Much Ado…

Just like Peter’s excitement over the Yankees moves, the Red Sox acquiring Craig Breslow really doesn’t make me feel like the Red Sox have accomplished anything. Keep in mind, I think the Red Sox need a thoughtful, partial dismantling after all.

For Breslow, the Red Sox traded Matt Albers and Scott Podsednik. The most interesting part of acquiring the lefty Breslow is that if Ryan Lavarnway gets called up this year, the Red Sox will have two Yale grads on the active roster. Wonder if that’s ever happened before.

Albers was on the active roster, Podsednik was not. Also, with Ryan Sweeney busting his hand in anger, the Red Sox put him on the DL and recalled Ryan Kalish.

One additional late move, the Red Sox traded Lars Anderson for Steven Wright, the great Boston comedian and Red Sox fan. Wait, wrong Steven Wright. This one is a minor league pitcher and at 27 years old doesn’t qualify as a prospect. Not sure if this move will ever mean anything. Anderson seemed to have hit a ceiling and his power/on base capabilities never made it beyond Portland.

Just learned Wright throws a knuckle.

We Have A Deal!-UPDATED

Ok, maybe the exclamation point is overkill, but the Yankees have traded Chad Qualls for Casey Mcghee.

McGehee is exactly what the Yankees needed, a guy who hits righty and plays first and third with second thrown in in an emergency. He had 23 homers in 2010. And he is hitting .250/.344/463 vs. LHP in 2012 a bit better than his career line of .259/.327/.427. He makes $2.5 million this year, his first year or arbitration.

Considering that the price was Chad Qualls, a guy who was going to be DFA’ed as soon as Joba comes back, this move has no downside. The Yankees can keep Nix on the bench, platoon McGhee at third and they also have some protection if Teixeira takes awhile to get healthy.

The interesting decision will be when Joba is activated. I can’t believe the Yankees would send Phelps down, but if not Phelps, who gets sent down? I don’t see another obvious move.

UPDATE In my excitement to get this post up, I didn’t do my math very well. By subtracting Qualls, the Yankees open up a spot for McGhee. When they wish to activate Joba, they can simply send Pena down. It’s a pitcher for a hitter and then a hitter for a pitcher, so everything works out. And actually, Joel Sherman is reporting that Joba has been told to get back to New York from Trenton so he can be activated.

Not Good

If you didn’t see the Mark Teixeira injury tonight, it didn’t look like much, but it could be a huge problem for the Yankees. Apparently, he felt it yesterday swinging at a pitch and then slammed his glove diving for a ball today and couldn’t swing a bat after that. He said on the YES postgame that x-rays were negative, but he is going for a MRI tomorrow. He didn’t seem overly worried, comparing it to an injury he had before that was treated with a few days of rest and a cortisone shot. He described it as, “more achy and sore than major pain.” Hopefully, he is good as self-diagnosis.

The timing is pretty amazing, isn’t it? Tomorrow is the trading deadline and the results of that MRI will have a major impact on Brian Cashman’s day. Considering how careful Girardi has been with Swisher so far, I can’t imagine we will see Texiera before Friday at the earliest, no matter what the MRI says. I suggested when A-Rod went down that Brandon Laird could be a good callup candidate and it’s worth noting he has played 31 games at first this year in addition to 70 at third. And while his overall line of .250/.309/.418 isn’t thrilling he is hitting .309/.361/.629 in July and .311/.354/.563 overall vs. LHP. Even if Teixiera avoids the DL, Laird seems like a better fit right now than Pena.

Stay tuned, tomorrow is going to be an interesting day.

They Should Be Sellers

With the trade deadline fast approaching the Red Sox need to decide whether to be buyers or sellers. Like the Globe’s Nick Cafardo, I think they have no choice but to be sellers. As Cafardo points out, the Red Sox haven’t been to the postseason since 2008 and the roster as configured just isn’t working.

This makes Ben Cherington’s declaration that the Red Sox aren’t giving up so frustrating. This is a sub .500 team and while I don’t think a “blow it up” scenario is necessary, a “shake it up” scenario is necessary.

At all costs, I’d rid myself of Josh Beckett. There isn’t much market for Beckett, so he’d be a swap of bad salaries or they’d have to eat much of his salary, kind of like they did with Youkilis, oh, and Lugo and Renteria and the list goes on.

