The 2010 non-waiver trade deadline is just six days away now, and the Yankees are sure to make a move or two (or more) before then to shore up the bench and bullpen, among other things. Because of who they are, the Yanks are always connected to the big names before the deadline, as we’ve already seen with Cliff Lee and Dan Haren this year. Their interest in Lee was sincere, but the vibe I got from the Haren situation was that they were willing to take him if he fell into their laps, but they weren’t married to the idea of acquiring him.
The Yanks have made several moves of varying significance at the deadline during the last five years, so let’s look back and see what moves they actually made. Earlier today we covered the 2005, 2006, and 2007 deadlines while this post gets to 2008 and 2009.
Much like the 2007 season, the Yanks found themselves looking up at the competition before the trade deadline. They were three games back in the AL East on the day of their first deal, when they sacrificed some prospect depth to bring in an everyday outfielder and one of those elusive reliable lefty relievers.
In the middle of a career year with the Pirates (.396 wOBA in 360 PA), Nady quickly regressed to his league average-ish ways once in the AL East after the trade (.341 wOBA in 247 PA). Marte was very good once coming over, pitching to a 3.02 FIP in 18.1 IP down the stretch. Although both players did their part, the Yankees missed the playoff for the first time since 1994. Nady returned in 2009 as an arbitration eligible player, but blew out his elbow barely more than a week into the season and never played for the Yanks again. It sounds harsh, but the injury was a blessing in disguise for the team, as it freed Nick Swisher from the realm of platoon players. Marte’s $6M option for 2009 was declined, though the Yanks re-signed him to a three year deal worth $12M. It was a curious move to say the least, but the lefthander gets credit for being Joe Girardi‘s best middle reliever during their run to the 2009 World Championship.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has to be pretty happy with the haul they received in the trade. Ohlendorf stepped right into their rotation and been a serviceable back-end arm (4.82 FIP in 281.1 IP), while Karstens (5.03 FIP in 249 IP) has filled a variety of roles for the team. McCutchen (5.17 FIP in 28.1 IP) has been up-and-down as a spot starter, but it shouldn’t be long before the righty settles into a defined role. Tabata is the real prize for the Pirates, as he regained some prospect status after the trade and was summoned to the big leagues for the first time this summer. He has a slightly above league average .334 wOBA in 176 plate appearances.
Four days after the deal with Pittsburgh, the Yanks turned some of the dead weight in their bullpen into potentially useful pieces. First they sent Hawkins (4.21 FIP in 41 IP), who had already been designated for assignment, to the Astros for minor leaguer Matt Cusick, who remains in the Yanks’ system and has hit .242/.313/.324 in 215 plate appearances split between Double- and Triple-A this season. A little later they traded the frustrating Farnsworth (5.64 FIP in 44.1 IP) to the Tigers for Rodriguez, who helped fill-in for the injured Jorge Posada. Unfortunately Pudge was as much of a help as expected (.263 wOBA in 101 PA). With the exception of Cusick, all of the players in these deals have since moved on to different teams via free agency.
The final pickup at the 2009 deadline was an under-the-radar move. Alberto Gonzalez had proven to be a slightly worse version of Ramiro Pena during his limited time with the Yanks (.179 wOBA in 73 PA), so he went to the Nationals for the hard throwing relief prospect Nunez. Nunez posted a 2.94 FIP in 19.1 IP with Double-A Trenton after the trade, and was sent to the White Sox in the Nick Swisher deal after the season. He reached the big leagues with Chicago briefly last season (5.39 FIP in 5.2 IP), while Gonzalez has been back and forth between the majors and minors for the Nats since the deal (.305 wOBA in 458 PA).
Chase Weems for Jerry Hairston Jr.
We think of it as a trade deadline move, but in reality the Yankees acquired Eric Hinske from the Pirates back in June. Hinske was fantastic in pinstripes (.350 wOBA in 98 PA), while the two prospects the Yanks surrendered in the deal (Eric Fryer and Casey Erickson) remain in A-ball, and are considerably old for the level. But again, this wasn’t technically a deadline deal.
The Yanks did make one move right at the deadline though, shoring up their bench even further by grabbing the veteran utility man Hairston from the Reds. He performed better than anyone could have expected after the deal (.325 wOBA in 93 PA), playing every position but first base, pitcher, and catcher for New York. Weems, meanwhile, is playing at the Low-A level for the third consecutive year, and is hitting .181/.263/.208 in 80 plate appearances as a backup catcher. Hairston (and Hinske) performed admirably in the playoffs, but headed for greener pastures as a free agent after the season.
The deadline didn’t stop the Yankees, they sent some cash to the Padres for Chad Gaudin in an August waiver trade. He gave the Yankees a 5.29 FIP in 42 IP down the stretch, when they were just running out the clock on the regular season.
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As we’ve seen in these two posts, the Yankees have always been active at the trade deadline, but very rarely have they made a huge move. The Bobby Abreu trade came about because of injuries to not just one, but two star-caliber everyday players. Even though Nady and Marte are solid big leaguers if not more, that deal was hardly a blockbuster. Almost all of the other moves were small fixes to holes created by injuries or ineffectiveness, which is what I suspect we’ll see this year.
One thing that I found to be very noticeable while putting these posts together was the quality of the players the Yanks were giving up. Back in 2005 and 2006, GM Brian Cashman was finding ways to piece deals together with marginal prospects, using his ability to take on salary as his biggest trade chip. However, as we’ve seen the last two season, the Yankees now have quality prospects and young big leaguers to use in trades, players other teams actually want. Just look at the recent Lee and Haren rumors, the Yanks would have never been able to get serious about a pitcher of that caliber if their farm system was in the same state as it was a few years ago.
We all love prospects. I was a huge Jose Tabata fan early on, but remember that prospects serve two purposes to their organization: to provide cheap players at the big league level, and to be used as trade fodder. The important thing for the Yankees (or any team, really) is to make sure they trade the right prospects, the guys they aren’t high on internally or don’t fit in with the team long-term. You can’t keep them all, if you do you’re going to get burned more often then not. The Yanks will undoubtedly part with some minor leaguers by this Saturday, and just remember that it’s part of the baseball circle of life.