According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees again looked into acquiring Mike Cameron before the August 31 waiver trade deadline. Over the winter it seemed like the Yankees were close to a deal for Cameron, but Brian Cashman put on the brakes. A few weeks later, they landed Mark Teixeira. After getting Andy Pettitte to sign on the dotted line, it appeared as if the Yankees were done spending for the winter, and the Cameron talks evaporated.
As the season progressed, it became clear that taking on Cameron and his $10 million salary might not have been the most prudent move. Melky Cabrera had a hot April, and Brett Gardner picked it up when Melky fell off a bit. They made a serviceable tandem through July, for a fifth the price of Cameron. There were some murmurs of a deadline deal possibility after Brett Gardner broke his thumb in late July, but that looked like more speculation than substance.
Come the end of August, things looked a bit different. Melky, playing every day with Gardner still on the shelf, fell into a major slump. He hit .223/.264/.350 on the month, and that gets even worse if you look at his numbers after hitting for the cycle: .202/.248/.277 in 102 PA. Why Jerry Hairston didn’t take more reps in center I do not know (and I doubt it has anything to do with his Type B free agent status, which will be compromised if he plays much more in the outfield). In any case, by the end of August a platoon partner for Melky seemed like an attractive option.
The Yankees, according to Rosenthal, didn’t want to add the remainder of Cameron’s salary, roughly $1.5 million, to their ledger. Again, some might wonder what a mere $1.5 million means to the Yankees. As I mentioned yesterday, there was a similar story regarding Brian Bannister, where the Yankees were interested but didn’t want to pick up the tab. These cases are similar, but it’s not a pure money issue.
In both cases it seems that the Yankees didn’t want to take on the salary because they believed the player in question wasn’t worth the upgrade. They didn’t want to pay the remainder of Banny’s salary because they believed that their in-house options could provide similar production at no increase to the payroll. With Cameron, they thought it wouldn’t be worth the money and the roster spot to add Cameron, especially when Brett Gardner should be making his return soon.
Adding a veteran like Mike Cameron is nice, but when you have an in-house tandem that has worked, taking on him and his salary, in addition to the roster spot he’d cost, doesn’t seem all that worth it. Perhaps when he hits free agency the Yankees can entice him. He could platoon with Gardner or Melky next season, freeing the Yanks up to trade whoever brings the bigger return for another part. I do find it doubtful, though, that Cameron would come into such an obvious platoon situation which also involves a soon-to-be-promoted top prospect.
On the Brad Penny front, it appears the Yankees were deadly serious about adding him. Rosenthal says that they “recruited him with calls from manager Joe Girardi, outfielder Johnny Damon and Penny’s former teammate in Florida, right-hander A.J. Burnett.” From the Yankees standpoint it made sense. Despite Penny’s failings in Boston, he’s still probably a better option than Chad Gaudin. But unlike some other upgrade options which would have costed prospects and/or money, Penny was essentially free — he’ll cost the Giants just around $100K.
Penny was smart to go to the NL. After pitching poorly for the Red Sox he had a chance for a fresh start. Why press your luck in the AL East when there are two NL teams looking to employ your services? Both the Giants and the Rockies were better options, and Penny made the right move by going to the better pitcher’s park. The guy wants to get paid this off-season and he wants to pitch in the postseason. San Fran presents the best of both worlds.
The Yankees were — well, not necessarily smart, but certainly shrewd to decline a trade for Cameron. He’s an offensive and defensive upgrade over Melky, but the question is of how much. Probably not $1.5 million worth. Plus, with Gardner on the mend, that would make three center fielders on the roster. Sure, they can carry 40 men on the bench now, but come playoff time would the Yankees carry all three? Doubtful.
It looks as though the Yankees were active in exploring deadline deals in both July and August, but each time found little to their liking. It seems to be Brian Cashman’s M.O. He doesn’t make moves for the sake of making moves, though he’s more than apt to make small moves, and those have worked out well this year. But when a deal doesn’t represent a clear and significant upgrade, it seems like he’s more than willing to hold. Sometimes that’s the right move.