The Yankees currently hold a 2.5 game lead over the Orioles and Blue Jays in a tight American League East division where the last place Red Sox are only 5 games out. The Yankees offense appears to be fine as they currently rank as MLB's third ranked run scoring unit behind only the Blue Jays and Astros. On the other hand, the Yankees rotation of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, C.C. Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi is a pretty decent pitching staff on paper. But they come with plenty of question marks.
First, can the Yankees count on Tanaka staying healthy all season? I think the answer there is no. He has proven that his elbow is not 100%, and when healthy, he is prone to the disaster start from time to time. No one knows how many innings Tanaka can provide going forward.
Second, former ace Sabathia is more of a fifth starter at this point in his career, having logged over 2,900 innings on his left arm, including eight straight 200+ inning seasons, the last of which was 2013.There has even been talk/rumors of moving him to the bullpen.
Third, Ivan Nova is back from Tommy John surgery, and while he is a decent #3-4 starter right now, he may have limited innings on his arm this season, and the effectiveness of those innings are in question.
Fourth, Michael Pineda has shown flashes of ace potential, but he is coming off a 2014 season where he threw just 76 innings. He has thrown 99.2 innings this season, and while he has pitched better than his ERA indicates, the wheels could fall off as he logs more innings on his arm.
That brings us to Phillies ace Cole Hamels, who, right now, is the top starting pitcher on the trade market. One can argue that Reds ace Johnny Cueto is having a better season than Hamels, and I wouldn't argue that, but Hamels has playoff experience and has pitched in a World Series. There is a lot of value in a starter who you can give the ball to in the playoffs and know that he will keep you in the game, and possibly dominate your opponent on any given day.
Hamels has three more years left on his contract at $22.5 million per year, so one could say his contract is cheap relative to the contracts that free agent pitchers are getting, and will get on the open market in the offseason.
So what could the Yankees offer in return for Hamels? The Yankees farm system has improved over the last few seasons, and they have several top 100 prospects that could entice Andy McPhail. While Ruben Amaro Jr. is still the Phillies GM, McPhail will be driving all trade talks with other teams. McPhail is known for taking his time in trade talks and not forcing the issue in trades, so I am confident he will get the best possible return in any trade involving Hamels.
The Phillies will probably want a package of prospects headed by either pitching prospect Luis Severino or outfield prospect Aaron Judge. Add in one of Greg Bird or Gary Sanchez and the Phillies rebuild could be well under way. Severino could join pitching prospect Aaron Nola to form a solid 1-2 in the Phillies rotation for the next six seasons, and Bird could be the Phillies long term replacement for Ryan Howard. Or, Sanchez could be Carlos Ruiz's replacement at catcher. Toss in outfield prospect Mason Williams or a lower level prospect and you have enough prospects to offer McPhail in return for Hamels.
There are several other teams, namely the Dodgers, Cubs, and Rangers, who could offer very competitive prospect packages in return for Hamels, but the Yankees might be the team most desperate to trade for an ace starting pitcher due to the questions in their rotation.