Monday, July 30, 2007

Yanks Quiet at the Deadline

Since the current playoff run began in 1995, the Yankees and trade deadline rumors have gone hand in hand. This year is no different, the Bombers are linked to almost every potential big name player out there, Texeira, Gagne, Dotel, even Dan Johnson. Alright that last one is not quite a big time player, but point taken. In line with his stance last season, Cashman, and the Tampa brain trust, are unwilling to part with any top tier prospects, and feel confident plunging forward with the current roster.

Pitching remains a concern. Kyle Farnsworth added fuel to the fire with another disastrous outing yesterday, amid yet another blow up on the mound, Jorge Posada the recipient this time. Shipping Farnsworth out would fit the addition by subtraction mantra, but at the least his days of appearing late in important games must end. Note to Torre, no more eighth innings for Kyle, unless the mercy rule is in effect. With Luiz Vizcaino the only reliable setup man in front of the recently unhittable Mariano Rivera, the Yanks have a need.

Gagne, Dotel, Otsuka, Qualls. New York is in play on all of them, but teams want the sun and moon from the Yanks, notably Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy, particularly Texas. Unless Texas suddenly gets a dose of reality, Gagne stays put. Nobody else available is a difference maker. Teams drooling over Octavio Dotel, the same Dotel the Yanks left off the postseason roster last year, says everything you need to know about the players available. Enter Joba Chamberlain, 21-year-old righthanded flame thrower, 2006 draft pick from Nebraska. The Yanks promoted Chamberlain to Triple-A last week. Before he could make his second start, management scratched Chamberlain and sent him to the bullpen, where he will throw Monday and Wednesday. Critics argue that the late season move to relief, at this age, screams for an arm injury. Proponents counter that limiting his innings will decrease stress on Chamberlain’s arm. Right or wrong, expect Joba sporting pinstripes on Friday night against Kansas City. Forget Torre’s use of Edwar Ramirez, Chamberlain will pitch meaningful innings, and pitch often. According to scouts, he is ready now and provides a serious upgrade over all the current options.

Still, the Yanks remain in play for the aforementioned relievers, though not as desperate. Phil Hughes will join his fellow uber-prospect next weekend at the stadium, after completing another dominant rehab outing, tossing 6 2/3 shutout innings for Scranton. Hughes immediately slots into the rotation, behind Wang, Pettitte, and Clemens. Torre may continue calling Mussina the fourth starter, but if a playoff series started today, before even returning the majors, I still pitch Hughes before Moose.

With Hughes back the starting pitching is set, while New York will reinforce the bullpen internally with Chamberlain, and Jeff Karstens, who has matched Hughes zero for zero during his rehab stint, could provide a surprising boost to the relief corp. Chance of a trade for pitching, 50/50, but no major deals likely, unless Texas or KC drastically change their requests in the next 48 hours.

Go around the horn, A-Rod, Jeter, and Cano. All set there, especially with Cano swinging a hot bat the last three weeks, dispelling rumors of his demise. First base, a sore spot most of the season, is the most frequently mentioned trade possibility on the offensive side. Partially thanks to the merry-go-round of inhabitants underperforming most of the season, though I feel the rumors persisted because critics needed to point the finger somewhere when the offense was struggling to score runs and first base is the only lineup spot not solidified. Potential trades continue floating through the grapevine, notably A’s backup Dan Johnson. If anyone feels Johnson, or a Shea Hillebrand, also mentioned before inking a minor league deal with San Diego, will be a difference maker, I have a bridge you might want to buy. Andy Phillips finally looks comfortable, and somewhere Doug Mientkiewicz lurks.

The red hot Hideki Matsui, a rejuvenated Bobby Abreu, and the young and old platoon of Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera, round out the lineup. Again, due to contracts, age, and current performance, the outfield is set.

Depending on who you ask, Jason Giambi intends to play in August, the question remains where. Giambi should never defensively take the field again for the Yankees. He ranks somewhere between putrid and unwatchable. Damon already consumes the DH role, a move back to CF puts Melky Cabrera, a far superior defensive player and budding offensive contributor, on the bench, transforming the Yanks into a station to station, home run hitting lineup, with below average defense. If Giambi brings his 35 home run stick to the plate, the shear threat is worthwhile. Given his early season performance, and about three months vacation hurting timing at the plate, do not count on Giambi. In fact, Giambi returning hurts the team. It forces Torre to play him, potentially inserting an automatic out into the middle of the lineup, while hurting the defense as documented above. Giambi just disappearing better serves the Yanks.

Of course, if Damon is traded that changes. Rumors circulated that New York is offering the aging CF, and the remaining 2 ½ years on his ill fated, around the league. The sheer rumor signifies Cashman and the front office brass admit their mistake. When healthy, and performing, Damon is a lightning rod leadoff hitter. Injuries, a refusal to go on the DL, age, and a slower bat, has relegated Damon to a shell of the “idiot” leader from Boston. Finding a taker remains another story. Barring a major injury elsewhere in the league, the contenders can do without a broken down Damon, while long term contracts do not fit rebuilding situations.

One player surprisingly drawing interest is Kei Igawa. Another situation where the Cashman and company admit a mistake, without directly saying it, finding a taker for Igawa is likelier than Damon. Igawa has shown one glimmer of hope that he can pitch in the majors, his strikeout total. Since returning Igawa fans about a batter per IP, substantiating his Japanese statistics. Control remains his undoing. Igawa walks close to a batter an inning, while consistently falling behind in counts allowing opposing hitters to tee off on his below average fastball. Maybe pitching in NY is overwhelming, or the transition to America, or he may simply not be good, but lefty pitchers always get second, and third lives. With no spot for the Kei-man, Igawa will move, the only question is now or after the season, and how much of the contract the Yanks must pay. Cashman only wishes he could trade the posting fee along with him.

The non-waiver deadline lurks tomorrow, followed by another month of rumors before the waiver deadline. Outside of bench player, or middle reliever, Scranton will provide the Yankees biggest acquisitions. After already cutting the lead in half since the All-Star break, Chamberlain and Hughes may just be the youthful shot in the arm that carries the Yanks past Cleveland.


Post a Comment

<< Home