Trade Deadline Thoughts

It’s interesting, but as I have heard the Yankees and Brian Cashman repeatedly bashed on the airwaves the past few hours, it has made me more sure than ever that Cashman is doing the right thing.  

I have been saying in this space for years that the Yankees have to get younger and they certainly did so today, trading a 30-year old middle reliever for a 25-year old third baseman.  No, it wasn’t a sexy deal, but it gives the Yankees a nice bat off the bench who might be able to play some first as well.  

Yes, Proctor will be missed, but let’s face it, the bloom was off the rose.  The guy who dazzled us last year wasn’t the same this year.  Last year he walked 33 in 102 IP, this year he has given out 29 walks in 54.  His strikeout rate is way down as well.  Hey, I loved watching the guy and I really admired his toughness, but you have to wonder if Torre’s overusing him has finished his career.  I certainly hope not because he deserves better, but I think the Yankees got good value for a guy who could very well be hitting the downside quickly.  

And yes, it is tough to sit here today and see that Boston acquired Eric Gagne, but they are in a position where they should make trades like that.  They have the best record in the AL and are clearly gunning for a title.  They have an eight-game division lead and they are willing to pay an expensive price for a rental.  The Yankees are four-games back of a playoff spot and giving up on some of the young pitchers now would not be smart.  Let me put it to you this way, if October rolled around and the Yankees missed the playoffs with Gagne, what would you have thought of that deal then?  

Instead Cashman chose to try a different plan.  The Yankees are already getting two significant pieces back in the next week or so, Hughes and Giambi.  Maybe Chamberlain, maybe Ramirez, maybe Britton maybe no one can fill the bullpen role that they needed filled.  But, they have kept all of their chips for another day.  That may be the smartest thing of all.  This offseason could be devastating with the losses of Rivera, Posada and A-Rod, so the Yankees might just need some chips to trade for a new closer, catcher and third baseman.  I don’t know if Gagne would have helped them get over the hump in 2007, but I do know the prospects they kept will help them in 2008 when Gagne is back to closing for another team.  

Plus, the Indians didn’t make any moves today and they are the team the Yankees have to catch and as much as you don’t want to see Gagne in Boston, it would be worse if he went to Cleveland.

The one thing I will knock Cashman on is not dumping Farnsworth, but it is a small knock.  I assume he didn’t want to trade Proctor and Farnsworth without getting back someone for the pen and I bet he just couldn’t do that.  Plus, you can always send him though waivers if he doesn’t improve his performance and attitude and if a team does claim him, you can just let him go.

Looking at the big picture, I would say Atlanta and Boston are clearly the winners, but I can’t find anyone else who really won.  On the losing side, it’s also hard to identify a clear loser, but I have to wonder what the Pirates were doing grabbing Matt Morris and his entire contract.  

Some Trades/More Rumors

ESPN is reporting on their trade deadline special that Eric Gagne is going to either Boston or the Brewers, if he is traded. 

Meanwhile, the Red Sox have traded Joel Piniero to the Cardinals for the infamous "PTBNL"

The Yankees have sent Scott Proctor to LA for Wilson Betemit.

I will update this post as I hear more rumors and expect a full breakdown of the deals after 4pm. 

UPDATE 2:10- Jon Heyman says the Red Sox have made a deal for Gagne, no word on the players involved.

UPDATE 2:50 Buster Olney is reporting that the Red Sox will send Engel Beltre, Kason Gabbard and David Murphy for Gagne. He further states that the Yankees could have had him, but refused to part with either Ian Kennedy or Melky Cabrera.

UPDATE 3:05- There is a surreal scene at Yankee Stadium as members of the Yankees and MLB gather to unveil the 2008 All-Star logo. Lon Trost, Hank Steinbrenner and Randy Levine are there on the field as speeches are being made. Does this mean it’s Cashman and Steinbrenner in a bunker somewhere trying to trade Farnsworth? How does this get scheduled one hour before the trading deadline??

UPDATE 3:45- Gagne deal is done according to Olney with the Red Sox guaranteeing $3.6 million in incentives. Jon Heyman is reporting the Dye deal is unlikely. Still very, very quiet on the Yankees side, maybe they spent up all their creative energy on the All-Star logo?

