Burning Questions for Yankees in Second Half

Looking forward as the second half gets underway

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Gardner's role is one question for the Yankees to answer in the second half.

    The strangest thing about the first half of the Yankees' season is that they finished it with the best record in baseball and a seven-game lead in a division where every team is .500 or better.

    It's strange because there hasn't really been a moment of the season where it felt like the Yankees couldn't do anything wrong. They finished the first half on a 31-12 tear, but you could always find some nagging problem to be concerned about even though the end result was positive a lot more often than not.

    Pointing out the Yankees flaws in the face of strong records has become something of an annual game in the last few years, likely an unavoidable byproduct of being so good for so long. When winning the World Series is the only way to put a season into the positive column, there's no point during the regular season when you're really going to feel comfortable about what's unfolding because it all feels like a prelude.

    In that spirit, we've come up with a few questions to ponder as the Yankees set off on the second half of their season. The answers will likely have a lot to do with whether or not the Yankees are able to put a cherry on top of this particular sundae. We'll start with the pitchers, namely the veteran lefty on the disabled list.

    Can the Yankees count on Andy Pettitte? The Yankees certainly trust Pettitte, but there's no way to count on him even if all signs point to an in-season return from the broken bone in his leg. Reports of his return date have been vague and Pettitte would essentially have to make a second full comeback in the course of a season as a result of his brief retirement. 

    The good news is that the Yankees don't have to count on him as anything but a bonus at this point. CC Sabathia should be back on Tuesday night, Ivan Nova's stepped up his game, Hiroki Kuroda's inconsistent, but rarely terrible, and Phil Hughes has been serviceable, so Pettitte shouldn't have to play savior.

    Will the Yankees trade for a pitcher? It's possible, although don't get your hopes up for Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels. The Yankees have insisted that they want to do a better job of controlling the payroll and any move for those pitchers would be at least half designed on signing them as a free agent after the season.

    If not a pitcher, where might they look for help? Never count out the bullpen, but catcher would be the most interesting place for the Yankees to explore a trade. Russell Martin hasn't hit a lick and his fielding has been sloppy of late, while Chris Stewart is nothing more than a backup that Sabathia has taken a liking to this season.

    There have actually been calls for Francisco Cervelli in some corners, which just goes to show that absence really can make the heart grow fonder. There might not be a deal worth making, but it is the one spot in the lineup where the Yankees could really upgrade.

    How does Brett Gardner fit? This one is really hard to predict because of two factors. One is that no one can truly know what is in Joe Girardi's binder of doom, not even Girardi which is weird because he never disagrees with the binder.

    The second reason is that the Yankees have long held an unrealistic view of Gardner's abilities. They talk about him being a leadoff hitter whose offensive game sets the table for the rest of the team, but they bat him at the bottom of the order because his actual offensive game is very limited in a lineup where just about everyone else is in scoring position when they step into the batter's box.

    His speed and defense are absolutely valuable to a team that isn't long on either, but the players who have held the position in his stead (Raul Ibanez/Andruw Jones/DeWayne Wise) have matched or topped his offensive production while also allowing the DH spot to be used for resting regulars. Keeping that in place for the rest of the season with Gardner as a sub might wind up working out for the best Yankee shot at ending this season with a parade. 

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.