The Yankees reached what has to be their lowest point of the season (so far) in Oakland this past week – capped off by a miserable 18-inning, 3-2 loss after leading 2-0 in the 1st inning. Fans and pundits alike have started to make their minds up on what’s wrong with the current state of the team. There is a lot (injuries, slumps, mistakes) going awry lately – some of which is confusing, while more is easy to understand. There’s no “correct” answer as to why the team is performing as badly as it is, nor can we look to the past few weeks as any serious barometer of what to expect from the Yankees moving forward into the second-half where the games become more significant and the playoffs (a mandate for the franchise every season) not guaranteed. Almost every team hits a snag at some point during a 162-game season and part of getting through times like these require understanding that. Another part is trying to make adjustments and changes.

There are some players who are probably just slumping right now (Cano, Teixeira, Hafner, and Youkilis in particular) and others who probably won’t improve much (Stewart, Nix, Ichiro and Wells) moving forward.

Since there’s no “real” way of saying what’s wrong with the team, we may as well forego a diagnosis and just suggest a few tweaks and adjustments that the team might consider making for the time being, while reinforcements (Michael Pineda, Francisco Cervelli, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, even Eduardo Nunez) wait in the wings to return as regular contributors.


Trade Joba Chamberlain for another bat

The Yankees have nothing more to offer Joba Chamberlain. He’s at the end of his contract and has already expressed a desire to start or close. The Yankees do not have any plans for Joba – not with a role, not with a contract. His value is not particularly high – he hasn’t been exactly pitching well (5.52 ERA), though some of that can certainly be attributed to bad luck (xFIP of 4.06) and a few “blowup” innings where the big, picky twitter account holder allowed more than 1 run to score. In examining teams who may have a need for a hard throwing right handed potential closer/back of the rotation starter, one might look to the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Miami Marlins and the Milwaukee Brewers. All of these teams are, and have been in perpetual “rebuild/no playoff” modes with no real immediate future help in sight. They could benefit from a player like Chamberlain, who still has a high ceiling and can’t possibly command the type of money you’d typically give to a starting pitcher/closer given the injuries and erratic performance over the course of his career thus far. So, for today, let’s take a look at what one of these teams may have to offer the Yankees: The Cubs.

Chicago signed LH RF Nate Schierholz to accompany Alfonso Soriano (LF) and David DeJesus (CF) in the outfield. All of these players are likely available for the right price.

Schierholz is perhaps the most intriguing of the group, as he is on a friendly 1-year deal and has performed quite well, with a slash line of .297/.330/.558 (.374 wOBA, 136 wRC+) along with 8 HR, 23 RBI and 3 SB. This gives him a WAR of 1.8 on the season, despite the fact that he only has 183 plate appearances! The Cubs must love the production they are getting out of Schierholz, so perhaps they might be reluctant to deal him for JUST Joba Chamberlain. In this instance, including other players from the Yankees should be discussed and the Cubs’ other OF options should also be explored.

Alfonso Soriano was thought of as an “obvious” trade candidate for the Yankees when Curtis Granderson went down in his first AB of Spring Training. Instead of giving up potential value before evaluating the team in-season, the Yankees opted to go with in-house candidates, which they then abandoned, eventually leading to trading for Vernon Wells and picking up 2 years/$13.9M of the $42M he’s owed for the duration of his contract. Wells was a pleasant surprise for the Yankees in the first month of the season, but that player no longer exists. He’s now an automatic out and can’t be considered an everyday option for any team looking for production out of a corner OF. Soriano, on the other hand, has been relatively more consistent and, in some ways, better. The former Yankees 2B prospect is currently “boasting” a slash line of .267/.301/.422 (.311 wOBA, 93 wRC+) to go with 7 HR, 28 RBI and 8 SB. In short: he has not been better than Vernon Wells overall, but it’s easier to imagine a more consistent performance from Soriano on a day-to-day basis than it is for Wells. Soriano has another year on his contract at $14M per, so it would probably not be in the Yankees’ best interest to re-acquire the man who was once traded for A-Rod – but doing so would represent an ever so slight upgrade over Wells. Still: he may not even be worth giving up a portly, occasionally mustachioed, yet hard throwing middle reliever.

Which brings us to DeJesus. The long under-valued CF from Brooklyn is in the last year of his deal with the Cubs and would fit well in any lineup or role for a contending team. DeJesus is presently carrying an “OK” line of .258/.316/.434 (.327 wOBA, 104 wRC+), which basically shows that he is slightly better than average at the plate. But DeJesus has always been known for his glove, and this year is no exception. His UZR/150 is 3.6 and most of his defensive metrics are in line with his career averages, save for a few outstanding seasons earlier on in his career. Adding DeJesus’ average bat and above average glove would represent an upgrade over the current Yankees’ OF alignment. While he has not done so this year, DeJesus has played corner OF positions (as recently as last season) and could easily man LF or RF instead of Ichiro (69 wRC+) and/or Vernon Wells (76 wRC+), both of whom are capable outfielders who do not even offer the pedestrian offense of DeJesus. He’d be an undeniable upgrade who would be much more likely to contribute wins than the current collection of over-the-hill veterans being trotted out by the team on a daily basis.

The Cubs are not a contending team in 2013, and have a dearth of players at a position that the Yankees need to improve in, at least until Curtis Granderson is able to come back. Joba Chamberlain is better than any relief pitcher on the north side of Chicago and could help the team in both the short and long term, should they decide to sign him. There is additional OF depth within the Cubs’ organization (Julio Bourbon, Scott Hairston, Ryan Sweeney, Jorge Soler) that they can lean on for the duration of this season should they decide to deal one of the 3 men mentioned above. Now that Theo Epstein (Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations) and Brian Cashman are allowed to be friends, there’s no reason to not explore the possibility of helping each other out.

The other teams mentioned above have bats that the Yankees could acquire for Chamberlain or other “touchable” players, and we will get into who and how, but today the Cubs seem like Ca$hman’s best possible suitor.