This And That

Chamberlain looked pretty good in AAA tonight according to this report.  All I can say is "wow".

I normally don’t go with unsubstantiated rumors, but this one comes from one of our frequent commentators and a web author on his own, Jimmy.   Now, Pete Abraham says it isn’t so and I am not sure if he has the right names, but it is interesting that both Jeff Marquez and Alan Horne do not show up on minorleaguebaseball.com with a team name next to their entries.  Yes, it is a conspiracy theory, but Alberto Gonzalez was just promoted to AAA today and his name is listed on the correct team.  Plus, you know the Yankees would want to really check Gagne out medically, so is it possible a trade has been agreed to in principal and Gagne is on his way to New York from Cleveland where the Rangers play tomorrow night? 

Should be fun to sleep on tonight, back in the morning.

The Deadline Looms

I hate to break this for you Red Sox Fans, but Andy has selfishly gone on a family vacation which means you are stuck with me for the next 24 hours. Then again, I am quite sure this experience will do us both some good.

Anyway, for the next day I will be dishing info about both teams, Yankees and Red Sox as we approach the non-waiver deadline.

So far, not much is going on. The Red Sox were reportedly close to getting Jermaine Dye but that deal seems to have stalled.

The Yankees and Red Sox are both in Gagne according to Jason Stark, but the Rangers asked for Hughes or Chamberlain from the Yankees which won’t happen and Gagne can block a trade to Boston which means the Red Sox would probably have to pony up some cash. (Don’t forget Scott Boras is Gagne’s agent)

The big movers are clearly the Braves who have reportedly landed Teixeria and could be adding Octavio Dotel (see above) and maybe even Bronson Arroyo

If the Braves make all those moves would that compel the Mets to up the ante on Gagne? What do you think will happen? Feel free to vote below

A New Reliever

The Yankees have officially moved Joba Chamberlain into the bullpen.  He will pitch Monday and Wednesday and then the Yankees will evaluate his progress. 

I am heartened by the fact that Brian Cashman confirmed that Joba’s future is in the rotation, but this move has me conflicted.  Joba could come up to the Yankees and blow people away and make me look stupid in the process, but what if he doesn’t?  What if he struggles and loses confidence?  Some scouts have said they rate Joba higher than Hughes which means the Yankees should have two great young pitchers in their rotation for the forseeable futute and I don’t like messing with that.   

Furthermore, what does this say about pitchers like Ramirez, Bean, Beam and other relievers in the organization?  Jose Veras is back pitching after being hurt earlier in the year.  Only six innings so far, but why don’t the Yankees take a look at him?

I suppose I should be glad that the Yankees are finally trying different approaches.  Their refusal to do so in the past (using Phillips as the utility infielder, Matsui learning how to play firstbase, etc.) has bothered me and I probably shouldn’t complain now, but this move seems like a big risk to me. 

********

Depending on what you read, I have seen trade rumors about just about every pitcher in the bullpen.  One fascinating one is that the Mariners might be interested in Igawa.  (Check out Rosenthal’s full count on fox.com)  It’s hard to invision what role Igawa would have with the Yankees in 2008 since the Yankees will probably go with some of their young pitchers (Kennedy pitched six shutout innings last night in his Scranton debut.) and I can’t see him in the bullpen.  His contract is very reasonable ($4 million a year) it is just the $26 million they spent on his posting fee. If they could get a prospect back (and please not Richie Sexson) it could be worth doing.  

One thing is certain, this had better be Farnsworth’s last game as a Yankee.  He is useless to them at this point and he could have broken Posada’s wrist with that pitch he crossed him up on.  It really seems like they have reached the point where his subtraction from the club would be an addition.  

The Yankees have about 44 hours to figure all of this out as the trading deadline is Tuesday afternoon.   

*****

Phil Hughes is obviously ready.  6.2 innings, three hits, no runs, three walks and four K’s.  He threw 91 pitches.

Should be a fun two days, I will be updating as things happen and tomorrow and Tuesday I will try and aseemble links to all the rumors.   

 

 

Karstens

Lost in all the anticipation of Phil Hughes’ return to the Yankees is Jeff Karstens. Karstens has been doing very well in the minors rehabbing and it is hard to imagine the Yankees will keep him in AAA much longer.

