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July 15, 2010

Mid-season Prescriptions

AL East

by Jay Jaffe

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Yankees

In the wake of their failed attempt to trade for Cliff Lee, Saturday night's game exemplified why the Yankees' bullpen remains a bigger concern than their rotation, which ranks second in SNLVAR. Beyond the still-incredible Mariano Rivera, their relievers have a 4.75 Fair Run Average, as righties Joba Chamberlain (4.85), David Robertson (5.01) and Chan Ho Park (6.79) and lefty Damaso Marte (5.84) have failed to build a reliable bridge to Mo. Internally, Jonathan Albaladejo has reinvented himself with an improved four-seamer; he's whiffing 11.9 per nine with a 4.9 K/BB and 1.01 ERA at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Beyond their own system, plays for Toronto lefty Scott Downs or righty Jason Frasor would make sense, while their ability to take on salary might appeal to the Indians in a deal for Kerry Wood, who's got a 3.55 ERA since June 1. Their bench needs an experienced bat; aside from Marcus Thames and slumping backup backstop Francisco Cervelli (.202/.277/.246 since May 18), weak-hitting Ramiro Peña, who often plays third while Alex Rodriguez DHs, is the only player with more than 100 career PA. Freshly-signed cornerman Chad Tracy is a minor upgrade on Peña, though it's worth seeing if the Royals would part with Alberto Callaspo.

Rays

Such is the depth of their organization that Rays can solve nearly all of their problems from within, in a manner that 29 other teams would kill for. Top pitching prospect Jeremy Hellickson, who started for the U.S. team in Sunday's Futures Game is tearing up Triple-A and should push struggling fifth starter Wade Davis (5.96 ERA and 2.2 HR/9 over his last nine starts) to the bullpen. Reid Brignac (.265/.329/.365) can take over shortstop from the flailing Jason Bartlett (.231/.314/.335), though lately their stats have converged. Recently promoted Matt Joyce should be able to carry the DH spot previously occupied by the dead-and-gone bats of Pat Burrell and Hank Blalock, and if Dioner Navarro gets straightened out at Triple-A, they could return John Jaso to that mix as well. Plus they retain the option to promote outfielder Desmond Jennings if B.J. Upton doesn't heat up.

Red Sox

Aside from a hyperbaric chamber to accelerate the healing process for their legions of wounded players, Boston's most immediate need is behind the plate, because Kevin Cash (.185/.250/.285 career) is carrying the load until Victor Martinez returns from his broken thumb sometime after the All-Star break, and Jason Varitek won't be back until mid-August while he recovers from a broken foot. Recently DFA'd Indians backstop Mike Redmond is worth a waiver pickup, and if the Sox can swing a deal for Arizona's Chris Snyder or Colorado's Chris Iannetta for some longer-term stability, they absolutely should. The rotation, where John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield all have ERAs of 4.40 or above and Support Neutral Winning Percentages below .500 and where Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett are both returning from injuries of varying severity, could use some insurance. The ability to take on the salary of the Cubs' Ted Lilly or the Indians' Jake Westbrook, both pending free agents with postseason experience, could prevent the toll in prospects from being too high.

Blue Jays

With a 13-23 record since June 1 and a sub-.500 record and fourth-place standing overall, the Blue Jays need to get real. It's probably asking too much to hope that Vernon Wells' first-half rebound (.265/.319/.524) could convince anyone to take on a fraction of the $100 million-plus he's still owed through 2014, and they're not going to find any takers for Lyle Overbay (.250/.329/.419), but they could consider selling high on a pair of unlikely All-Stars whose value may be at its peak. Versatile Jose Bautista, who's played six positions over the past two years, has already obliterated his career high with 24 homers, while catcher John Buck has 13 of his own already and is slugging .500. With 24-year-old catching prospect J.P. Arencibia mashing at a .319/.369/.661/25-HR clip in Triple-A (a .283 True Average), moving the pending free agent Buck makes more sense. Meanwhile, with the market for relievers expected to be especially tight, the Jays boast three tradable Proven Closers in Kevin Gregg, Downs and Frasor, all free agents at the end of the year.

Orioles

It's another lost year for the Orioles, who though they may not have been able to avert a 13th straight losing season were supposed to be more respectable than this. With Kevin Millwood's forearm strain and 9.89 ERA over his past seven starts, their trade chips are dwindling, but they do have Ty Wigginton, the team's lone All-Star representative, and Miguel Tejada, both of whom should net something in the way of a prospect or two. Wigginton, who has 14 homers but just one since May 22, can play first, second or third as well as left field, the kind of utilityman that the Yankees or Red Sox could find invaluable; both have prospects which could appeal, though Andy MacPhail will probably have to set his sights lower than the shortstop he's reportedly seeking. Tejada's not hitting much (.276/.315/.376) and making $6 million, so the priority should be to clear space for top hitting prospect Josh Bell.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jay's other articles. You can contact Jay by clicking here

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