Before I begin this exercise in What If? baseball history, let’s just remember that hindsight is always 20/20. When we look back in time and try to evaluate trades that weren’t made, it’s easy to do it sitting here in 2008. The trick is to put our selves in the shoes of those involved in the decision. In this case, that means hoping in a time machine and journeying to July 31, 1998.
It is July 31, 1998, and the Yankees are on a once-in-a-lifetime roll. The Yankees are 76-27 with a 15-game lead over the Red Sox. Since a 1-3 start, the team was a blistering 75-24. That just doesn’t happen.
But despite being prohibitive World Series favorites, the Yankees were always searching for ways to get better, and leading the charge was a rookie. General Manager Brian Cashman was in his first year as Yankee GM, and a series of moves and non-moves, beginning on that fateful night in July — the trade deadline — would impact the Yankees Dynasty up through the present day.
As site commenter Phil reminded us today, the Yankees were in the hunt for Randy Johnson. I had completely forgotten about these behind-the-scenes moves. But as RAB favorite and one-time Yankee beatwriter Buster Olney relates, the Yankees didn’t pull the trigger:
Mike Cameron is 35. He has a career offensive line of .251/.341/.445. He’s currently facing a 25-game suspension for a failed test due to a banned stimulant. And now Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Yankees may be interested in Cameron.
More from the tireless Rosenthal:
The Yankees are showing serious interest in Cameron, major-league sources say, figuring that they could trade center fielder Melky Cabrera even if they do not send him to the Twins for left-hander Johan Santana.
Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is a supporter of Cameron’s; the two were teammates with the Mariners in 2000. Cameron also has recent experience playing in New York; he was with the Mets in ’04 and ’05…The Yankees likely would seek prospects for Cabrera, replace him with Cameron in center and keep Johnny Damon in left.
Rosenthal speculates that Damon would play center until Cameron’s suspension. He also feels that the Yanks would sign Cameron to a two-year deal while Austin Jackson matures.
So there’s a lot going on here. First, the Yankees clearly do not view Melky Cabrera as the long-term solution to centerfield. That mantle appears to be Austin Jackson’s. Meanwhile, the Yanks also seem willing to deal Cabrera if the right package comes along.
While we at RAB aren’t the biggest fans of Melky, this is one situation I can’t explain. Cameron at 35 is not an ideal center fielder, and his offensive production is decidedly mediocre and trending downward. Plus, at 35, he isn’t getting younger or better. If the Yanks were intent on trading Melky, they probably should have moved him after 2006 when his stock was higher. Unless he’s part of a package, Cabrera should stay in New York this year.
This is, of course, just a rumor from some “Major League sources,” and we’ll see how it develops. But I don’t like it right now.
Update 1:21 a.m.: After reading over the comments and thinking about this some more, I’m coming around on the idea of getting Cameron if the price is right. He is definitely a bigger offensive threat than Melky and would slot in quite well at the bottom of the Yankee lineup. Also, if the Yanks feel they can spin Melky off to the Pirates for Damaso Marte, I’d probably be down with that. Marte would give the Yankees a great lefty arm out of the pen. Whether the Pirates have any use for Melky, though, is another question all together.
Sorry I’ve been MIA, I started a new job this week and couldn’t spend all my time at work searching the far ends of the interweb for minor league goodies. It appears most of the players have gone home to finally get some rest, so this will be the last Winter Ball update of the offseason.
Bobby Abreu: 1 G, 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 0 SB, 0 CS
Jon Albaladejo: 27 G (0 GS), 26 IP, 23 H, 10 R, 7 ER, 8 BB, 20 K, 1.80 GB/FB
Wilson Betemit: 12 G, 10 for 35 (.286), 6 R, 0 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 7 BB, 14 K, 0 SB, 0 CS
Robbie Cano: 10 G, 14 for 40 (.350), 4 R, 3 2B, 0 2B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 0 SB, 1 K
Frankie Cervelli: 16 G, 7 for 33 (.212), 2 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 10 BB, 11 K, 0 SB, 1 CS
Alberto Gonzalez: 34 G, 43 for 126 (.341), 24 R, 7 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 9 BB, 9 K, 1 SB, 2 CS – small sample size yes, but that’s something very positive he can focus on heading into Spring Training
Edwar Gonzalez: 31 G, 18 for 69 (.261), 5 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 17 K, 2 SB, 2 CS
Jesus Montero: 23 G, 29 for 81 (.358), 18 R, 4 2B, 6 HR, 17 RBI, 14 BB, 14 K, 2 SB – Jesus!
