Jan
16

The Right Trades

By

Like most GMs, Brian Cashman knows a little bit about making a smart trade. And while he’s certainly caused us to sigh in absolutely hopeless exasperation (sometimes followed by ‘We’ll never win a World Series again!’), he’s definitely struck gold a few times in recent history. Lately, right field has been patrolled by players brought over as a result of Cashman successes, and not only have they done well, but the trades themselves have been absolute steals. Works of art, even.

In 2006, a 38-year-old Bernie Williams was patrolling right field due to badly timed injuries to Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield, and new call-up Melky Cabrera was in left. Williams was on his way to a .281/.332/.436 season, but Cashman was interested in more. He had his eye on Bobby Abreu, who was currently batting a career-low .277 and flitting with his career-low OPS of .871 in Philadelphia. Cashman refused to send Phil Hughes to the Phillies, but a deal was struck just before the deadline in 2006, sending Abreu to the Bronx with Cory Lidle for four minor leaguers. At that point, only one of them, Matt Smith, had logged any major league innings at all: a grand total of 12 IP, with four hits, eight walks, and nine strikeouts. The other three players — Carlos Monasterios, CJ Henry, and Jesus Sanchez — hadn’t played a single inning above A ball. Henry was a first round pick signed for $1.5M, so while the possibility was there, it was not exactly a sure thing. Sanchez and Monasterios were international free agents from Venezuela.

Abreu went on to hit .330/.419/.507 with seven home runs and 42 RBIs in his first 60 games in pinstripes and capped it off with four RBIs and a double in the postseason. It was a good start to his tenure, and his success would continue throughout 2007, where he hit posted an 117 OPS+, 16 homers, and five triples. The Yankees exercised his option for $16M for 2008, where he just kept getting better. He struck out less, hit more homers, and tacked twenty points onto his batting average. Meanwhile, the four minor leaguers pitched and hit in a grand total of 24 IP – all Matt Smith. There’s no question who got the better end of the deal. Abreu was worth a total of 7.3 WAR, while Smith clocked in at exactly replacement level.

Abreu would not return in 2009, though, due to the increase in his salary he was predicted to ask for. The Yankees had already picked up Xavier Nady (and Damaso Marte) near the 2008 trade deadline from the Pirates and were perfectly equipped to start him in right. They had traded Ross Ohlendorf (6.43 ERA in 40 IP), and three minor leaguers: Jose Tabata (AA), Jeff Karstens (AAA), Daniel McCutchen (AAA). Even better, Nady’s salary was a mere $6.5M in comparison to the +$16M Abreu was expected to ask for.

But Cashman wasn’t finished for 2009. He struck up talks with the White Sox for their first baseman/outfielder hybrid Nick Swisher, who had managed to hit career-worsts basically across the board, posting a pathetic .219/.332/.410. Cashman saw beyond the numbers, though; he saw a decent reserve outfielder who he could buy low and maybe even sell high on in the future. All Chicago asked for was Wilson Betemit, and minor leaguers Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez. Betemit had played in 87 games in 2008 and hit a decent .265/.289/.429. Sold.

Then, only seven games into the 2009 season, Nady went down with elbow trouble and required Tommy John surgery. Swisher, picked up as a reserve player, was pushed into the starting right fielder’s spot. The rest was history: Swish turned into a clubhouse asset, a semi-decent right fielder, and a power slugger. While he hit only .249, he also took nearly 100 walks and slugged thirty home runs in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. He posted a then-career high .869 OPS, fueled by his .371 OPB, and all for the low, low price of $5.4M. Swisher and Nady together cost less than Abreu had in 2008, too. Swisher’s only problem was his dismal October numbers: 7-for-54 with 15 Ks. Ouch. Regardless, Swisher’s numbers were far, far better than the .200/.280/.311 Betemit posted in 50 plate appearances in Chicago. Nunez made seven appearances and posted a 9.53 ERA, giving up 10 hits and 6 ER.

2010 only made the deal sweeter. Betemit signed with the Royals and went .297/.378./511 in 315 plate appearances, which wasn’t half bad, but Swisher outdid him. Not only did he play in 150 games, even when we all thought he should sit due to a busted knee and a September slide for the team, but he completed his transformation to slugger by posting career-high numbers. He traded in his walks for hits, improving on his .249 in 2009 to .288 in 2010, hitting the same amount of homers and completing the transformation to 4 WAR player. He destroyed the Twins in the 2010 ALDS with a home run and two doubles. He’s even super clutch.

