Jul
12

Slow news day: let’s talk about Piazza

By

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.

  • Gibb

    Somehow I can’t see Piazza and Clemens chilling out together on the bench in between starts.

  • John

    I’d still like to see more of Damon at first. That creates room for Piazza.
    There, I’ve beaten the horse one more time.

  • James

    Great blog you have going here. Been lurking up to now -

    I was one who wanted Piazza as a BuC, 1B, and DH in the off-season and I don’t see why he couldn’t play a similar role now. Yes, I know about his shoulder, but it’s not like Nieves is throwing runners out. Have Piazza be Pettitte’s personal catcher (cause he cuts down the running game all by himself) and then the rest of the time he’s the DH. Plus, Piazza gives them the balance against LHP they need.

    What happens to Damon? I have no idea, but I don’t care either.

  • C-Note

    Brett Gardner called up to AAA today— hopefully he’ll be on the bench as september call up to steal a late inning base… if he’s able to make it to Joe’s circle of trust…

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

    Good to have to aboard, James.

    Hey, I’d love Piazza to come in here and take the backup role from Nieves. However, I think that if Piazza is in fact able to catch, Beane would keep him. Of course, that’s dependent on the A’s staying in the race.

    All hope is not lost on July 31st. I was reading something today about Piazza passing through waivers in August. I don’t buy it, though; a contending team could eat less than $4 million on a hitter like Piazza.

  • http://mvn.com/milb-yankees Eric Schultz

    How sad is the Yankees’ first base situation? I’ll tell you. I saw that the Mets released Julio Franco today, and I immediately wondered how he would look in pinstripes.

  • Zack

    Darn it c-note, you beat me to it!

  • Zack

    For that matter, A-Jax just hit another bomb. Unreal…

  • James

    Thanks Joseph.

    Even if Piazza can’t catcher now (what he can’t throw back to the pitcher 100 times a night?), I’d get him to DH and on the hope that his shoulder heals enough to displace Nieves next month. That’s the thing – it would only have to be healthy enough for him to catch once every five days. I really wish that had been the Yankee plan in November cause their bench is plain awful.

  • Stuart

    Brett Gardner got promoted to AAA and Shelly D had 2 more dingers….

    Sardinha got sent down to AA….

  • Barry

    Piazza’s bat would be valuable, no question. However, from a team chemistry standpoint its unrealistic. Theres no way Piazza comes to the Bronx and is accepted or happy. Idk, imo hes not the answer.

  • Barry

    I actually think that if we want to give a new man a try, then try shelley, what the hell, right? we dont have that much more to loose.

  • Tano

    Forget about Piazza. The last thing this team needs is another injured, old, one dimensional player.

    And 1b is no longer a disaster. Let Andy play for chrissakes – he is doing very well.

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

    “And 1b is no longer a disaster. Let Andy play for chrissakes – he is doing very well.”

    Which is exactly why I said no to Johnson.