The good, the bad and the mixed reviews • 01.21.13
When I choose Pinch Hitter posts, I try to find both sides of an argument. I look for some guest posters with a pessimistic view, and I look for some who are firm optimists. When Daniel first emailed me to suggest today’s pinch hitter topic, his proposal was built around these two sentences:
I truly believe the only way the Yankees will compete this season and next with this austerity budget looming will be via trades for young impact players like Justin Upton. I have not seen Brian Cashman, in my opinion, make a feasible trade since 2008 and the Nick Swisher trade so my confidence is at an all time low.
I was expecting an indictment of Cashman’s trade history, not a conclusion of full confidence, and my guess is that Daniel wasn’t expecting that conclusion either.
It’s tricky business trying to make an absolute, black-and-white evaluation of any team’s trade, draft and free agent history. There are going to be highs and lows, and even those highs and lows — with a few exceptions — are going to come with mixed reviews. The Nick Swisher deal was an absolute win for the Yankees. The Pedro Feliciano signing was a clear loss. But those are in the minority.
The A.J. Burnett signing depends on how much weight you put into his 2009 World Series performance.
The Jesus Montero trade depends on how well Michael Pineda comes back from shoulder surgery.
The Javier Vazquez trade depends on the development of Dante Bichette Jr., and whether you believe the Yankees would have kept Melky Cabrera long enough to see him emerge (and whether you believe his emergence would have stained the clubhouse).
The Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy draft depends on how you feel about the Joba Rules and the Curtis Granderson trade, and the Curtis Granderson trade depends on how you feel about Granderson’s soon-to-be four years with the Yankees and whether the Yankees need a younger center fielder, and whether the Yankees need a younger center fielder might depend on the development of Slade Heathcott, who was only drafted as compensation because the Yankees were unable to sign Gerrit Cole in 2008, which was the same draft that yielded David Phelps, who might not have gotten a big league chance last season had Pineda not been injured and Burnett not been traded.
Point is, it’s hard to put any of this in a vacuum and make a definitive statement. On a case-by-case basis, we can argue and deliberate and form opinions, but the collective moves of a front office rarely fit under a universal heading. There are positives and negatives, fodder for the pessimists and the optimists alike, and that’s why we can spend an entire winter — each and every winter — having the same basic debate over and over again.
Associated Press photo
Pinch hitting: Daniel Burch • 01.21.13
Up next in our Pinch Hitters series is Daniel Burch, who was born 27 years ago in Lebanon Hospital overlooking the old Yankee Stadium. Daniel has since moved to Atlanta and says that the Yankees are “easily the biggest thing that I miss from living in New York.” Daniel started his own blog, The Greedy Pinstripes, and calls himself a confessed “prospect hugger and anti austerity fan.”
Makes sense, then, that Daniel suggested a post about Brian Cashman’s trade history and whether Yankees fans should trust their general manager to make the necessary moves to keep the Yankees winning without a $200-million payroll.
For fans spoiled to grow up watching the Yankees during the dynasty years of the mid 90’s until as recently as 2009, we have all seen guys come through the system like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, David Robertson, and a plethora of others guys that I am unintentionally forgetting. We have also seen the Yankees go out and bid against themselves to get the biggest free agent prizes like Jason Giambi, Carl Pavano, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira, Gary Sheffield, Mike Mussina, David Wells, Hideki Matsui, and probably 600 other free agents that George Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman have gotten into pinstripes. With a seemingly infinite budget — in free agency, on the international market and in the draft — the Yankees and Cashman have not been afraid to pull off big trades involving prospects for proven veteran pieces to make another World Series run. It was fun to watch until the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and its harsher penalties for repeat luxury tax offenders.
The idea to get under the $189-million threshold to save some money and restart the penalties makes sense on paper, but does it make sense in the real world? I personally have my doubts, and my question has always been whether the fiscal savings by getting under the threshold would outweigh the fiscal hit the Yankees would take if we were mediocre on the field not only in 2014 but this season as well. Can the Yankees really compete in a deep and competitive American League East AND follow through with the austerity budget in what seems to be a rebuilding project? Sure, we can, but the only way that is going to happen is if we put our faith into Cashman’s alter ego: Ninja Cashman.
