A look at trade deadlines past: 2007

The final stop in our trade deadline series will be 2007. I mean, we all remember 2008, right? You can find 2005 here and 2006 here.

Lay of the land

At 9-14, the Yankees sat last in the AL East on April 30, 2007. Even then, it took a couple of A-Rod walk-offs to even keep them at that level. They recovered, but then fell back off, again finding themselves in the cellar, tied with the Devil Rays at 22-29. Meanhwile, Boston has the best record in baseball. By July 15 they’d hit some kind of stride, creeping into second place but still 8.5 games behind the first-place Red Sox.

At this point the offense was starting to come around. Johnny Damon had somewhat recovered from his putrid start, which included leg cramps and a reported desire to walk away from the game. Robinson Cano had bounced back after a slow April. Bobby Abreu returned to form after a May which was so bad that some wanted to trade him for Jermaine Dye, who was hitting equally poorly.

Then, of course, were Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada, who were both tearing the cover off the ball. Melky Cabrera had heated up after a slow start. Hideki Matsui and Derek Jeter were both hitting to their expectations. Only two real holes remained on the offense, and they were Jason Giambi, who was out with plantar fasciitis and a partial tear of his plantar fascia, and Doug Mientkiewicz, who after kind of turning it on was out as a result of a Mike Lowell elbow.

The rotation looked the best it had in years, though that’s not saying a lot. Chien-Ming Wang was having another standout year, Andy Pettitte was contributing quality innings for the first time since 2003, and even Mike Mussina had recovered after a shaky start (though we know how that story ended). Roger Clemens was in the rotation and pitching okay. The bullpen is what needed some serious help.

Things were just starting to get good. The Yanks had propped themselves up by mid-July, and after the All-Star Break they went on a tear.

Cashman’s moves

There were plenty of Yankees rumors leading up to the deadline, mostly focusing on acquiring Eric Gagne. It seemed like they were close with the Rangers, but it just didn’t work out. The Red Sox jumped in and got him. That was the big name. There were other little ones.

In an attempt to find someone, anyone who could pitch a scoreless inning, Cashman took a few shots in the dark. First was Runelvys Hernandez, though that experiment ended on July 7. He picked up Scott Williamson, who hadn’t pitched well since 2004. That was it on the bullpen front, though. Neither worked out, obviously.

There were a couple moves of note, though. Sick of watching Wil Nieves, the Yankees dished Jeff Kennard for Jose Molina. Then, in a surprise move which left the bullpen even weaker and spelled the end of Torre-favorite Miguel Cairo, Cashman traded Scott Proctor for Wilson Betemit.

That was it. Nothing major, just a few moves to the team going forward. This was a bit strange, because the Yankees were looking for relief help and so many relievers changed teams before the deadline. In addition to Gagne, Scott Linebrink, Dan Wheeler, Ron Mahay, Octavio Dotel, and Wil Ledezma all found new homes. The Yanks had someone better than all them, though.

How it all worked out

In early August, the Yankees decided to do something a bit unorthodox. They announced they’d take a look at first-year pro Joba Chamberlain as a reliever. The idea was that someone with Joba’s electric stuff could make a difference in the bullpen. They were right, and Joba served as the bridge to Mo over the last two months of the season. It was better than any deadline acquisition they could have made.

(Especially Gagne, who famously tanked.)

Yet even with a mostly quiet deadline, the Yankees picked up steam. Phil Hughes came back after tearing his hamstring amid a no-hitter and then rolling his ankle during rehab, pitching serviceably the rest of the way. The offense started hitting — including Jason Giambi, who came back in early August.

Despite their torrid start, the Red Sox cooled off, and found their lead as little as 1.5 games on September 23, with seven games left. They’d end up winning it, but the Yanks took the wild card with relative ease, The Yanks had almost come all the way back, by doing almost nothing.

The pickings were seemingly slim in 2007. The Yanks definitely could have used Mark Teixeira, but there was no way they could match the Braves’ package without giving up Phil Hughes, and in 2007 that was off the table (partly because he was untouchable, partly because hew as injured at the deadline). Even then, that was one helluva trade, and I’m not sure the Yanks could have matched it anyway.

It was all going so well, and they would have gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for those meddling midges.

