The one who got away • 10.27.10
First pitch of the World Series is just minutes away, and it’s the team that landed Cliff Lee that’s representing the American League.
On the morning of July 9, the Yankees seemed on their way to being that team. They had a deal in place, acquiring Lee for a package of prospects headlined by Jesus Montero. It was more or less a press release away from being done. The Yankees were — oddly enough — in Seattle at the time, and I just remember a long day of phone calls and text messages, and constantly refreshing the Twitter account of any writer who seemed plugged into the Mariners front office.
No need to rehash the whole thing here, but the short story is this: The Mariners were spooked by David Adams’ faulty ankle. They asked to change the package, and Brian Cashman said no. Adams had been on the disabled list for weeks, and it’s hard to imagine the injury came as a surprise. We’ll never know of course, but it’s easy to imagine the whole thing being a ploy by the Mariners.
Suddenly, the Rangers were in the mix, and Lee was on his way to Texas for a package built around Justin Smoak.
“I would do the same thing again,” Cashman said.
“I went home Thursday night, thinking we had a deal with the Yankees,” Armstrong told the Seattle Times. “Pending an exchange of the physical information of the players involved. The next morning, when we got into the details of the physicals of the players involved, one of the players that was coming to us from the Yankees was disabled, and based upon the best medical information that our team medical director, Edward Khalfayan, had, he recommended that we not proceed.
“Jack (Zduriencik) and his people then spent some time with the Yankees trying to come up with an alternative player, or players, to replace that player. Or even players to be named later. If we could come up with that. In the meantime, other clubs became involved. The White Sox, Minnesota and Texas to name a few.”
Given the end results, it’s easy to second guess and wonder if Cashman should have agreed to the changes – apparently adding either Ivan Nova or Eduardo Nunez to the deal – but from an outside perspective, the whole thing seems odd. From the Mariners perspective, they were really shocked that Adams had a bad ankle? From the Yankees perspective, Nova or Nunez was a deal breaker?
It just doesn’t add up, and that’s coming from a guy who really likes both Nova and Nunez. Truth is, these deals generally have more to do with the biggest names involved, and if the Mariners preferred Smoak over Montero, then Lee was always going to end up in Texas.
Was it a turning point for the Yankees season? It very well could have been, but it also could have been Cashman being taken for a ride and refusing to participate.
“When you put yourself in a position to make decisions like that, you make them and you live with them,” Cashman said.
Associated Press photo of Lee
Two for one: About Montero and Adams • 07.09.10
Every report seems to mention the same two names — Jesus Montero and David Adams — going to the Mariners in the possible Cliff Lee deal. There could be a third prospect as well. For now we know these two names.
.253, 6 HR, 35 RBI
Considered one of the top hitting prospects in baseball, Montero has routinely faced questions about his ability to stay behind the plate. He seems to have made progress as a catcher, but it’s always been his bat that has wowed scouts and tantalized executives.
Why keep him? Because he can hit, and he’s shown signs of adjusting to Triple-A the past month and a half. After rocky two months, Montero was hitting .283 since June. His power numbers haven’t been overwhelming, but there’s enough of a track record to think that won’t be a problem.
Why trade him? Because there’s still no guarantee that he’s a viable defensive option in the major leagues, but mostly because Austin Romine is right behind him, apparently ready for a call-up to Triple-A. Romine is believed to be more polished behind the plate, and he’s hitting .281 with six home runs and 44 RBI in Double-A. The Yankees also have Gary Sanchez, J.R. Murphy and Kyle Higashioka in the minors, plus Jorge Posada signed for one more year in the majors. Catcher is a position of strength and depth in the system.
Double-A, second baseman
.309, 3 HR, 32 RBI
Injured since mid-May, Adams was off to a terrific start in Double-A. He’s a former third-round pick who breezed through Low-A and High-A last season, but an ankle injury sidelined him this season. He entered the season as clearly one of the top two or three infield prospects in the system.
Why keep him? Because he might have enough bat to be more than a utility man in the big leagues. The Yankees have plenty of utility options, but Adams is a fairly polished hitter out of the University of Virginia. He has some experience at third base, so he could become defensively flexible if necessary.
Why trade him? Mostly because Robinson Cano is an MVP candidate, Alex Rodriguez is a superstar and neither is going anywhere. Also, one of the Yankees prospects-on-the-rise is High-A second baseman Corban Joseph who’s hitting .315 with six home runs down in Tampa. Not to knock him, but given the player’s ultimate upside and the Yankees current roster status, clearly Montero is tougher to give up than Adams.