Let’s not beat around the bush: Our farm system, especially in the upper levels, is depleted and barren and not going to really help us in major spots in 2013 and beyond besides for maybe a David Adams, Corban Joseph, Adam Warren, or a Mark Montgomery. While those are nice pieces for depth or in a pinch, aside from Montgomery, none of these guys is a can’t-miss type that we will need to keep the payroll down and still compete. The only way we are going to get this done is if Ninja Cashman can pull off a trade or two that brings us a young and effective piece without creating too many other holes. But can we really bank on that? I am glad that you asked…
I took it upon myself to look at the past six seasons worth of trades, no matter how minor, and evaluate each one specifically to determine whether we should really put our faith into Ninja Cash or if we should expect to miss the playoffs the next two seasons. I am just going to hit the high spots because I do not think anyone puts much weight into trades like when we acquired Justin Maxwell from the Nationals in 2011 for some guy whose name I cannot pronounce and have to copy and paste his last name (Adam Olbrychowski) to make sure the spelling is correct. Let’s look and evaluate the trade history of Ninja Cash:
On July 23, 2012 the Yankees traded minor leaguers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar for Ichiro Suzuki. This trade worked out beautifully for the Yankees because we were never going to give either of the young guys a shot for the big club, and in 67 games Ichiro gave us a 0.8 WAR, wreaked havoc on the base paths, and was one of the few Yankees to not totally disappear when the calendar changed to October. Verdict: Good Trade
On April 4, 2012 Cashman traded George Kontos to the Giants for Chris Stewart. This trade never made much sense to me because, while I can agree that relievers are a dime a dozen and Kontos was not exactly young or a “can’t miss guy,” can you not say the same thing about backup, defensive-minded, no-bat catchers? And that’s especially relevant when the Yankees already had a capable backup in Francisco Cervelli. Kontos went on to have a pretty good season for the eventual World Series champions, while we were without guys like Mariano Rivera and Joba Chamberlain. Stewart did nothing of note for the Yankees. Granted Stewart looks more and more like our starting catcher in 2013, which I do not know if that is a good thing or a bad thing, so there is time to get some value out of this trade. Verdict: Bad Trade
On January 23, 2012 the Yankees traded Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos from the Mariners. As much as this trade hurt because I have watched Montero come through the system and salivated at the idea of his power in Yankee Stadium, the trade made sense because Pineda was a power arm with five years left of team control and filled a need. Campos was also considered to be able to walk into camp and be listed in our Top 5 Prospects list right away. He had much more potential then Noesi ever thought of having. The trade is obviously incomplete as even after the 2013 season we will still have three years left of Pineda, and Campos is still only in Charleston. You have to wonder if Pineda will ever come back and be effective for the Yankees, and the only redeeming factor in this trade is the fact that Montero once again seems to be without a true position and did not exactly tear the cover off of the ball while Noesi got lit up in Safeco. Verdict: Fair Trade
On July 31, 2010 the Yankees acquired “Kid K” Kerry Wood from the Cleveland Indians for two players to be named later — who turned out to be Matt Cusik and Andrew Shive — and cash. Kerry came over and absolutely dominated out of the Yankees pen with a 0.69 ERA in the second half while, to date neither, Shive nor Cusik has done anything for the tribe. Verdict: Good Trade
On December 22, 2009 the Yankees traded Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn, and Arodys Vizcaino for Boone Logan and Javier Vazquez. While in Atlanta, Cabrera was absolutely terrible, allowed to leave as a free agent, and eventually signed with Kansas City. Dunn has not done anything to lose sleep over, and Vizcaino is going to miss the 2013 season with Tommy John surgery. While Logan has been somewhat of the LOOGY we have been searching for the last five to ten seasons, Vazquez was absolutely terrible for the Yankees. It is a lot to give up just for essentially a LOOGY, but since we did not give up anything that has come back to bite us to date this trade gets my approval. Verdict: Good Trade
On December 8, 2009 the Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Tigers hooked up in a three-team trade that saw The Yankees acquire Curtis Granderson from Detroit while giving up Phil Coke and Austin Jackson to the Tigers and sending Ian Kennedy to Arizona with other lesser pieces moving back and forth. Granderson started out well for the Yankees and has compiled a 13.2 WAR since the trade. The pieces we gave up have compiled a 26.8 WAR in the same time period. Jackson has turned into one of the better leadoff men and center fielders in the American League, Coke has dominated us in the playoffs out of the pen, and Kennedy is one season removed from becoming a 20-game winner. Granderson has forgotten how to take routes in center field and has become an all-or-nothing kind of home run hitter that the Yankees were trying to get away from. Verdict: Bad Trade
Our final trade we are going to look at was on November 13, 2008 when the Yankees acquire Nick Swisher and reliever Kanekoa Texeira for Wilson Betemit, Jeffrey Marquez, and Jhonny Nunez. This was a classic buy low move after Swisher had the worst season of his career in Chicago and rebounded nicely in four seasons for the Yankees. We gave up nothing of note and got a fan favorite in return that the Yankees are scrambling and struggling to replace after leaving via free agency this season. Swisher has compiled a 15 WAR in his time in pinstripes where Betemit, Marquez, and Nunez combined have brought Chicago a 2 WAR. Verdict: Excellent Trade
I know that I have missed a few trades, but for the sake of space, I hit the high spots and went over the bigger of the trades. According to my tally, I have one excellent trade, three good trades, one fair trade, and two bad trades. Trades, much like the MLB draft, are a crap shoot because you never know what you are going to get, but on the bigger trades Ninja Cash seems to get the better end of the deal more often than not.