In the three years we’ve examined, the Yankees have made one big move, the 2006 trade for Bobby Abreu. Other than that they’ve gone with a series of lesser moves in hopes of shoring up a few weaknesses. I expect much of the same this year. Maybe they get a pitcher today, but I wouldn’t bet on it. The Yanks look good now, their flaws no greater than those of other teams.

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Trade deadline open thread – Thursday

Update (12:44pm): The Tigers traded speedy outfielder Josh Anderson to the Royals for cash today. One less option for a Brett Gardner fill-in.

It’s going to be kind of hard to top yesterday, no? With Cliff Lee headed to Philadelphia, seven players changing hands between the Mariners and Pirates, and Freddy Sanchez headed to San Fran in exchange for a top pitching prospect, it would take quite a few moves — or a Doc Halladay move — to top it.

The Yanks weren’t quiet, slipping in an acquisition of Jason Hirsh under the radar. I’ve always been a fan of Hirsh, but I don’t expect him to contribute this year. Hopefully he can work back into shape in Scranton, get a few big league innings in September, and help the team next year.

As far as new rumors go, we heard yesterday that the Yankees were interested in Josh Anderson to help fill in for the injured Brett Gardner. Today we learn that they’re also interested in Corey Patterson. The Yanks have an abundance of potential 40-man roster spots, so they can afford to take a gamble. Xavier Nady and Chien-Ming Wang are both on the 15-day DL and could clear up spots with moves to the 60-day. Sergio Mitre didn’t cost a 40-man spot, because the Yankees DFA Brett Tomko to call him up, so Jose Veras’s vacated spot is still there. Kevin Cash is also out for the season, and although I’m not exactly sure of the rules, they could probably release him and free up a spot.

That might be unnecessary, though, as the Yankees could call up Austin Jackson. I’d still call the move unlikely. WIth the available 40-man spots, Patterson might be a better option right now, since his primary role would be replacing Johnny Damon late in games for defensive purposes. The lack of a true backup center fielder does make it tough to give Damon a day off, because that would put both Eric Hinske and Nick Swisher in the outfield.

Apparently, the Blue Jays have been scouting the Yanks minor leagues, though that would appear to be in preparation to trade a reliever, not Halladay. Mike talked about Scott Downs over the weekend.

That seems to be about it for now. As yesterday, this is a trade deadline open thread. We’ll update it with any big stuff, or Yankee-related stuff, as it comes along.

A look at trade deadlines past: 2006

We continue our look at the New York Yankees trade deadline moves with 2006. You can check out the 2005 version here.

Lay of the land

After a tumultuous beginning to the 2005 season, the Yankees were in a much better position in 06. At 52-36 they were just a game and a half back of the Red Sox on July 15, and owned the AL’s fourth best record (remember, the Tigers were on pace for 110 wins at that point). Their pitching was much better, even though Carl Pavano, in the second year of his four-year commitment, hadn’t thrown a pitch.

Chien-Ming Wang was emerging as the team’s best pitcher. Mike Mussina had a torrid first half, going 10-3 with a 3.24 ERA in his contract year. Randy Johnson, despite an ERA in tatters, was still getting enough run support to win games. Even Jaret Wright was pitching well enough to be a fifth starer.

The problem was that one hole in the rotation. Shawn Chacon went downhill after taking a line drive off the shin. At the time, Darrell Rasner, freshly plucked off waivers from the Nats earlier in the year, was having some issues and couldn’t come up. In an apparent desperation move to fill a rotation spot, the Yanks signed Sidney Ponson on July 14. That should show their pitching troubles.

In the bullpen, things were a bit better. Mike Myers wasn’t all that bad. Scott Proctor had emerged as Torre’s seventh inning guy. Kyle Farnsworth, in the first season of his three-year deal, was disappointing. Tanyon Sturtze had bombed. Ron Villone was pitching well after sitting dormant for much of the first half. The Yanks were trying various options, including Sean Henn, though not much was sticking. Hell, even Scott Erickson got into nine games.

The look of the offense, though, was a bit more bleak. Hideki Matsui went down in May with a broken wrist and wouldn’t be back until at least September. Gary Sheffield had surgery on his forearm, and it was uncertain if he’d ever be back. The Yanks were running an outfield of Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, and Bernie Williams. It wasn’t the worst, but neither Melky nor Bernie had a lot of power. Things had gotten bad enough that the Yanks signed Terrence Long.

