New York Yankees refused trade of Alfredo Aceves in Nick Swisher deal

December 10, 2008

Monday at the Winter Meetings was the day many on-field managers began to arrive. One manager holding court in the lobby was Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who was hanging out with Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

I approached both gentlemen, introduced myself and commented to Ozzie how I thought he was a throwback manager who appeared to get the most out his players. That transcends into success and him being one of the best managers in the game today. Ozzie said to me, “Don’t tell me, tell him (pointing to Reinsdorf), he’s the one who signs my checks!”

Everyone had a heary laugh.

I asked Reinsdorf if the rumor (reported at the time) was true that they were willing to trade OF Jermaine Dye to the Cincinnati Reds for embattled starting pitcher Homer Bailey, a former high 1st round pick of the Reds. Bailey has dominated the minors, but struggled so far in the majors – going 4-8 with a 6.72 ERA in 17 starts over the last two seasons, including 0-6 in 2008.

I had heard reports indicating that Bailey also has a bad attitude.

Reinsdorf asked why I like Bailey because two guys he just spoke with “don’t like him.” I said just because the kid might have a bad attitude, doesn’t mean he can’t pitch in the major leagues and that the kid still has talent but teams need to be more patient. Plus, with Ozzie as his manager, Bailey would be treated with tough love – the Ozzie way.

Guillen was stroking his goatee (a nice one, but mine looks better) and nodding his head in agreement to my comment, which tells me Guillen likes Bailey’s talent.

Bailey was the 7th pick overall in the 2004 draft, and is still only 22. Phil Hughes was also a 1st round pick that year, going 22nd overall (one spot after the Twins chose emerging starter Glen Perkins who was 12-4 last year). For the first three years of their pro careers, Bailey and Hughes were the de facto top 2 overall pitching prospects. Both are still very talented young pitchers.

The White Sox have made it yearly tradition in picking off other teams former first round picks. They have pulled off two trades for similar type young pitchers, who were given up on by their teams.

On December 6, 2006, they traded Freddy Garcia to the Philadelphia Phillies for former 2001 first round draft pick Gavin Floyd and former 2004 first round pick Gio Gonzalez. The Phils had traded Gonzalez back to the White Sox, who had shipped him to Philadelphia as part of the Jim Thome deal a year earlier. While Garcia floundered and eventually had shoulder surgery, the 25 year old Floyd went 17-8, with a 3.78 ERA over 33 starts and 206 innings. 

Two weeks later the White Sox traded Mike McDougald to the Texas Rangers for former 2003 first round pick Jon Danks, who broke out in 2008 with a 12-9, 3.32 ERA for the White Sox. The 23 year old Danks threw 195 innings in 2008, including 8 shutout innings against the Twins in the one game AL Central Division playoff.

Both times the White Sox had success trading for two young pitchers, and now they were interested in Bailey. When I commented to Guillen and Reinsdorf about their prior trading success, Jerry said, “We got lucky.”

But, you know the White Sox must have really good pro scouts, scouring the minors for good young pitching. That helps keep payroll down.

Their success led me to ask whether the White Sox believe pro scouting is more important than amatuer scouting.

Reinsdorf said he feels pro scouting is more important than amateur scouting.

He said, “Regarding pro scouts, you are looking to trade an established major league player for a couple kids who need to make an impact in the majors within a year or two. The scouts watching these young guys better be right. But with amateur scouting it’s more a crap shoot. If you miss, all you lose is money.”

On Tuesday I ran into Ozzie again, and asked him whether the White Sox were looking to trade a bat to the Yankees for young pitcher Alfredo Aceves. The Yankee were searching for a right handed bat, and Dye’s name emerged again as possible trade bait.

Guillen – “We are not in any trade talk with the Yankees right now.”

NYBD’s Joseph DelGrippo – ”So, you are not interested in Aceves?”

Guillen – “We are and tried to get him in the Swisher trade, but the Yankees wouldn’t include him.”

NYBD’s Joseph DelGrippo – “You like Aceves’ stuff.”

Guillen – “He’s a real good pitcher, we like him alot.”

An organization like the White Sox, who has consistently made successful trades for young pitchers likes the Yankees Alfredo Aceves and tried to trade for him, as well as being interested in the Reds’ Homer Bailey. As I have written here, good, young pitching is the biggest commodity in baseball – and every team seeks it.

But young pitchers need to be shown some patience, because most do not do well right off the bat. Tampa Bay, Minnesota and the White Sox all used young pitching to record good seasons in 2008 and seem to abide by Joe’s Law on young pitching.

Now that the Yankees have CC Sabathia in the fold, and seriously looking at free agents Derek Lowe, AJ Burnett and Ben Sheets, the Yankees have not subscribed yet to the young pitching newsletter. So, where do the Yankees go with the young pitchers of Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Aceves?

The Yankee should keep all their top young pitchers. With each free agent signed, they provide valuable insurance in case of injury of the innings limit (and limited starts) Joba Chamberlain will make.

That’s good planning and the Yankees would be wise to keep their young pitching even while they are signing pitchers in order to win in 2009.

It would be in the Yankees best interest for Brian Cashman to stay away from White sox GM Kenny Williams this weekend.