Ivan Nova: 1 G (0 GS), 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 0.33 GB/FB
Scott Patterson: 20 G (0 GS), 23.1 IP, 19 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 20 K, 0.59 GB/FB – 100.2 IP, 1.16 ERA, 59 H, 18 BB, 112 K this season
Heath Phillips: 5 G (5 GS), 25.2 IP, 30 H, 15 R, 14 ER, 11 BB, 25 K, 1.83 GB/FB – new kid on the block
Edwar Ramirez: 3 G (0 GS), 2.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 2.00 GB/FB
Edgar Soto: 5 G (0 GS), 3.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 1 K, 10.00 GB/FB
Marcos Vechionacci: 41 G, 30 for 105 (.286), 13 R, 5 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 5 BB, 15 K, 1 SB, 0 CS – next year’s put up or shut time for Vech
Jose Veras: 9 G (0 GS), 8.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 13 K, 3.33 GB/FB
Guillermo Villalona-Bryan: 3 G (0 GS), 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1.00 GB/FB
The article about the Mets I briefly mentioned at the end of this post contains a little tidbit about Melky Cabrera worth examining. The Twins are not impressed with Melky Cabrera and think he would struggle out of the Yankee lineup. As Joe wrote in September and November, we at RAB are not that enthusiastic about Melky’s future either. It took the Twins long enough to make their thoughts on Melky public. · (32) ·
For some reason, the Yanks seem to be interested in Jason Lane as a potential first base solution. Lane, 31, is a career NLer with an offensive line of .241/.314/.457 and one good season under his belt. He’s also played a grand total of four career games at first base. Why bother? · (25) ·
More from Hank this morning via The Daily News:
“What it comes down to right now is giving up a lot (in a trade) and then having to do the big contract, as well. If (Santana) was just a free agent, we could just go ahead and do it. There’s a big difference this way. We have to sign him as if he’s a free agent, plus you have to give up major talent. That’s a tall order.”
Sounds like the Yanks are starting to shy away from the Santana trade, and their line of reasoning is exactly the same one we’ve been employing since, oh, November. Maybe Hank wants to buy a t-shirt. also. · (18) ·
Hank Steinbrenner: the gift that keeps on giving! Gotta love him. Maybe.
One day after we wrote about how Hank is conducting Johan Santana contract negotiations through Kat O’Brien, we get yet another spin on the Johan Santana story. This one comes to us from Pete Caldera, and this time, Hank says that other players on the Yankees think they can win without Santana.
Well, gosh, I sure do hope the Yanks have a good sense of self-confidence. I wouldn’t want them to say they think they’re going to finish behind the Orioles if they don’t land Santana.
Anyway, some relevant bits:
While speaking to some of his trusted veteran Yankees on other matters, senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner also has sought input about a possible deal for Johan Santana.
According to the majority opinion of his players, the team doesn’t need to make a blockbuster deal with the Minnesota Twins to put them over the top. “Nobody would say that we don’t want Santana, but, yeah, they’re pretty darn confident in what we can do this year [as is],” Steinbrenner said during a phone conversation Tuesday…
“We’re still throwing it around and talking about it. It may happen, or it may not happen,” Steinbrenner said. “But a few of our best players seem very confident in the way that things stand right now.”
Hank wouldn’t say which players don’t think they need Santana. However, as Caldera notes, Jorge Posada himself a few months ago said the Yanks sure could use the power lefty on the team.
Additionally, Steinbrenner noted that the Yankees are still in the Santana race despite a deadline because that deadline applied only to the discussions at the Winter Meetings. “Originally, I set a deadline … because the winter meetings [are] a circus,” Steinbrenner said. “And I’m not going to be played against another team.”
Anyway, despite the talk, the Mets may have the inside track on Santana. If the Yanks’ crosstown rivals add prospect Fernando Martinez to their offer, they may emerge as the frontrunners to land Santana.
Congress is delaying their
unnecessary grandstanding hearing featuring the big names in the Mitchell Report.
The congressional hearing involving Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and former trainer Brian McNamee was postponed Wednesday until Feb. 13 so lawmakers can gather evidence and coordinate their investigation with the Justice Department.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was informing witnesses that the Jan. 16 session is being pushed back…
“The Justice Department told the committee it would be helpful if we waited until after Radomski is sentenced,” the committee’s minority staff director, David Marin, wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “This also gives us more time to delve into more recent developments, gather more information, and depose all witnesses before they testify in public.”
Spring Training starts the next day. What a coincidence. I’m sure this has nothing to do with media attention focused on baseball right before pitchers and catchers report. The circus, indeed.