I am not the most patient Yankees fan, and I definitely hate settling for anyone less then Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton this offseason — hence the name Greedy Pinstripes. My faith in my General Manager and the team’s commitment to winning will never waiver. Ninja Cash has been fantastic at finding cheap value late in the offseason and in trades, and I have full confidence that he will again in 2013 and 2014 to keep this team in contention.
Associated Press photos
Those are Mark Teixeira’s words after yesterday’s Opening Day home run. It seemed that Teixeira dismissed his slow start last season, saying he always trusted that he would eventually live up to the numbers on the back of his baseball card. This winter, though, Teixiera put extra time and effort into his swing, taking more hacks than usual.
“Sometimes your swing is the last thing you think about,” he said.
Teixiera thought about his swing this winter, and he went to work keeping it in shape hoping to avoid last year’s slow start. He had a terrific spring training, then hit a massive three run home run in the opener.
Today Joe Posnanski posted his prediction of the top 32 players in baseball this season. He has Teixiera barely on the list, coming in at No. 32. It’s probably about right considering last year’s numbers, but there’s certainly the potential for more this year.
“I have a suspicion that this year he will have a massive season,” Posnanski wrote.
Here’s Teixeira after yesterday’s game.
• Cool post over at The Yankee Analysts detailing how and when each member of the Yankees Opening Day roster came to the franchise.
• He didn’t have much impact with the Yankees, and now Randy Winn has decided to retire. One of the most polite players I’ve ever met.
• After he was released from Yankees camp, infielder Ronnie Belliard signed a minor league deal with the Phillies.
• Some other familiar faces winning jobs in new places: Mark Melancon made the Astros bullpen, Sergio Mitre will be in the Brewers pen, Lance Berkman really did open as the Cardinals right fielder, Juan Miranda started at first base for the Diamondbacks, Shelley Duncan made the Indians bench, Dustin Moseley is in the Padres rotation, Ross Ohledorf is the No. 3 starter for the Pirates, Jeff Karstens and Jose Veras are both in the Pirates bullpen, and Jose Tabata is the Pirates starting left fielder.
Associated Press photo
Decisions to be named later • 01.26.11
When today’s guest post suggestion first popped into my email inbox, I remember immediately trying to come up with Brian Cashman’s most embarrassing prospect loss. Mike Lowell, maybe? That’s a bad one, but it also came more than a decade ago. Most recently, Ben’s right on the money: Cashman has traded away young players who became solid big leaguers, but no stars.
Giving away C.J. Henry for Bobby Abreu was a steal. So was landing Nick Swisher for a package built around Jeff Marquez. When the Yankees traded for Alex Rodriguez, the PTBNL was Joaquin Arias, who actually had quite a bit of prospect clout at the time. As Ed pointed out, Dioner Navarro and Brandon Claussen never developed into stars. I’ll add that neither did John-Ford Griffin, who was traded barely a year after being a first-round draft pick.
It’s hard to argue that Cashman has generally known which prospects to keep and which to trade, but to be fair, some of Cashman’s recent prospect dealing is still to be determined. Four trades that standout to me as to-be-judged-later:
July 26, 2008
Fighting to make the playoffs, Cashman made a deal with the Pirates to add outfielder Xavier Nady and left-handed reliever Damaso Marte.
The cost: Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendrof, Jeff Karstens and Dan McCutchen
There’s no chance this trade will ever be a positive for the Yankees. They missed the playoffs in 2008, Nady was hurt in 2009 and Marte has been a disappointment (aside from the ’09 playoffs). This was a bad trade for the Yankees, the only question is how bad. It hinges on Ohlendorf to some extent — he’s proven to be a solid starter, might never step to the next level — but it mostly hinges on Tabata. Always highly touted, Tabata’s stock had taken a hit when the Yankees traded him, and he bounced back with the Pirates. Tabata hit .299/.346/.400 last season. For a Yankees team light on upper-level outfielders, he’d be a nice option in 2011.