While Swisher isn’t guaranteed to maintain his career-high numbers, he’s definitely in line for another great year in pinstripes. Betemit, meanwhile, has signed a 2011 contract with the Royals, and while a modest improvement might happen, it’ll certainly be nothing in comparison to Swisher. The man’s already posted the 3rd and 4th best Yankee right fielder performances (Sheffield is #1 and #2) since Paul O’Neil.  Meanwhile, Marquez and Nunez stew in AAA, with the first posting a 4.48 ERA, and the latter a 5.48.

I think it’s safe to say that Cashman has a pretty decent head on his shoulders. Like all GMs, he’s going to make a few mistakes, and things are going to happen that are out of his control. But even when taking away the free agent power that Cashman wields, he still proves to be pretty good at picking out a right fielder when he sees one he wants. Go Cash.

Categories : Transactions
  • http://www.secdigitalnetwork.com Eric SanInocencio

    Couldn’t agree more on Swisher. That trade was the pinnacle of buying a valuable asset at its lowest point. Well done.

    I think it is a bit unfair to give Cashman full credit for the Abreu deal. At the time, that trade was strictly viewed as a salary dump, in that the Phillies wanted to rid of Abreu’s contract no matter what, and Cashman waited them out and simply absorbed the deal. That has a lot to do with the Yankees ability to take on large contracts where other teams cannot.

    • Ultimate Yankee Warrior (James)

      The Swisher trade was a salary dump too.

      • http://www.secdigitalnetwork.com Eric SanInocencio

        I think that is debatable. Swish was so bad the year before, I’m not sure the line of suitors were that long.

        • Ultimate Yankee Warrior (James)

          That’s exactly my point. He was below replacement level in 2008 and still had $21M coming to him.

      • Ted Nelson

        Swisher’s contract is pretty reasonable. He was going into his 28 year old season (in his prime) with 3 years guaranteed at an average annual salary of 7.4 mill (4th year is a $1 mill buyout I included in the average salary). Please do not act like if other teams thought Swisher would bounce back and play the way he did in 2009 and 2010 they wouldn’t be willing to pay $7.4 mill a year for his services during his prime years. That’s ridiculous.

    • Nostra-Artist

      And despite the initial backlash, that trade was good for the Phillies as well. They cleared out the payroll space to acquire Lidge and Werth and won themselves a championship within a few years.

  • Ultimate Yankee Warrior (James)

    I appreciate the effort here, but how can you leave out that the only reason they were able to make these trades is because of the salary they took on? Even the Red Sox balked at absorbing Abreu’s salary. And if there were more suiters available for Swisher at his salary, that wouldn’t have been the trade.

    Yes, Cashman takes good risks. But let’s not gloss over that they’re risks only he can take.

    • The Fallen Phoenix

      But they’re not, because other teams sign these players to these contracts, not Cashman. And the White Sox acquired Swisher’s salary second-hand, from Oakland.

  • chris in maine

    Cory Lidle. remember him? The Yanks had to eat his salary too. This
    was a big time salary dump. There was no genius behind this deal. Poor effort on this article.

    • bakekrukow412

      The name of the article is “Right” trades, not “skilled” trades. She’s not trying to show Cashman’s skill at pulling off trades while under a budget. It’s simply an article about whether or not the players he chose to aquire payed off. Everyone knows the Yankees have a large budget, so the bets way to judge the trades is based on whether or not the players actually performed.

      • 88

        It’s hard to be wrong in trading scrubs and absorbing money for Abreu.

        He might be a future HOF. I like Cash but let’s not put Cash on a pedestal for a salary dump.

        • Ted Nelson

          No one else wanted to take that risk, and that’s worth something. The budget helps, but other teams also pay a lot of money to individual players. And other teams often gut stuck with much worse contracts than Abreu as players age.

        • jim p

          Earlier Philly was asking more for Abreu, if I recall. So Cash gets credit for timing.