Cashman’s moves

July started slowly for Brian Cashman. The Phillies were demanding Phil Hughes in exchange for Bobby Abreu, which was simply out of the question. Still, Cash made a few under the radar moves, picking up Brian Bruney as a free agent after the Diamondbacks released him, and selecting Aaron Guiel off waivers. Nothing groundbreaking, but again part of Cashman’s strategy to pick up some low risk guys.

In the last week of July, Cash made his move. It started small, trading a nothing prospect to Philly for Sal Fasano. Ed Wade and Cashman would hook up four days later, as Philly sent Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle to New York for C.J. Henry, Matt Smith (who hadn’t yet allowed a run out of the bullpen), and a couple others. It was a clear case of the Yankees taking on salary so they wouldn’t have to send real prospects in a trade. In one swoop Cashman had added his fourth starter and his starting right fielder.

The next day he capped the deadline activity by trading the floundering Shawn Chacon to the Pirates for Craig Wilson, who was to shore up the bench. That didn’t exactly work out, but there was no downside to the trade. A half month later, however, the Yanks made perhaps their worst move by releasing Carlos Pena. Clearly they didn’t foresee his looming breakout season, or else they would have called him up to replace Andy Phillips at first. Plus, who knows if he would have done anything in 06. He was, after all, in the minors for a reason. The Red Sox made a similar judgment.

How it all turned out

There were mixed results with the pitchers, but Cashman scored a bit win with Abreu, who tore it up with a .926 OPS. That helped shore up the outfield, though it would create a logjam later when Gary Sheffield insisted on coming back in late September. Best of all, Abreu gave them an instant replacement for Sheffield, who was going to depart after the season anyway. Aaron Guiel was also a modest success, though nothing to brag about.

Lidle didn’t hold down that fourth rotation spot like they’d hoped, but both Rasner and Jeff Karstens contributed down the stretch. Bruney was a hit in his 19 appearances, allowing just two runs. He did walk 15 in 20.2 innings, which was a sign of things to come for 2007. Still, he helped out a shaky bullpen, which was pretty much without Ron Villone come September.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the Abreu acquisition. It powered the Yankees through August, including the glorious five-game sweep of the Red Sox which effectively buried them. The Yanks ran away with the division, winning 97 games and finishing 11 games ahead of second-place Toronto. They actually finished ahead of the Tigers, who blew the division to the Twins at the end. That led to a Yanks-Tigers matchup, and we all know what happened there.

Next up is 2007, another season in which the Yankees started off slowly and had a few needs at the deadline.

Trade Deadline Open Thread: Wednesday

We might as well start one of these. For those of you hoping the Yankees land Ian Snell … he’s just been traded to Seattle.

Use this thread to talk about the trade deadline today, and please keep the other threads clear of off topic comments. Thanks.

Update by Joe (1:18 p.m.): Via MLBTR, Joel Sherman reports that Brian Cashman hasn’t even asked to expand the 2009 payroll. I suspect that if the right deal came along, it wouldn’t take much convincing. Money quote: “This is pertinent because the Yankees do believe that the Red Sox have put Clay Buchholz into a trade offer for Halladay and that Boston just might get the ace righty.”

Halladay to Boston is a scary proposition, but far from the end of the world. The Yankees do have some pitching questions, and I presume that with the loss of Chien-Ming Wang, their No. 2 starter heading into the season, that the Steinbrenners will allow for a payroll exception if it means shoring up the rotation.

Update by Joe (2:21 p.m.): It’s unofficial as of the moment, but MLBTR is chronicling the Cliff Lee to Philly trade. Looks like Lee and Ben Francisco for Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson. That should keep them away from Halladay. Could Toronto turn to Boston?

A look at trade deadlines past: 2005

In case my recent spate of posts hasn’t made it evident, I have quite the obsession with the trade deadline. It really covers all team building maneuvers, but the trade deadline is of especial fascination. Here are teams, two thirds of the way through a grueling 162-game season, deciding which of their players, veterans and prospects alike, are expendable. They have to make judgments about myriad details: what helps them now, what helps them in the future, what kind of value they should give up, and what kind of value they should get in return, just to name the obvious.

If you can cut through the wall of noise which surrounds us during times of high trade activity, it can reveal a lot about an organization’s philosophy. The problem is that we never get the full signal. Even the reporters who cover this team and deliver our daily helping of rumors don’t know everything a team considers. They don’t know some deals that almost went down. We get some of that information, but like all information of this sort there are many smokescreens which disguise a team’s true intent.