December 8, 2009
Uncertain about Austin Jackson’s ultimate upside, the Yankees worked a three-way trade to add Curtis Granderson as a short-term and long-term solution in center field.
The cost: Austin Jackson, Ian Kennedy and Phil Coke
Whether the trade was worth it will depend on whether Granderson keeps making the strides. Whether Cashman gave up the wrong prospects will almost certainly depend on Kennedy and Jackson. There’s no question the Yankees sold low on Kennedy, who was one year removed from a brutal showing in New York, and only a few months removed from surgery. Kennedy pitched well next season, and could help in their current situation. Did the Yankees give up too soon? Jackson was a Rookie of the Year candidate, but high strikeout total and relatively low power numbers were significant reasons the Yankees were willing to lose him. There’s was never any doubt Jackson would be a solid big leaguer, the question was — and is — whether he can take the next step to become a star.
December 22, 2009
Looking to add stability to the back of the rotation, the Yankees traded for Javier Vazquez, who was coming off a career year and had always — except his one previous year in New York — been a steady source of 200-plus innings.
The cost: Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino
Short-term, the trade didn’t work especially well for either team. Dunn and Boone Logan pretty much negated one anther, while both Cabrera and Vazquez were significant disappointments. The long-term impact of this trade will depend on Vizcaino, who was considered the Yankees top lower-level pitching prospect, ranked as high as No. 3 overall in the Yankees organization by Baseball America. There’s raw talent, but Vizcaino is young enough that there’s significant risk between now and his potential big league debut. His first year with the Braves was cut short by injury, though not before he had a dominant 14-start stretch in Low A.
July 30, 2010
Needing to upgrade the bench and add some outfield depth, the Yankees made a move for fourth outfielder Austin Kearns, who was hitting .272/.354/.419 at the time in Cleveland.
The cost: Zach McAllister
Kearns was a huge asset for a brief time with the Yankees — at a time when injury meant he was a key part of the lineup — but he ultimately finished with awful numbers in New York. To get him, the Yankees gave up a starting pitcher who was having the first truly bad season of his career. McAllister had been a highly touted pitcher, one of the high points even in the Yankees deep system, but he had a 5.09 ERA in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at the time of the trade. Clearly McAllister isn’t missed right now — too many other pitchers have taken significant steps forward — but if McAllister bounces back, he could certainly be a player the Yankees regret losing.
A year of trades for the Yankees • 12.23.10
One year and one day after last winter’s trade for a Javier Vazquez, a look back at the Yankees trades from December to December.
December 7, 2009
RHP Brian Bruney to the Nationals for OF Jamie Hoffmann
Why? Because Bruney was due for an arbitration raise and the Yankees outfield depth was woefully low.
Good move? Didn’t really matter. Bruney probably would have been non-tendered anyway, and the Yankees at least got to take a look at a guy who’s now on the Dodgers 40-man roster. No harm done. Hoffmann was a Rule 5 pick who didn’t stick. Bruney was a reliever on his way out.
December 8, 2010
RHP Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks, LHP Phil Coke and CF Austin Jackson to the Tigers for CF Curtis Granderson
Why? Because the Yankees were worried about Jackson’s holes and didn’t have a spot for Kennedy. In Granderson, they seemed to be getting a proven player who basically represented Jackson’s best-case scenario.
Good move? Little too early to say. Jackson, Coke and Kennedy each had good years, but Jackson showed the holes that the Yankees expected — a ton of strikeouts, not much power — and Kennedy might have benefited from the change of scenery. If Granderson continues the strides he made in the second half of last season, he’ll be better than any of the three players the Yankees sacrificed to get him.
December 22, 2009
CF Melky Cabrera, LHP Mike Dunn and RHP Arodys Vizcaino to the Braves for RHP Javier Vazquez and LHP Boone Logan
Why? Because the Yankees needed consistency and durability at the back of the rotation, and those had been trademarks of Vazquez for 10 years.
Good move? No. Vazquez was a complete disappointment, but Cabrera wasn’t very good either, and Logan for Dunn was basically a wash. This seemed to be a big trade, but in the end, the left-handed relievers were the best pieces. Even Vizcaino took a step back, making only 17 starts because of a torn ligament. The Yankees got a compensation pick when Vazquez signed the Florida, so that helps make up for the loss of a very young prospect.
