When history — in the form of Monday’s tabloids — comes to judge yesterday’s Yankee acquisition of OF Xavier Nady and LHP Damaso Marte, columnists will be rushing to pass judgment on a trade that changes the look of the 2008 Yankees. But it isn’t that simple; it never really is.
Right away, this trade makes the Yankees better, and on the face of it, they gave up a lot of nothing. Offensively, they now have a bat to sit in for — but not truly replace — Hideki Matsui or Jorge Posada while at the same time they no longer will trot out a lineup with two of Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner and Justin Christian. On the year, Xavier Nady has been one of the NL’s best hitters. He’s sporting a .330/.383/.535 batting line in 360 plate appearances. Melky wishes he were that good.
But the questions surrounding Nady are all about future production. Is Nady having a break-out season or is he just enjoying a good four months? His career numbers — .281/.337/.456 — don’t suggest that this stretch is anything more than a hot streak, but at age 29, he could be putting it all together. Either way, the Yankees expect him to bat seventh, and he’s bound to fill that spot more than adequately.
On the pitching front, the Yankees landed a set-up man who also happens to be a lefty. This year, Damaso Marte, the one-time Yankee farmhand once traded for Enrique Wilson, has thrown 46.2 innings and has recorded 47 strike outs. He’s allowed 38 hits, 16 walks and just four home runs with an ERA of 3.47. Even though his splits indicate more success against righties, Marte has struck out 22 of the 59 lefties to face him.
With Marte joining the team, the Yanks do have the opportunity to ensure that this trade makes the bullpen worse, albeit only slightly. If they don’t DFA LaTroy Hawkins, by far the worst pitcher in the bullpen, then Marte will push a deserving and effective reliever out of the Bronx. The only way LaTroy stays is if Dan Giese gets sent back to AAA, but I still think Giese should get the call over Hawkins.
That’s the short-term prognosis. These moves help the Yankees shore up their offense and fortify their strong bullpen. But the long-term picture — analyzed here with an assist from Mike — is more complicated, and the trade really hinges on what Jose Tabata does and does not do over the next few seasons.
For starters, George Kontos and Phil Coke are simply throw-ins. Unless the stars align perfectly, Kontos will probably never see the Major Leagues. While Coke — disappointed with the trade — could be a potential fifth starter or long reliever, he is, in the words of Mike, “easily replaceable.” Plus, the Yankees have a surplus of arms, and trades like these are always made from strengths. See ya later, Kontos and Coke.
So the prime pieces are Ross Ohlendorf and Jose Tabata. In a way, they may have sold high on one, low on the other. Now, Ohlendorf we know. He’s got the velocity, but does he have the stuff? In 40 Major League innings this year, Ohlendorf fooled no one. He allowed 50 hits and seven home runs, an exorbitant amount for a supposed sinkerball pitcher. He had a 6.53 ERA with a 1.725 WHIP, and opponents were hitting .299/.374/.473 against him.
While he’s thrown somewhat batter in the Minors of late as the Yanks attempted to convert him back into a starter, his numbers still aren’t very overwhelming. His move back to the rotation, however, carried with it a bit of hype, and the Yanks may actually have sold high on him simply because starters are more valuable than relievers. It’s doubtful, as Mike says, that he’ll ever be more useful than Marte out of the pen, and his ability to succeed as a starter is up in the air. As this was his second trade in about 18 months, he was rather resigned to his fate.
How about Jose Tabata? The once-untouchable Tabata — the Yanks wouldn’t trade him for Bobby Abreu in 2006 — has seen his stock plummet this year. Soon to be 20, Tabata is hitting .248/.320/.310 at AA and has suffered through attitude and injury problems this year. Corner outfielders who can’t hit for power and aren’t overwhelmingly fast don’t survive long in the Majors.
Still, Tabata is one of the youngest players in the Eastern League and has plenty of time left to turn things around. He could be the next Drew Hensen or Eric Duncan or he could be a bona fide Major Leaguer. Time will tell.
So then the question is: Will Jose Tabata ever be better than Xavier Nady? Mike says that odds are against it, but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities. Right now, this trade makes the team better today, and for 2008, it’s a very good trade. The Yanks landed what they needed without giving up too much, if anything at all. While, in five years, we could be singing a different tune, I’d still pull the trigger on this one any day.
Update by Mike (11:55): The trade has been reconfigured: Dan McCutchen & Jeff Karstens are heading to the Steel City instead of Coke & Kontos. The analysis doesn’t change much, except that these two are a level closer to the bigs. Karstens is pretty bad as we all know, and he would have been out of options next year anyway. McCutchen’s pitching well, but a little he’s two months away from his 26th birthday, so he is what he is, a solid back-end/middle relief guy.
I’m not sure what happened, maybe they found something in someone’s medicals?
Another update by Mike (12:10): Pete updated his post to say that the Pirates selected McCutchen & Karstens from a pool of players that also included Coke & Kontos. Makes sense.