Over the next couple of days I’d like to take a look at the Yankees from 2005 through 2007 (with a possible addendum of 2008 just before the deadline on Friday) to see where they stood, where their weaknesses lied, and what moves they made. It’s tough to go back and find all of the rumors, but we can look at what they needed and what they got. We start with 2005.

Lay of the land

The Yankees, you’ll remember, started off 2005 in poor fashion, posting an 11-19 record on May 6. Many comparisons were drawn to the 1965 Yankees, who fell off a cliff. They did recover, and by July 15 were 47-41, just two and a half back of the first-place Red Sox. As every year, they were clearly buyers, and the prime target was pitching.

Like 2009, the Yankees had basically every spot filled. They could have upgraded in the outfield over Bernie Williams and Tony Womack, but it’s tough to just sit a veteran like Bernie. Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui manned the corners, while Robinson Cano played a capable second base. They could have upgraded there, but were seemingly satisfied to let Cano grow into the role.

On the pitching end, the Yanks were in a bit of a bind. Randy Johnson was pitching well, but Mike Mussina was having an off-year. Jaret Wright and Kevin Brown were hurt — surprise surprise — as was Carl Pavano at that point, though the Yanks thought they’d be getting him back. Chien-Ming Wang surprised with some solid performances, but he hit the DL with a rotator cuff issue after his July 8 start. That left the Yankees with just Johnson and Wang, and though the bullpen was in need, they needed a starter far more.

Cashman’s moves

The prospect-depleted Yanks weren’t really in a position to make a big move in 2005. They had tried to acquire Randy Johnson at the trade deadline in 2004, but their system, headed by Cano, Wang, and Dioner Navarro, wasn’t impressing the Diamondbacks at the time. With Wang and Cano on the active roster, and with Navarro gone in the Johnson deal over the winter, the cupboard was pretty bare. Cashman then took the only viable strategy: throw shit at the wall and hope something sticks.

On July 1, Cashman signed Brian Boehringer. The next day he dished the underperforming Paul Quantrill for Darrell May and Tim Redding. Two weeks after that he received Al Leiter from the Florida Marlins. On July 29 he signed Hideo Nomo. His biggest move, if you could even consider it big at the time, was trading two minor league relievers, Eduardo Sierra and Ramon Ramirez, to the Rockies for Shawn Chacon. With no good, proven veterans available to the Yanks, this is all they could really do.

To shore up the bullpen, he signed Alan Embree, freshly released by the Red Sox. Again, not a big move, but it was something, anything to shore up the mess of a bullpen, which featured the likes of Tanyon Sturtze, who was terrible after May, Scott Proctor, Felix Rodriguez, Buddy Groom, Mike Stanton, and Wayne Franklin.

How it all turned out

Strangely, one of Cashman’s biggest moves came on January 21, when he signed Aaron Small to a minor league contract. That and the trade for Chacon saved the Yankees’ season. Not that Cashman could have relied on them. They were just some shit that happen to stick to the wall at the exact right time.

Small appeared in 15 games, started nine, and famously went 10-0. His 3.20 ERA was a testament to his ability to keep the ball in the park and keep men off base — his 8.4 hits per nine is far, far below what should be expected of a player with Small’s lowly K rate. Chacon started 12 games, pitching 79 innings and allowing just 25 runs. His walk rate and his strikeout rate sucked, but like Small he allowed a small number of hits for his peripherals.

The real deadline acquisition was on the offensive side, and that was Jason Giambi. On May 14 he was hitting .200/.382/.318, and most fans thought he was done. He had, after all, missed most of the 2004 season with a pituitary tumor which most assumed was steroids-related. Without the juice, Giambi was a goner. But from this low point, when his OPS dropped below .700, Giambi exploded, hitting .289/.455/.590 the rest of the way, combining with eventual-MVP Alex Rodriguez for one of the most formidable 1-2 punches in the league.

It was the summer of luck for the Yankees. They got a few decent starts out of Leiter and Wright once he returned (before Wright fell off a cliff in his last three starts). Chacon and Small were the very definition of blind luck. They also got a run of good starts from Mussina, though he too fell off a cliff at season’s end. It’s hard to imagine any team being that lucky, considering the injuries the team suffered and the replacements they hired.

Tomorrow we’ll come back with 2006, a bit more stable of a season. Still, it’s easy to remember what the Yanks’ major needs were that July, too.