    • nsalem

      Actually the Phillies didn’t want to part with Lidle and Cashman was quite insistent that Lidle be part of the deal. Lidle was needed to replace Shawn Chacon who was dreadful as the Yankee’s 5th starter
      (7.00 ERA 1.8 WHIP). Chacon was traded to the Pirates the day after the Abreu trade for Craig Wilson. Lidle’s total 2006 salary was 3.3 million and though he wasn’t great he started 9 games down the stretch and was a significant improvement over Chacon. This article was interesting and well written. In my opinion the criticism is unwarranted and I detect a hint of jealousy. Thank you and keep up the good work Hannah.

      • YankeesJunkie

        No, even though Lidle was not good the Yankees needed someone and at least he had the good start against Wells in 2006.

  • chris in maine

    Let’s also remember that Nady was the starter, not Swish. Swish was going to play first until thy signed Tex. at that point hewas the fourth outfielder until Nady hurt. Instead of good, I think Cash got lucky.

    • Ted Nelson

      Pretty sure the article above specifically says as much…

      The way Swish has played, though, he probably would have beaten out Nady (who had basically 1/2 a good season in his ML career) or at least forced a platoon situation. Or one would be spending some time in left, or be traded for a CF… So, not really sure why it matters who the media labeled as the Yankees projected starter in the offseason.

  • http://twitter.com/stephen_mr Stephen Rhoads

    omg this p0st is totly stupid!!! i h8 u and al weeknd writrz 4evr

    • http://www.richardiurilli.com/ Richard Iurilli

      I hate this post because it didn’t write itself.

      I also hate this comment because it didn’t write itself either.

      -gets stuck in recursive loop-

    • Ted Nelson

      This article is solid, but basically states the obvious.

      I actually liked your bullpen analysis, but I found your potshots at the Soriano deal to be unnecessary and largely incorrect or not based in fact. The way you’re acting in the forums is not really winning me over.

      I thought Brock’s article was just weird. Just basically bashing the front office for things he thinks they may do at some point in the future but have not actually done based largely on imagined things that he claims happened in the past but didn’t really happen.
      MAYBE the Yankees will trade Jesus. Sure, but “they’re going to trade him for Kyle Lohse or Joe Saunders” “because they can’t develop prospects and rush people through the minors” and “they give up on young players quickly” and “the ownership has now started a new pattern of always overruling Cashman based on one signing.” No basis in reality.

  • bpdelia

    not afair to say Cashman was lucky that Nady got hurt. In fact Both Nady anADN Swish were going to play as Swish was the regular 1b unti Tex was acquired and swish was acquired on the assumption that he would be a 400+ AB player for them. SO Cashman didn’t acquire swish as a spare part. HE acquired him because he thought he would be a significant contributor. ALso Swishers contract was NOT in a realm where he was cost prohibitive for most teams. HE wasn’t an option for teams like KC but there are a TON of teams who could afford Swish’s deal without it being crippling. LA, LAA, CHI, CHI, NYM, NYY, BOS, BAL, MIN, TEX.

    Any mid market team could have taken a shot on swisher and not had it be some financial black hole.

    Give credit where it’s due.

    • Ted Nelson

      Good points.

      Swisher and Nady could have both played in any number of ways. And it’s not like Nady was that successful besides for 1/2 a season in Pittsburgh. If it was Swisher vs. Nady, Swisher probably beats him outright.

      Swisher was 28 years old and had a guaranteed 3 years at 7.4 mill per… (4th year is team option with $1 mill buyout I included in that 7.4 average).

      • bpdelia

        yeah that’s what I’m getting at Ted. Saying the Abreu trade was a no brainer salary dump is true. Though you still have to give credit for pulling it off and Cashman waited that out for ages. His patience ended up getting Lidle as well and gave up less than was originally asked for.

        But the swisher deal was not some burdensome contract that no one was willing to take on. IT wasn’t even a Silva/Sexson type useless contract. Was it significant? Sure but it wasn’t some contract that no one else could absorb. More than half of the GMs in baseball could have made that move without having to worry about crippling their flexibility.

        IT was, and remains, a reasonable contract for any starting player and for the level Swisher has contributed it’s been an extremely team friendly and productive contract.

        Dollars to donuts Swisher’s next contract over pays him so lets hope it’s not with us

        • Ted Nelson

          Agreed.

