Are They Better?

The Yankees have apparently pulled off two trades tonight.  Lance Berkman and Austin Kearns are headed to the Bronx and Mark Melancon and some other guys are headed to Houston and Cleveland. 

Let’s start with Berkman.  In many ways this is a switch-hitting version of Nick Johnson, but his abilities against LHP are a thing of the past.  And while his slugging percentage has diminished from the left side, his line of .245/.372/.436 is certainly adequate in a platoon with Thames.  Throw in his 4.13 pitches per plate appearance and Berkman will do a solid job of mimicking Nick Johnson for the Yankees. 

Is that enough for Mark Melancon?  If you had asked me that at the start of the 2010 season, I would have said no.  At this point, I am not sure.  Melancon has taken a step back this season, but despite the 3.67 ERA his BABIP of .367 at Scranton points to bad luck.  And, he has still stuck out over one batter an inning.  However, he has also walked 31 batters in 56 innings, which is not encouraging.  

Melancon could still turn into something, though his AAA regression this season is discouraging.  If I were in charge of the Yankees, I would have had the Astros pay less of the freight on Berkman and included a lesser prospect, but Berkman is an upgrade over Juan Miranda or Colin Curtis.   I’m not thrilled with the final price, but the bench/DH just got a lot better and that’s the bottom line.

The other trade the Yankees made was for Austin Kearns in exchange for the infamous PTBNL. Kearns is better than Colin Curtis because he is a righty bat.  Other than that, there isn’t a lot to get excited about here.  His results this year may have a lot to do with his .335 BABIP than anything else.  But, if the Yankees deploy his line against LHP (.720OPS) in the lineup over Granderson’s (.538OPS) they have upgraded the lineup. 

What will be interesting to watch is how the Yankees fit these guys onto the roster.  Melancon comes off the 40-man, but someone else will have to as well. (Golson?)  But what about the active roster?  I would assume Miranda is gone with the Berkman addition, but who will bite the dust for Kearns?  I would hope it isn’t Thames, but it certainly could be.  Demoting Curtis would be a mistake as well.  Here’s a thought, with all the pitchers on the roster who can throw multiple innings, how about an 11-man pen?