The non-waiver trading deadline was an exciting time if you are a fan of the hype and hoopla derived form that day. I try not to get involved in who is going where unless it is an impact guy going to a contender.
New York Yankee fans were really involved Saturday, July 31st, because it was “critical” that General Manager Brian Cashman shore up their perceived weaknesses.
First, the Yankees needed to get another bullpen arm for the “8th inning role” because Joba Chamberlain was not “getting it done” the way he did back in 2007*.
*Really think about that situation. The Yankees NEEDED another relief pitcher then and Joba was promoted for this reason. He pitched 24 innings over 19 appearances (all in relief), allowing only 12 hits (one HR – quick, who hit it?), walking six and striking out 134 batters. Seriously, it was only 34 K’s, but it seemed like more, right?
His ERA was a scant 0.38. That Mike Lowell HR was the only earned run Joba allowed all regular season, his first major league experiences.
Sure, he has not been like 2007, but who else in baseball history has? Can we be realistic?
Enter Kerry Wood who was traded for a low-level prospect (I mean really low) or cash. Woods is a reclamation project whose only good characteristic is that he strikes out a lot of hitters. I know that appeases all the sabermetric guys out there, but I like relief pitchers who throw strikes.
Many people who like the Wood move say that since he is replacing the ineffective Chan Ho Park, it is at worst a wash, and if Wood pitches well, it is a steal.
Never mind that in addition to a high strikeout rate, Wood gives up lots of hits and walks a lot of hitters. His WHIP of 1.663 before the trade is not very good for a late inning reliever.
So far, he is what the Yankees thought and what they have received. Through 4.1 IP, Wood has struck out seven, but has allowed four hits, three walks and a long home run.
Don’t worry, though, he is limited to moderate mop-up/low leverage situations. So far.
Wood’s trade has been a pretty good motivator, though, as Joba has not allowed a run in his last three appearances since he was demoted and all the trade talk for a reliever picked up.
The trade for Lance Berkman is pretty straight forward. The Yankees did not like Juan Miranda (never have really) and felt that the switch-hitting Berkman would fit into the designated hitter slot pretty easily.
This would move Jorge Posada to more catching duties, and eliminating Francisco Cervelli’s bat from the lineup. Cervelli has not hit at all since his early season successes, and despite good catching skills, he is basically almost an automatic out.
Cervelli just takes too many pitches, good pitches right over the plate. He is not that accomplished a hitter to take pitches and get behind in the count. Cervelli “working the count” is never a good idea.
This Berkman move was a good one for the simple reason the Yankees have a better, more deep lineup, especially against right handed pitchers. The only way it can falter is if Berkman starts to feel slighted that he is mostly a DH, but Joe Girardi will get him a game every week or so at first base to keep him happy, and Mark Teixeira fresher.
The third move was cash or a crappy minor leaguer for Austin Kearns. If you really aren’t giving up much for an eight-year veteran like Kearns, then it is likely HE ISN”T ANY GOOD.
I do not feel that Kearns is a good enough baseball player. One of the main reasons the Yankees obatined the right-handed hitting Kearns was to spell Curtis Granderson some against left handed pitchers.
Granderson has hit a woeful .206 BA/.243 OBP/.275 SLG/.518 OPS against left handed pitchers this season, and has not been all that great against southpaws in his career. Kearns has not been great against left handed pitchers this year either, slashing .248/.336/.381/.717 OPS.
But he is better than Granderson, and thus his arrival and increased playing time. Up until yesterday, however, Kearns had yet to get a hit in pinstripes, and after last night, now has three hits as a Yankee.
Kearns had the same amount hits in his second game against the Yankees this season, than he does as a Yankee. Interestingly, Wood got the save in that game, and characteristically gave up a run, a hit, and a walk but did strike out a batter.
Defensively, Kearns is above average in right field, but is terrible in center and below average in left field, where he will likely play most of all when he supplants Granderson. Kearns has already shown a propensity to make things interesting in left field.
My fear is that Girardi will start to mix-and-match with his overmanaging trait, pulling players early like pinch hitting for Granderson in the 5th or 6th inning of a game, then limiting himself later on due to not having any bench players left.
With teams usually carrying 12 pitchers (another horrible team move), there is no added manueverability with only four bench players, one being a second catcher and the other being Marcus Thames. Without a multi-positional player for infield and outfield, when Girardi begins to make early moves, he is susceptible to problems later, like Thames needing to play the outfield.
He already has done that once this season, ending up with and outfield of Kearns in left field, Nick Swisher in center and Thames in right field. Girardi likes to show everyone that he can read the split matchup sheets he has printed for him for each game.
This often gets the Yankees in trouble.
Kearns will probably get about 100 at bats for the Yankees this season, spelling Granderson or Gardner and various pinch hitting roles. Since his OBP is about a hunderd points higher than Granderson’s against lefties, Kearns will get on base about 10 more times than will Curtis.
Will that be a tremendous improvement offensively over Granderson to where the Yankees will benefit? I don’t think it will, and it will negatively impact the Yankees outfield defense. Kearns good game last night will only have Girardi playing him more, typical of Girardi falling in love with players after a good game or two.
Once in a while Kearns should be able to play the field in place of Granderson. When the improvement is minimal offensively, I would take the defense over offense every day, especially in the potent Yankee lineup. I even write this AFTER Kearns’ positive game last night
The Berkman deal is the only one which I would have made. It fits to the Yankee role as a switch hitting pitch taker with a high on base percentage.
As with Wood and Kearns, these moves could have been done differently. A Yankee farmhand with strikeout capabilities like Romulo Sanchez or even Jonathan Albaladejo would have been a batter fit than Wood.
And a more utility type player would have been a better fit than Kearns. Someone iwth infield and outfield capabilities.