          Total speculation… but if Swisher does attract a lot of interest (and $/years) as a FA and Jesus shows that he can’t catch but can hit, maybe the RF spot is the place for him. I have no evidence he can play the OF even passably, but his catcher’s arm might play well in RF, the Yankees’ RF is relatively small, and he’ll be young eough where he may get by mobility-wise. He may be solidly below average, but maybe relatively better than C or passable enough that it’s worth getting his bat in the line-up if DH is occupied.

          Yankees could not pick up Swisher’s option and do this as soon as next offseason (or pick it up and trade him) when Jesus is entering his 22 year old season and theoretically ready for his first full ML season. Or do it after 2012 when Swisher is a FA.

          Total speculation, plenty of holes can be poked in it, and I doubt it happens, but a possibility for those who feel C is the only spot where the Yankees can stick Jesus. I think he’ll stick at C at least splitting time with Martin or someone for a few years, personally. Long-term I have no idea.

  • Bryan

    Someone on twitter is saying the yanks traded Brett Gardner and prospects for Ervin Santana. False I would assume?

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

      a. OT.
      b. it’s fake, from an account with no followers

      • bpdelia

        weird fake rumor? Like who decides “sweet I’m gonna think up a sick hoax. . . .like the yankees trade Brett Gardner and prospects for a decent #3 starter!”

    • bpdelia

      who is saying it? THat would be real nice as long as the “prospects” included anyone other than Banuelos, BEttances, Montero.

      TO be honest I like Santana enough I’d be willing to do Gardner, Brackman and Laird.

      • http://none Aaron

        That’s a little much for Santana.. There are a ton of teams that would like to have Gardner already (I know.. right?), and I am fine with that.. but you can’t give up 2 position players taht are ML ready and a 6-10 Lefty that throws 98 MPH (1st rounder I think) for Santana… if you think people hate Cahsman now.. let him make that move. Laird had a more consistent year than Montero. There I said it.

  • YankeesJunkie

    I think the graph of Swisher and Betemit does not really show the value of how good the trade was. At least a year by year WAR would be more appropriate, but even then Betemit was not an everyday player for the Yanks and the Sox were looking to dump Swish due to conflict with Ozzie because Swish was batting leadoff and in CF.

  • Dillon

    Can he be considered a good GM when our starting five entering a season is CC, Hughes, AJ, filler, rookie?

    The Red Sox are Lester, Bucholtz, Beckett, Lackey, and Dice-k

    • bpdelia

      Yeah but that starting five includes: Beckett with a history or injuries who was signed to a big ass xtension despite serious concerns about his ability to pitch at a high level through the end of the contract.
      Beckett is a big ??.

      Matsuzaka who is one of the most frustrating SPs in baseball and has give ZERO indication he will be able to be a productive and healthy starter. When you include the posting fee in the AAV Dic K is being paid like a #1 or #2 starter and that is ludicrous.

      LAckey who at his age and with his health history and performance is vastly over paid for what he is. Now a 30 something mid rotation starter who has injury questions.

      THe yankees are not going to tie themselves up with anymore poor long term SP contracts unless it is for an ace. We shouold be happy that we now are in a position to see 2 spots open for 2012 when Brackman, Banuelos, Bettances, Nova, Noesi, Phelps will all be ready to compete for tha spot. When you count in Marshall and Mitchell I am extremely confident that the yankees are going to be able to fill 2 rotation spots from that group.

      CC and Hughes will be fixtures.
      Burnett is what it is. IT was a bad signing before the ink dried and its worse now but we aren’t he only team with that problem. Boston has three guys who are over 30, have extensive injury issues and were not effecitve last year (and in Beckett and DIce K’s case not consistently effective in 3 years. ANd couting the posting fee each of those guys are making between 12-15 million dollars a year.

      I don’t envy the red sox their rotation. SOrry I don’t.

      I think the sox are better than the yankees but only moderately so and if Beckett breaks down they are in deep poo poo. I have zero confidence in Dice K and at this point Lackey is a mid roation starter making 15 million. He’s basicaly AJ but with odds being he’ll be more productive form here on out.

      • Ted Nelson

        Agreed.

