Lack of baseball can make a person go mad. For instance, when browsing MLB Trade Rumors this morning I saw the following line: “The Yankees are interested in Kyle Drabek.” Madness. Sure, the Yankees probably have some level of interest in Drabek; they have interest in any pitcher at the right price. But this just seemed odd. It came from a Bob Elliott column in the Toronto Sun, and the article, too, contains the explicit reference: “The New York Yankees are interested in right-hander Kyle Drabek.” Could they actually mount a pursuit of the almost 24-year-old righty?
Drabek’s career began in 2006, when the Phillies drafted him with the 18th overall pick. He got off to something of a slow start, struggling in A-ball during his first season. But a quality showing in the New York-Penn League in 2008, followed by a rise to AA in 2009, increased his stock. Before the 2010 season Baseball America rated him the No. 25 prospect in all of baseball. By that point he was in the Blue Jays organization, coming over in the Roy Halladay trade. He debuted there at the end of the 2010 season, and that audition earned him a spot on the Opening Day 2011 roster.
While his first start went well, it was mostly downhill for Drabek from there. He faced the Yankees twice, throwing 7.2 innings total and allowing nine runs. After allowing eight runs in four innings against the Red Sox in mid-June he was left with a 5.70 ERA in 72.2 innings. That was cause enough for a demotion to AAA, a level at which he had never previously pitched. His season didn’t get much better there, as he threw 75 innings to a 7.44 ERA before coming back up in September. The remainder of his season consisted of two scoreless outings, a six runs in two innings affair, and finally one run in one inning. In short, nothing went the way the Jays had planned.
If the Yankees are actually interested in Drabek — and I’m not convinced that’s actually the case — they’d view him as a change of scenery guy. Chances are they wouldn’t part with anything of immediate value, since Drabek’s poor MLB showing casts some doubts about his future. He can recover, certainly; to write off any 24-year-old is folly. But Drabek’s extreme control issues, which haunted him in AAA as well as the majors, have to give any team pause in trying to acquire him. His buy-low status will likely lead to offers that don’t satisfy the Jays demands. After all, if Drabek can turn it around why would they sell low on him?
Even further, it’s not clear that the Yankees actually have interest in trading for Drabek. Elliott’s blurb pretty commandingly claims that’s the case, but later on he writes that the “Yankees people are asking Jays scouts questions.” This doesn’t seem terribly abnormal, especially for a pitcher within the Yankees’ division. If this is the entire proof of the Yankees’ interest, it might not be interest in trading for Drabek, but rather a measure of opposition research. That makes a bit more sense, considering teams’ natural reluctance to trade within their divisions. The Yankees and Jays haven’t hooked up for a trade since Raul Mondesi came to New York in 2002.
These types of nuggets can ignite a quick flame in the cold off-season months, but they rarely amount to much. It’s just something to discuss on a day when nothing major happens. The Yankees, we know, are looking everywhere possible for upgrades to the rotation. If the Blue Jays have indicated that they’d listen on Drabek, chances are the Yankees will start asking some questions. But it seems extremely unlikely that they ever get to serious talks. Trading a 24-year-old top prospect is one thing. Trading him to a powerful division rival, while selling low, is quite another.