This is little more than speculation, so let’s view it as just that.
There was an article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle that talked about the possibility of the A’s moving Mike Piazza in the coming weeks. This comes just days after speculation that the A’s were prepared to trade first baseman Dan Johnson.
Naturally, the Yankees have been connected to both names. Piazza would have no use beyond DH, as he still cannot throw a ball with his bum shoulder. That’s actually the reason he’s being shopped — with Jack Cust at DH, a full outfield, and Johnson at first, there’s simply no room for Piazza. He’d be a big bat off the bench, but Billy Beane didn’t shell out $8.5 million for a pinch hitter.
Johnson can play first base capably, and is hitting .260/.369/.455 in 235 at bats since returning from the DL. His lowly marks of .234 /.323 /.381 from last year are largely attributed to double vision, which was corrected with surgery this off-season.
Personally, I think the Yanks should forget about Johnson. He’ll only have 2.1 years of service after this year, so he’ll be a relative bargain for years to come. This means a fairly decent return for Billy Beane. Sorry, but the Yankees don’t need to be sending any kind of legitimate prospect for a guy who’s going to be a league average or slightly above first baseman. Stick with Phillips and Mientkiewicz when he comes back, and play whoever’s hot at the moment (though there’s a significant chance that neither gets hot, and they’re stuck with a sub-par first baseman, but that’s no different than the situation we had coming into the season).
Piazza is a bit more interesting. He’s probably owed around $4 million for the rest of the season, and that’s $4 million Beane doesn’t want to pay. Realistically, the only way he stays is if they trade Johnson. Otherwise, you have Johnson at first; Kotsay, Swisher, and Buck in the outfield; and Cust at DH. Because of Piazza’s age, salary, and injury, the return wouldn’t appear to be nearly as much as Johnson. However, $4 million is an easy pill to swallow for a contender, so Beane could open a bidding war. Problem is, there aren’t many teams in the market for a full-time DH. You can count the Red Sox, Indians, Tigers, Blue Jays, and Mariners out, since they already have DHs (Ortiz, Hafner, Sheffield, Thomas, Ibanez/Vidro).
Perhaps Beane wouldn’t be opposed to dishing Piazza to the Angels, but that would be conditioned on the A’s being realistically out of the race. They’re currently nine games back in the division and eight in the Wild Card. Otherwise, it’s the Yankees or Twins.
The Yanks are kind of crowded, too. Johnny Damon has moved to full-time DH, with Matsui, Melky, and Abreu entrenched in the outfield. All three have had hot bats of late, and we all know they’re capable of hitting better than they did in the first half (though Melky’s done pretty damn well, so it might be a stretch to expect him to hit better). Damon, however, is probably the worst DH of any contender, sans the Twins, and it would be nice to replace his bat in the order.
But what do you do with him then? Torre’s not going to put him on the bench for an extended period, no matter how poorly he hits. He could play left field, but then Hideki has to DH. There’s no way to add Piazza and still get the current players adequate playing time, deservedly or not.
Check this, though. It is definitely in the Yanks best interest to keep Piazza off the Twins. They’re a game and a half up on us for the Wild Card, and as much as we don’t want to admit it, that might be our best shot at the playoffs. Adding Piazza might allow the Twins to stay ahead of us in the standings, considering that’s the area of their greatest weakness.
What I’m getting at is a bit crazy, but it could work: Mike Piazza could be the big bat off the bench that we’ve been missing for so many years. He could DH if/when Damon goes into a slump, leaving Damon as a pinch runner late in games. And when Damon is DHing, he could serve as a pinch hitter for Phillips or Mientkiewicz or Cairo or whoever the hell needs to be pinch hit for (i.e., Melky after striking out four times).
With the offense hitting like it is, the Yanks should be looking to add whatever kind of power they can. Piazza represents an opportunity, and the cost should be relatively low. I suppose that, like all deals, it would depend on the price tag. But if the price is right, a deal for Piazza couldn’t hurt.
Tip o the hat to MLB Trade Rumors for the Piazza story.