Also, what roles do Daniel Nava and Ryan Sweeney serve at this point? With Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury and Cody Ross penciled in, Nava and Sweeney are spare parts.

Kelly Shopach has performed very nicely but with only a one year deal, serves no purpose. Ryan Lavarnway is a more than capable replacement.

I’d hang onto Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.

As for Crawford, I’d move him in a heartbeat but there really is no imaginable scenario where the Red Sox can move him without eating most if not all of the salary. It’s a shame.

This team is going no where fast and hasn’t show even slightest ability to dominate. Mix it up Ben and show us you have courage.

On another note, where has the OBP gone? The Red Sox are 11th in MLB in OBP with a .325. Starting ss is below .300 as is Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Adrian Gonzalez is at .333, an embarrassingly low number for a player of his calibre. Even more reaso to shake things up.

A-Rod To The DL- UPDATED

Ugh, Alex got hit by a pitch on his left hand and Joe Girardi just announced that he has a non-displaced fracture of his hand. No timetable will be determined for his return until he sees the team doctor in New York Thursday. For what it’s worth, Eric Chavez broke the same bone in his hand in 2004 and missed almost six weeks.

First off, what amazingly bad luck the Yankees have. This is the second guy they have lost this year with a broken bone.

So, I guess Eric Chavez is the new third baseman. I am hoping the Yankees recall Brandon Laird. Laird’s overall numbers in the minors are not that impressive (.249/.310/.408) but he has hit lefties to the tune of .296/.341/.505. He would make an interesting platoon partner for Chavez. I suppose Nunez could make some sense, but he is rehabbing from an injury and the Yankees sent him to the minors to solidify his defense at short.

UPDATE: Joel Sherman is reporting that Ramiro Pena is on his way to Seattle. He adds that this doesn’t mean Pena will take A-Rod’s place on the roster, but with Swisher out today, the Yankees wanted someone who could backup multiple positions. They will reassess their needs after today’s game.

Three Questions

Now that the dust has settled on the Ichiro trade, I have three questions about how it impacts the Yankees.

1- Should he play left or right?

Ichiro was Seattle’s rightfielder, but the Yankees already have Swisher in that spot. Take any defensive metric, and Ichiro is the superior outfielder. He leads Swisher in range factor 2.16 to 2.00. He has 3 assists to Swisher’s 2. Going to more advanced metrics his UZR is 15.6 and his ARM rates at a 3.7. Swisher’s UZR is 1.6 and his ARM rates at -0.7. So, Suzuki is clearly the better outfielder, a conclusion you would draw by watching them as well. Furthermore, Swisher has played leftfield in the majors 117 times, most recently for the Yankees in 2009. Suzuki hasn’t appeared there since the 2001 playoffs when he made a spot start in left. But, Yankee Stadium has a bigger leftfield than rightfield and the sun is much harder to handle in left than right. It’s a close call, but I would at least consider switching Swisher to left and putting Ichiro in right if I were the Yankees.

2- Who should be the DH against RHP?

I was somewhat surprised that Joe Girardi seemed to indicate that Ibanez would be the everyday DH against RHP because he isn’t the best candidate. Ibanez has certainly done damage against RHP, but his slash line of .251/.315/.474 pales in comparison to Chavez’s .295/.353/.525 against RHP. If I were Girardi, I would consider putting Chavez in there as the everyday DH against RHP.

3- Do the Yankees need to make another move?

The problem with Ichiro is that he cannot hit LHP. That is also a problem for Chavez and Ibanez. When the Yankees face a LHP they can put Jones in at DH or LF, but not both, so Ichiro probably plays against a type of pitcher he cannot hit. (.232/.242/.267) Ideally, the Yankees would find someone who could hit against LHP and to keep Ichiro on the bench in those situations. The answer may be Brandon Laird who is hitting .298/.344/.505 against LHP at AAA. When September rolls around the Yankees could promote him (he is already on the 40-man) and give him a shot as an every day player against LHP. The other nice thing about Laird is that the Yankees have turned him into an Eric HInske type player. He can play third and first and the corner outfield spots in a pinch.

Ichiro?