January 26, 2010
INF Mitch Hilligoss to the Rangers for OF Greg Golson
Why? Because the Yankees needed outfield depth much more than infield depth.
Good move? Sure. Hilligoss had a nice year — .296/.365/.370 between High-A and Double-A — but Golson played a role in New York, and he should be around to do the same next season whenever the Yankees need him. Hilligoss would still be no higher than fourth or fifth on the utility depth chart. Golson is probably at the top of the outfield call-up list.
March 9, 2010
RHP Edwar Ramirez to the Rangers for cash considerations
Why? Because Ramirez had been designated for assignment to make room for Chan Ho Park.
Good move? At least they got something for him. Ramirez actually didn’t do much more than Park. He was ultimately traded to the A’s, pitched 11 innings in the big leagues and he’s now floating through free agency, probably destined for a minor league deal somewhere.
July 30, 2010
RHP Zach McAllister to the Indians for OF Austin Kearns
Why? Because McAllister was quickly becoming overshadowed in Triple-A, Kearns was hitting pretty well in Cleveland and the Yankees needed a right-handed fourth outfielder.
Good move? Looked good for a little while, but ultimately no. Through his first 17 games with the Yankees, Kearns hit .275/.373/.451 and was especially helpful during that August road trip through Texas and Kansas City, but he was dreadful in September. McAllister didn’t pitch any better for Triple-A Columbus than he had for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and he was passed by a ton of talent coming through the Yankees system, but it wasn’t worth losing him for three good weeks from Kearns.
July 31, 2010
RHP Mark Melancon and INF Jimmy Paredes to the Astros for DH Lance Berkman
Why? Because the Yankees needed to created a platoon at designated hitter, and Berkman gave them someone who could legitimately hit lefties. Melancon’s time and come and gone, and Paredes was an afterthought in the Yankees system.
Good move? Yes. Berkman got off to a slow start, but when he came off the disabled list he hit .299/.405/.388 through the month of September, and he was better than most of the Yankees hitters in the playoffs. I’m one of the few Melancon believer still out there, but he had his chances to prove himself in New York and never did. Unless Paredes significantly exceeds expectations, this will have been a worthwhile trade.
July 31, 2010
INF Matt Cusick and RHP Andrew Shive to the Indians for RHP Kerry Wood
Why? Because the Yankees had a chance to solidify the bullpen without losing any key pieces of the farm system.
Good move? You bet. No offense to Cusick and Shive, but they were pretty far off the prospect radar in the Yankees system. Wood, meanwhile, seemed to magically bring the bullpen together to make it one of the Yankees absolute strengths down the stretch. If the Yankees had continued their playoff run, the Wood trade would have been considered one of the great turning points of the season.
November 18, 2010
1B Juan Miranda to the Diamondbacks for RHP Scottie Allen
Why? Because Miranda is out of options and had no spot on the big league roster.
Good move? Sure. It’s too early to know whether Allen will turn into anything of value — he’s not even 20 years old yet — but Miranda was completely expendable. With Jorge Posada ready to get most of the DH at-bats and Mark Teixeira entrenched at first base, Miranda had no place in the organization and it was best for everyone involved to send him elsewhere and get something in return.
Associated Press photos of Bruney, Cabrera and Kearns
Pitching matchups in Arizona • 06.21.10
RHP A.J. Burnett (6-5, 4.33)
RHP Rodrigo Lopez (2-6, 4.70)
10:09 p.m., YES Network and ESPN
LHP Andy Pettitte (8-2, 2.47)
RHP Dan Haren (7-5, 4.71)
9:40 p.m., YES Network
RHP Javier Vazquez (6-5, 5.01)
LHP Dontrelle Willis (2-2, 4.78)
9:40 p.m., YES Network
The Yankees won’t face Ian Kennedy, who took the loss last night against the Tigers. Kennedy allowed only three runs last night, but back-to-back home runs did him in. He’s 3-5 with a 3.60 ERA, easily the lowest ERA in the Diamondbacks rotation.
Kennedy developed a bad reputation in New York after that ugly postgame interview in Anaheim, but personally I always liked him a lot. Whatever the outside perception, Kennedy’s a good guy, and I’m happy to see him pitching well.
Speaking of good guys, I covered Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch at the very end of his playing career. I had just graduated from college, and Hinch basically spent two years teaching me the ins and outs of professional baseball. Having him in the clubhouse made a huge difference for me as a baseball writer. I’ve been surprised to see his team struggle with him as manager. He knows the game as well as anyone I’ve ever met, but his team has been absolutely awful this season.
Associated Press photo of Pettitte