So, what role does Karstens take and who does he replace? If we assume the Yankees are serious about keeping 12 pitchers, and I think they are, a very interesting dilemma is approaching. Figure that Hughes will swap places with Henn, but the Yankees would then have to drop/demote either Myers, Villone, Bruney, Proctor and Farnsworth in order to activate Karstens. (Side note, Hughes is on the 60-day DL, so activating him will also require a change to the 40-man. Colter Bean would be my guess as to who is dropped.)

Seems to me like this is another sign that a trade is coming. Joe Torre has said for awhile he wants a “real” long reliever in the bullpen and Karstens would give them that. So, the bet here is that they add him to the roster, but not before trading away one of the other arms.

*****
Brian Cashman looked very smart on Friday when the Diamondbacks announced that Randy Johnson will miss the rest of the season with back surgery. While the prospects he received in the trade have not done much to date (Gonzalez is hitting in Trenton, but he bombed in AAA, Jackson has been a disaster and Ohlendorf has been hurt and inconsistent) Luis Vizcaino has emerged into a real plus for the team. Johnson managed only 56 innings for Arizona, a figure that Vizcaino will probably surpass in the next week and the Yankees saved $11-million in the process (Rj’s $16 million salary minus Vizcaino’s $3-million and the $2-million they sent to Arizona as part of the trade).

Igawa Sent Down

Just heard on WFAN that the Yankees have sent Igawa to the minors (they didn’t say where or for whom) This is obviously a sign that Hughes will be in the rotation next week and a move they had to make.

I don’t know what to make of Igawa, but perhaps the Yankees should stay away from Japanese pitchers whose name begins in “I” from now on.

This also clears the way for Hughes to start next week. The question is, do they let him start for Scranton on Sunday or have him pitch in the bigs on Tuesday?

More as I hear it.

UPDATE 5:20- Chris Basak has been recalled from Scranton. This makes sense because Torre has said for awhile that he wants to get back to 12 pitchers.

Trade “Dud”line?

Jon Heyman has a very interesting article on CNNSI today detailing the trade deadline machinations and theorizing that most trades won’t happen.  An eye-opening quote is that the Yankees were apparently told by a club out of contention that they wouldn’t trade middle relievers unless they were "blown away".  As Heyman points out, for a GM on a bad team to say that is nothing short of malpractice. 

But, if that is truly the state of things, the Yankees should look to selectively sell some assets.  Scott Proctor is cheap and durable, that should be worth a lot in this enviornment.  Farnsworth isn’t cheap or durable, but if the Yankees paid a hunk of his contract, I bet they could deal him.  Filling those spots with Britton and Ramirez would be my vote.  

Kenny Lofton was traded today which means the Texas fire sale may have begun and it should be interesting to see where it ends because they have a lot of players they could trade. 

******

Tonight will be very interesting with the conclusion of the suspended game before the scheduled game begins.  Jeter will be on 2nd with Matsui hitting and 2 outs in the 8th.  The Yankees have an 8-6 lead, but will need to get six outs to win and Luis Vizcaino has already been used.  Mike Myers is currently in the game for the Yankees and with Markakis leading off, I would expect him to face one batter at least.  The Baltimore pitcher, Chris Ray, is on the DL so the Orioles need to bring someone else in.  They have used Shuey and Parrish, so maybe we will see Bradford.  

Anyway you slice it, it should be fun to see.   

The Kid is Alright

Manny Ramirez appears to be back in business.  He has entered one of his prodigious offensive streaks and shame on any of us for counting him out.  Actually, I think all of us counted him out at some point this season, but he is back.  We won’t be fooled again.

Manny in July through Thursday’s game:  .368/.473/.697 for an OPS of 1.170.

But of continued concern is the lack of production from David Ortiz.  To say he isn’t producing isn’t entirely fair, he is playing well above league average, but he isn’t playing well for David Ortiz.  He has 16 HR’s thus far, but should be double that if he wanted to come close to the 54 HR’s he hit in 2006.  Essentially, Ortiz is right on target for Avg and OBP, but way off for SLG.

So with the trade deadline upon us, here are a few of the names that have been kicked around.

Ty Wiggington – A utility infielder with pop.  24 HR’s in 2006, 15 so far in 2007.  He’d be a nice addition.