We should simply acknowledge that we don’t have a clue what Brian Cashman is up to. Jack Curry is reporting that the Yankees have traded for Ichiro Suzuki. In exchange for Ichiro, who will be a free agent after this season, the Yankees gave up D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar.

Let’s cover what Ichiro can’t do first. He can’t get on base very much anymore and he can’t hit for average, power, or against lefties. But, he can run and play defense. Assuming the Yankees have made it clear to him that he will be a part-time player, I don’t see a lot of downside in this deal.

Mitchell has never been considered more than a fringe prospect and he has been hit hard at Scranton this year. Farquhar is a guy who has bounced all over the waiver wire this year. He started the season with Toronto, got DFA’ed and picked up by Oakland and then picked up by the Yankees when Oakland DFA’ed him. The Yankees also DFA’ed him, but he passed through waivers and was assigned to Trenton.

So, this is essentially a salary dump by Seattle. (And I should note that the Yankees are getting some cash in this deal too.) The Yankees get a guy who can provide excellent defense in left or right, swipe a bag and still do some damage against RHP. This will allow them to keep Ibanez out of the field. Pretty good move by Cashman in my mind.

UPDATE 6:34 Joel Sherman reports that the Yankees will pay just over $2 million to the Ichiro for the rest of the year. So, this basically boils down to which player do you like more in a big spot- Ichiro or Dewayne Wise?

UPDATE 11;00pm A few notes. The Yankees started a lineup with more than 17,000 career hits in the majors tonight. That has to be close to a record, no?

I like that Ichiro deferred to Bernie and didn’t ask for #51. That number should remain out of circulation for a few more years.

Finally, nice job by the Seattle fans and Ichiro when he came up to the plate for the first time tonight.

The Green Machine

I think Alex Rodriguez summed up this weekend for the Yankees perfectly with this quote:

“We ran into the green machine over there. They’re dangerous right now. They’re in a situation where they feel that they’re in a game; that they can win every game. We know the feeling.”

You should tip your cap to the A’s, they are playing great baseball right now and the Yankees ran into them at the wrong time.

But, it’s hardly the end of the world as some in New York portray it to be. Losing stinks, but the margin of loss matters and in this case it was one run in every game. Change one play or one decision from the A’s favor to the Yankees and you have a very different series.

Along those lines, I found two decisions by Joe Girardi yesterday to be curious.

First, starting Jason Nix and then bringing in Jeter as a defensive replacement. I get that Jeter needs to be rested, but with Swisher out and a day game after a night game, you already had Wise and Stewart in the lineup. Considering the struggle it was for the Yankees to score runs in the first three games of the series, was a bottom-third of a lineup consisting of Wise, Nix and Stewart a good idea? And, if you have to bring in Jeter for defense, what does that mean?

Second, why pull David Phelps in the 11th? Phelps is the long guy and he threw only 19 pitches. I know Seth Smith had taken Soriano deep in his last AB, but Phelps was dominating hitters. The move worked, Rapada retired Smith, but the move seemed curious to me. Why not let the rookie show you what he can do?

The only answer I could come up with is that Girardi feels he needs Phelps rested for Tuesday when Freddy Garcia takes the mound. I understand that thinking, but it also means the Yankees are starting the wrong guy. Even if Girardi isn’t thinking that way, the Yankees are starting the wrong guy.

Think about it. The chances of the Yankees bringing Garcia back are very, very small. Phelps on the other hand will certainly be back. Now, go one step further and think for minute about the 2013 rotation. Let’s put three spots in pen- Sabathia, Hughes and Nova. If Pineda is healthy, he would certainly merit a spot, but the Yankees cannot plan on him being healthy. Now, you could round out the rotation with Pettitte and Kuroda, assuming they both want to return, but you still would want someone waiting in the wings to cover for any injuries. The most likely guy for that role in 2013 is David Phelps.

But, the Yankees are doing to Phelps what they did to Hector Noesi last year, leaving him on the bench. So far, Phelps has 64 innings of work between the majors and the minors. Yet, in his 45 innings of works in the majors he has shown very good stuff and apart from walking a few too many guys, looks like someone who could be a solid addition to the rotation. He just needs to pitch more.