        I’m not happy with the Yankees starting rotation, of course. I am happier with the Nova/Mitre/Bonderman/Garcia/Phelps/Noesi/Brackman/whoever #4 and #5 opening day options than another Burnett on a long-term $15+ mill per deal or having traded a Cy Young winner in his prime package for a mid-rotation starter. The Yankees have the flexibility going forward to react to situations as they emerge, whether that’s a trade, a break-out rookie, and/or a 2012 free agent.

      • mike c

        buccholz and lester are a solid 1 and 2. beckett and lackey are a decent 3 and 4, and dice-k could be worse at 5. they have as good a rotation as any team in the AL… are they a a sure thing, no. but the yankees have CC, hughes, and three days of boo’s at the moment

        • mark

          buccholz is a #1? i could be way wrong, but i don’t see it… whasn’t his last season all smoke and mirrors?

    • bpdelia

      Yeah but that starting five includes: Beckett with a history or injuries who was signed to a big ass xtension despite serious concerns about his ability to pitch at a high level through the end of the contract.
      Beckett is a big ??.

      Matsuzaka who is one of the most frustrating SPs in baseball and has give ZERO indication he will be able to be a productive and healthy starter. When you include the posting fee in the AAV Dic K is being paid like a #1 or #2 starter and that is ludicrous.

      LAckey who at his age and with his health history and performance is vastly over paid for what he is. Now a 30 something mid rotation starter who has injury questions.

      THe yankees are not going to tie themselves up with anymore poor long term SP contracts unless it is for an ace. We shouold be happy that we now are in a position to see 2 spots open for 2012 when Brackman, Banuelos, Bettances, Nova, Noesi, Phelps will all be ready to compete for tha spot. When you count in Marshall and Mitchell I am extremely confident that the yankees are going to be able to fill 2 rotation spots from that group.

      CC and Hughes will be fixtures.
      Burnett is what it is. IT was a bad signing before the ink dried and its worse now but we aren’t he only team with that problem. Boston has three guys who are over 30, have extensive injury issues and were not effecitve last year (and in Beckett and DIce K’s case not consistently effective in 3 years. ANd couting the posting fee each of those guys are making between 12-15 million dollars a year.

      I don’t envy the red sox their rotation. SOrry I don’t.

      I think the sox are better than the yankees but only moderately so and if Beckett breaks down they are in deep poo poo. I have zero confidence in Dice K and at this point Lackey is a mid rotation starter making 15 million. He’s basicaly AJ but with odds being he’ll be more productive form here on out.

  • bpdelia

    In my humbler opinion BEckett has had all of two ace type seasons. I think he may be the most over rated SP of the last decade or so. He’s been brilliant in the playoffs but his results have NEVER matched the production and the sox would trade him for Sanchez and Ramirez right now if they could. That ended up being a bad trade. Period. HE’s good but he is not even close to LEster and the inability to stay healthy is only going to be more of a problme going forward and the sox owe him almost 63 million dollars over the next 4 years.

    COuntig the posting fee the sox commitment to Dice K is evens out to an AAV around 17 million dollars.

    SEVENTEEN MILLION A YEAR for an era+ of 110. Pull out his very good year two years ago and his other three 17 million dollar years have been era+s of 108, 82, 93.

    he’s throw 585 innings in 4 years. I.e less tha 150 a year of basically league average sp for 17 million.

    If this was on the yankees books right now fans would be literally burning him in effigy but THeo epstein (who lets be real operates in nearly the same economic stratosphere as Cashman) is a wizard?

    Ugh. Drives me crazy.

    The Red SOx rotation has the POTENTIAL to be one of the 5 best in teh AL. It also has the POTENTIAL to be an utter disaster. Bucholz will probably be a solid #2 and LEster is an ace, but before we print the world championship hats lets see what they get from the other 3 TREMENDOUS question marks. PS they have very little high level SP depth to go too at this point.

  • http://none Aaron

    In the article it stated that Swisher had 29 Hrs in Homer Friendly Yankee Stadium.. I thikn it should be noted that most of his HRs that year were on the road. I think he had 8 or 9 at home (which is really peculiar considering, well, everyone on the team had more at home than on the road!).

    Nice to see someone posting something positive about Cashman. Everyone loved him when he signed Teix last second, but now he is dog meat. We tend to forget the good signings and hilight the bad ones forever.

    • mark

      yeah i thought the same thing when i read that… swish was oddly an away day homer hitter…