Jermaine Dye – Mired in a slump all season.  He has hit 6 HR’s since the break, but his average and obp are still way off.  He’d be a welcome addition, but not necessarily better than what Boston has on its roster today.  If the 2006 Dye shows up, that’s a much different story.

Mark Teixeira – Solid offensive weapon with .900 OPS potential.  Drawbacks are that he is going to cost a ton in talent to acquire and would force either Youkilis or Lowell to sit.  If the Red Sox are certain they aren’t going to re-sign Lowell for 2008, then it might be a deal worth making.

Andy LaRoche – Brother of Adam, LaRoche struggled to start the season in Los Angeles but has hit well at AAA since his demotion.  He has smacked AAA pitching around, but otherwise remains unproven.  Because he is a top prospect, he will be expensive yet won’t guarantee any results at the major league level.

Todd Helton – Helton is again without the power he had in the early part of this decade, but he gets on base and hits for a solid average…kind of like Kevin Youkilis.  In fact, check out this 2007 comparison:

Youk – .312/.407/.469, 58 R, 9 HR, 48 RBI

Helt – .303/.429/.458, 47 R, 9 HR, 55 RBI

They are pretty close except Helton makes $16.6m and Youkilis makes $425k.  I say let Helton stay in Colorado.

Reggie Sanders – Too old and injury prone.  He isn’t the dynamic player the Red Sox could use.

Operating under the idea that the Red Sox are not willing to sit JD Drew and Julio Lugo (who also has broken out of his slump) because of how much they make, just where are the Red Sox going to improve themselves offensively?  I think it just might be on the bench (hello Wiggington).

So there you have it, I think the Red Sox can improve with a trade for Wiggington.  I suppose if you think the risk/reward is palatable in trading for Andruw Jones (and moving Crisp), then he is one idea too.  But if the Red Sox aren’t willing to unload their top prospects, then I think a mid-level upgrade is the only thing we’ll see by Tuesday 4pm, a/k/a the non-waiver trade deadline.

BTW, Curt Schilling made his 2nd rehab start tonight and posted this line:

5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 SO – 66 pitches, 44 strikes.  My guess is 1 more rehab start to build up the pitch count and then back to Boston.  So that would mean his ETA in the Boston rotation is Monday August 6th.

Don’t Be A Playa Hater

The news that Jason Giambi is close to returning has been met by groans from Yankees’ fans who don’t want to see Melky get sent to the bench.  That is very understandable, Melky has been fun to watch and since a terrible April, has been hitting bullets. 

But, Giambi is a clearly better offensive player and he hit .322/.404/.517 in April before he injured his foot in the first place.  He can’t run, he can’t field, but the guy is built to be a DH in the American League and the lineup will be more explosive with him.

However, the Yankees could get creative when Giambi gets back and that would be the best scenario.  Instead of putting Damon right back into center, how about trying him again at first?  Yes, Andy Phillips deserves to keep playing, but Phillips is not going to put up numbers like Giambi.  I would guess that his current line of .305/.350/.427 is about as good as he is going to be, and that is why I would like to see the Yankees keep Melky in center.

We just don’t know enough about Melky right now.  In 792 AB’s in the bigs he has hit .278/.348/.381, but he has shown much better numbers since April hittting .304/.365/.442 which is almost in line with the average AL right fielder who is hitting .283/.356/.453.  Why do I say RF instead of CF?  Because that is where the Yankees have a big choice to make. 

When the season ends the Yankees can choose to bring back Bobby Abreu for $16 million in 2008 by exercising his option.  Or they could exercise it and trade him like they did with Sheffield, or they could let him go.  If Mekly Cabrera has proved to Cashman and the other talent evaluators that he is ready to play full time, the choice is simple, exercise it and trade Abreu for prospects.  Damon looks like he is going to be ok and Matsui is entrenched in left for the next couple of years.  By trying Damon at first now, the Yankees could solve both problems becuase Melky’s bat is much better in center (average AL CF is .275/.344/.423) and they could keep Abreu one more year and then start the great purge in 2009 when Abreu and Giambi become FA’s.  

Giambi’s return will make a deep lineup only deeper, the question is how will they blend everything together?  Stay tuned.