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Yanks eye further upgrades as Deadline looms

Outfield, pitching among areas GM Cashman may look to bolster

NEW YORK -- The Yankees considered themselves fortunate to get through their first-half gauntlet, absorbing more than their fair share of injuries and underperformance, while still remaining within striking distance of the top spot in a bunched-up American League East.

A ticket into postseason play remains up for grabs, which fits perfectly into the Yankees' business model of never giving up on a season. That has kept general manager Brian Cashman busy attempting to patch the ship, simultaneously chasing incremental upgrades and bigger fish to rebuild the roster for October.

"We're hoping that we can get a jolt from every single addition that we bring in here," Cashman said. "We're going to keep mixing and matching. We're open to anything. I said before, which was kind of true, that we're ready to rock and roll. We're ready to try to do things."

As the days ticked off toward the Trade Deadline, Cashman was among the game's most active GMs. He crossed the finish line on moves to import right-hander Brandon McCarthy, infielder Chase Headley, left-handers Jeff Francis and Chris Capuano, while jettisoning slumping outfielder Alfonso Soriano.

Few clubs could withstand losing 80 percent of their Opening Day rotation, as the Yankees have, but somehow their second line of pitching has held the fort. That impacted Cashman's outlook toward the second half, with the GM recently saying that if he had to choose between an impact pitcher and an impact hitter, he'd probably take the bat.

The Yankees rank close to the bottom of the AL in runs scored and could particularly use help in their outfield -- where injuries have relegated Carlos Beltran to designated-hitter duties, while forcing light-hitting, 40-year-old Ichiro Suzuki back into an everyday role.

The Phillies' Marlon Byrd, the Rangers' Alex Rios and the Twins' Josh Willingham have been mentioned as possible fixes available off the trading block. Reinforcing the starting pitching is also high on the team's wish list, with no guarantees of more innings from Masahiro Tanaka or Michael Pineda this year.

New York is known to have touched base with a number of clubs. Cashman noted that the Yanks were in on talks with the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel before they were dealt to the A's, in what he called "high-level" discussions that would likely have cost a top prospect like catcher Gary Sanchez.

More recently, it has been reported that the Yankees talked with the Padres about Ian Kennedy -- word from San Diego's side was that those talks had not reached the "substantial" stage, however. The Yanks have touched base with the Rockies about Jorge de la Rosa, and the White Sox, who are shopping John Danks.

The Phillies' Cliff Lee, a popular Yankees target from years past, is also up for grabs. It appears that New York has thus far resisted getting into deep discussions for the 35-year-old, who is guaranteed at least $37.5 million over the next two seasons and could be available as an August waiver claim.

That scenario might be preferable for Cashman, who has so far refrained from parting with valued chips like infielder Eric Jagielo, left-hander Ian Clarkin and right-hander Luis Severino. Instead, the Yanks have taken advantage of Hal Steinbrenner's willingness to add in-season payroll for smaller boosts.

The combined acquisitions of McCarthy, Headley, Francis and Capuano cost the Yankees infielder Yangervis Solarte and left-hander Vidal Nuno (both of whom were signed as Minor League free agents), plus Class-A prospect Rafael DePaula. New York added approximately $6.1 million to take on the salaries of McCarthy and Headley.

"They're trying to upgrade our lineup and our defense. I applaud them," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "They're giving us opportunities to win and that's what we want."

Cashman has a decent track record of completing deals in July. New York picked up Soriano from the Cubs last July 26, catching lightning in a bottle when the outfielder hit 17 homers in 58 games, and it brought Ichiro over from the Mariners in 2012.

The Yankees were silent at the Deadline in 2011, but made ripples a year earlier -- acquiring first baseman Lance Berkman, outfielder Austin Kearns and right-hander Kerry Wood in a flurry of late-season pickups that helped bolster their run to the postseason.

As in the past, Cashman made it clear that the Yankees should be very much considered buyers leading up to the Deadline and beyond.

"We're going keep sifting through [the market] and try to find ways to improve this club so we can get the team where it needs to be -- which is qualifying for the playoffs and being one of those teams that has a shot at this thing," Cashman said. "But I have more work to do."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.

New York Yankees, Chris Capuano, Jeff Francis, Chase Headley, Brandon McCarthy