. Over the same span, the team is hitting .240 with a .317 on-base percentage and .390 slugging percentage, which is well below the .275/.353/.475 slash line they put up beforehand.
Of particular concern is Matt Holliday's production since he returned from an illness. Holliday has just six hits in 48 at-bats upon his return on July 14. He is being relied upon to protect Aaron Judge in the lineup, and right now, teams are working around Judge to get to Holliday.
When the pitching is inconsistent, the offense has to be able to take over, and that's not been the case of late.
The reason the Yankees are gunning for a starter is a direct result of inconsistent performance from more than half of the rotation. Luis Severino is delivering almost every start, and CC Sabathia has once again surpassed expectations.
But after them, the problems begin.
Masahiro Tanaka has been a huge disappointment this season, and each time it seems that he has turned the corner, he falls back. Jordan Montgomery, who was fantastic Tuesday night, is a rookie so being reliant on him is simply unfair. Finally, since Michael Pineda's season-ending elbow injury which required Tommy John surgery, the Yankees fifth starter role has been in flux with uninspiring results.
Even if the Yankees nab Gray or another starting pitcher, the remaining members will need to buckle down in order to turn the rotation into a strong facet of the club's core.
The Yankees receiving consistent and lengthier outings from the starting staff will have a direct impact on the team's bullpen. The pen has been significantly upgraded with the addition of Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson. However, there are some ongoing complications.
First, Dellin Betances needs to get through this massive slump, in which he has produced a 7.30 ERA and has walked 15 batters in 12 1/3 innings since June 22. Next, Aroldis Chapman has to pitch like he has the last two games, and not how he had since returning from shoulder soreness.
Most importantly, Yankees manager Joe Girardi has to become more flexible with how he utilizes a bullpen that is truly six deep with strong relievers, all with end-game talent. Having Kahnle come in for one batter seems like a poor choice when Betances has been struggling as occurred in Tuesday's game.
Now that Girardi has Kahnle and Robertson, it behooves the skipper to use Betances in earlier innings in order to work through his command issues without hindering the Yankees chances to lock down a win. Assuming Betances finds his groove, Girardi can then deploy his relievers in several different ways where limiting them to certain roles based on the inning in question fails to maximize the bullpen's overall value.
Yes, the Yankees will certainly be improved by adding a starter of Gray's ilk, simply because it eliminates a weakness at the back end of the rotation by pushing others into slots more befitting their production. It also eliminatesmi a shuffle of inadequate starters.
However, the remaining issues - each of them just as important to fix if a playoff berth is to be secured - will be hanging over the Yankees' heads whether they make a trade for a starter or not.