So, the Yankees have a choice. Keep using him sporadically in a long role, or put him into the fifth spot of the rotation and let him make six or seven starts before Pettitte gets back. It’s not as if Freddy is dominating opponents, so there is little downside. And, if Phelps continues to flourish, the Yankees have another young pitcher they can add to the combo of Hughes and Nova while they continue to pray for Banuelos’ health and Betances command to return.

Let’s Not Print The World Series Tickets In July

On May 28th, I wondered how the Yankees would fare over their next 44 games. With yesterday’s win against Toronto, we have an answer, really really well. The Yankees not only survived a rough patch in the schedule, they dominated it, going 31-13. Not only that, but they went from 2-1/2 back in the division to 9-1/2 games up thanks to the fact that only Boston has played above .500 ball in the AL East since that date.

But, let’s not forget that there are still 71 games left to play. Almost half a season to go. In fact, today is an anniversary that should remind us that nothing is settled in July. It was 34 years ago tonight that the Yankees started to climb out of the 14-game deficit in the AL East. That 1978 team went 51-21 over its final 72 games while Boston went 37-35. If these Yankees close their season in a similar fashion, they will end up with 93 wins. That would mean Baltimore would have to go 46-24 to beat them a .657 clip. Boston would need one additional win, so 47-23, a .671 clip. Both are difficult, but certainly not impossible. And remember, Boston still has 12 games against the Yankees and Baltimore has 10, so they will have plenty of chances to cut that lead down.

To me the biggest question mark in all of this is Brett Gardner. We still haven’t heard what his MRI on Monday showed. That indicates to me that he can’t be counted on to return. While the Yankees haven’t missed his bat, they certainly have missed his glove. The Ibanez/Jones combo would be a perfect DH tandem. As outfielders, they are not assets. So, if I were Brian Cashman, I would be trying to find someone who could take over leftfield on a regular basis in the trade market and it doesn’t have to be a rental guy.

This is a fairly similar situation to the trade deadline of 2006. Back then the Yankees had Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui on the DL. The Yankees had an option on Sheffield for 2007, but they could also let him walk in the free agent market. They went out and got Bobby Abreu from the Phillies and then picked up the option, but traded Sheffield in the off season. With Nick Swisher a potential free agent after the season, the Yankees could try and trade for a guy who could play left now, with the idea that he switches over to right in 2013. Perhaps someone like a Josh Willingham, Michael Cuddyer or David DeJesus. Three guys who are playing on teams that are in rebuilding mode. (I recognize that in that trio only DeJesus could be called a good outfielder, but I still think Willingham or Cuddyer would be better than the Ibanez/Jones combo.)

Or, the Yankees could sit back and do nothing, which is probably Brian Cashman’s preferred route. I wouldn’t be overly upset if they stood pat, but I hope that would be a reflection of the prices in the trade market rather than being happy with where they are in the standings. There is plenty of baseball left to be played.

Win-Win?

Mitchell pointed out in the comments that Russell Martin had to be a pretty happy guy because Joe Girardi didn’t pinch-hit for him last night. Martin rewarded his manager’s faith with a RBI single that turned out to be the difference in a great win. I’ve been thinking about Martin and his struggles a lot during the All-Star break and I’ve decided that ultimately they have provided the Yankees with a win-win situation. Let me explain.

There’s no denying that Martin was terrible in the first half. His batting line of .179/.300/.385 is pathetic and his defense wasn’t what we were used to seeing. Yet, despite that awful performance, the Yankees entered the break with the best record in baseball. That’s a strange “win”, but a win nonetheless in my mind.

And the reason for that is because Martin is going to be a free agent after this season. Unless he has a monster second half (which would obviously be a win for the Yankees) his value will be severely depressed when he hits the market after the season. Entering 2012, the Yankees were hoping that Austin Romine would progress enough that the Yankees could hand over the catching duties to him in 2013. Since Romine only got into a game for the first time yesterday, that isn’t going to happen.

So, the Yankees are going to need a full-time catcher in 2013 and they should have plenty of leverage with Martin. They could offer him arbitration, which would allow Martin to re-establish his free agent value and the Yankees to avoid locking in additional payroll for 2014. Or, they could try and sign him to a favorable two-year deal, keeping his impact to the 2014 payroll to a minimum. Either way, they can break in Romine in 2013.

That’s a win-win in my book.