The Yankees are playing some of their best baseball of the season, having just completed a three-game sweep of the Braves, but as Mark Teixeira said recently, there's always room to improve. That seems to be a consensus among the fans as we dip into the mail bins for a check on the Yankees Inbox.
Are the Yankees in the market for a mid-season trade or signing?
-- Noah C., via Twitter
We'd might as well get to a big one right out of the chute. General manager Brian Cashman stood on the field at Yankee Stadium last weekend and said that he hasn't been looking for any trade partners recently, but added that could change soon since the First-Year Player Draft is now in the rearview mirror.
"Now that you've passed the Draft, people will be more interested in having conversations," Cashman said.
So what would the Yankees need to talk about most? It could hinge upon what they hear on Thursday from Dr. Timothy Kremchek, who will be evaluating the persistent right elbow strain that has limited Brett Gardner to nine Major League games this year.
There's still a sense that Gardner's season is not in jeopardy, but the Yanks have been disappointed twice already, as it looked like Gardner was a few Minor League innings away from being back in a big league lineup. You can understand why the Yankees have their fingers crossed that they'll hear good news from Kremchek's Cincinnati office.
There's no doubt the Yankees miss the qualities Gardner brings to the game, both as a pest on the bases and as a top-notch defender in the outfield. But -- and perhaps more importantly -- his absence has forced them to overexpose veterans Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones with more playing time than initially envisioned.
"Our guys are doing a great job, despite not having [Gardner] here, but I don't want to overexpose the old guys out there and run them out there every day," Cashman said.
What about the Yankees making a trade for Alfonso Soriano if the Cubs are willing to pick up most of his salary? He's off to a decent start this year and would have no problem playing left field for the Yankees.
-- Cory M., Endicott, N.Y.
There might be a lot of excited fans around the Bronx for a second round of Soriano, but as you said, the Yankees would demand that the Cubs pick up an awful lot of that salary. He's due $18 million each year through 2014, and as we've seen, New York is trying to get below that $189 million payroll level for the '14 season. Chicago is probably going to have to eat a huge portion of that deal if it wants to move Soriano anywhere, but I'm not sure if I see the Yankees bogging themselves down with that contract headache.
How come the Yankees are not worrying about Russell Martin? He's batting .203 with a .330 on-base percentage. Why aren't they calling for help by bringing up Francisco Cervelli?
-- Robert C., Chula Vista, Calif.
Your note landed before Martin's two-homer game against the Mets and his numbers have jumped slightly, but the question still deserves a response. The Yankees think there's more to Martin than he showed early in the season and were at least satisfied that he didn't take his offensive struggles behind the plate. He said recently that some adjustments with hitting coach Kevin Long, including inching away from the plate, have him feeling a little more "dangerous" offensively.
The other part of the answer is that the Yankees don't believe Cervelli would be an offensive upgrade over Martin; they see Cervelli as a serviceable backup catcher in the big leagues. That said, they're very happy with Chris Stewart's performance, which continues to leave Cervelli as the third catcher in line.
It seems that we will never know what Mariano Rivera's true intention was regarding retirement. Since he doesn't have a contract for next year, do you think the Yankees would definitely re-sign him?
-- Michael M., Coral Springs, Fla.
He had me fooled, that's for sure -- I thought we were watching the last year of Rivera, but the warning track at Kauffman Stadium is no place for such a great career to end. If Rivera wants to play, the Yankees will have a contract for him. I'm expecting to see him when pitchers and catchers report to Tampa, Fla., in February -- though, since it's Rivera, he can probably still show up a few days late and no one would complain.
Have the Yankees signed any of their Draft picks yet? Any idea if the top pick will sign?
-- Henzel B., Cape Town, South Africa
The Yankees typically announce those in a large batch, so while there have been some reports of agreements here and there, nothing official has come out of Yankee Stadium yet. The club seems confident it will work something out with Ty Hensley, the 18-year-old righty from Edmond, Okla., who said he intends to sign quickly because his goal is to be in the Majors by age 21.
"I think the quicker that I can get started and get on to A-ball next year, I think the better," Hensley said. "I'm set up with a great organization and I can't go wrong."
Can Eduardo Nunez be a legit stopgap in right field? He can work in the outfield at Triple-A all season and it is nearly impossible to make as many errors in right field as he has in the infield.
-- Ian C., Atlanta, Ga.
I do believe Nunez could eventually adapt to a corner outfield position, but the Yankees continue to see him as a shortstop down the line, and when he comes back from a right thumb injury at Triple-A he'll continue working on that. Bouncing around to so many positions as a utilityman probably didn't help Nunez's development or confidence, and the Yankees did see his defense stabilize last year when he was able to play a position for an extended period. Derek Jeter isn't leaving anytime soon, so it's certainly possible that their decisions could be in part to build up Nunez's attractiveness as a trade chip.