Fake Old Rumor: Expos offered Vlad Guerrero and Pedro Martinez for Derek Jeter

Vlad. (Getty)
Vlad. (Getty)

I’m not much of a baseball historian, but the older I get, the more I enjoy thinking back to the game when I was a kid. Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield, the late-1990s dynasty, that sort of stuff. It’s fun to remember those years. I’m a sucker for “what ifs” too. What if David Cone didn’t walk Doug Strange with the bases loaded? What if Jim Leyritz didn’t hit that homer? What if Tony Clark’s double was off the wall and not a ground-ruler?

So, needless to say, this super old and fascinating and weird rumor is right in my wheelhouse. From Nick Cafardo:

As the story goes: When Jeffrey Loria owned the Expos, he was obsessed with Derek Jeter. So he ordered his general manager, Jim Beattie, to try to make a deal with the Yankees and to give up whatever he had to. Beattie offered Yankees GM Brian Cashman Vladimir Guerrero and Pedro Martinez. Stunned, Cashman told Beattie, “I can’t trade Derek Jeter.”

How about that for a rumor? Imagine trading young Jeter for young Vlad and prime Pedro. Loria’s a native New Yorker and he has long admired the Yankees — why do you think he hired Mattingly this offseason? — so it makes total sense that he’d want Jeter. Who wouldn’t want Jeter back then? He was already a megastar.

That’s a great old rumor. Too bad it’s completely bogus. First and foremost, Loria did not buy into the Expos until 1999 — even then he didn’t have controlling interesting, that came a few months later — and by then Pedro was already with the Red Sox. He was traded to Boston in November 1997. Also, Cashman was promoted to GM in February 1998, two months after Pedro was traded to BoSox.

So no, this Jeter for Vlad/Pedro conversation didn’t actually happen. Sorry for being such a buzzkill. I don’t doubt Loria wanted Jeter, and hey, maybe Beattie did offer Vlad or Pedro for Jeter at some point. Pedro has said he was almost traded to New York. Time has a way of warping things — the older the story gets, the farther the home run travels, that sort of thing — and I’m sure this rumor had legs somewhere along the line. The Expos probably wanted Jeter. Everything else broke down during the game of telephone.

This is a very interesting what if though. Would Jeter for Vlad and Pedro have made sense for the Yankees? Let’s assume this happened during the 1997-98 offseason, when the Expos really got serious about trading Pedro. The Yankees would have traded four years of Jeter for five years of Vlad and one year of Pedro. If you simply add up the WARs — the lazy man’s trade analysis — it would have been 25.2 WAR (Jeter) for 32.9 WAR (Vlad) and 7.2 WAR (Pedro), so the Yankees would have come out way ahead.

It’s not quite that simple though. Who plays shortstop after Jeter? Andy Fox? Homer Bush? Shortstops like Jeter are harder to find than outfielders like Vlad, and don’t mean that as a knock on Vlad. He was awesome. Jeter was a much more valuable commodity as a player. So the Yankees would have no shortstop, and Guerrero would have to play left field because the Yankees had Bernie Williams in center and Paul O’Neill in right. They’d go into the season with a starting lineup that looks something like this:

  1. 2B Chuck Knoblauch
  2. DH Tim Raines
  3. RF Paul O’Neill
  4. CF Bernie Williams
  5. 1B Tino Martinez
  6. LF Vlad Guerrero
  7. C Jorge Posada
  8. 3B Scott Brosius
  9. SS ???

Would the Knoblauch trade have even happened if the Jeter trade went down? Would the Yankees trade their starting shortstop (Jeter) and top shortstop prospect (Cristian Guzman) in one offseason? Maybe! Knoblauch was a star and Vlad looked like a future star. The Yankees still had Bush as a stopgap and D’Angelo Jimenez in the system, after all.

The rotation aspect is pretty straight forward. Pedro, who won the NL Cy Young in 1997, would have joined holdovers Andy Pettitte, David Cone, and David Wells in the 1998 rotation. Ramiro Mendoza was the fifth starter to start that season, and eventually Hideki Irabu and Orlando Hernandez joined the starting five. One of those two would be out of the picture. Probably Irabu since Bush would have had to play short (and therefore not been involved in the Irabu trade with the Padres), but maybe El Duque instead.

This is a pretty wonderful what if scenario. It’s impossible to complain about in hindsight. The 1998 Yankees were one of the ten best teams in baseball history and the Yankees won three straight World Series after this hypothetical trade would have gone down. That Jeter guy stuck around for a while too. Things worked out pretty okay.

(Update: Cashman told Bryan Hoch the rumor was bogus. He did say he tried for both Vlad and Pedro over the years, and the Expos did ask about Jeter at one point.)

Rosenthal: Yankees not interested in Vlad Guerrero

Via Ken Rosenthal: The Yankees do not have interest in Vlad Guerrero, who recently switched agents and is willing to accept a minor league deal. The club insists they will temporarily replace Curtis Granderson from within.

Guerrero, 38, played a handful of minor league games with the Blue Jays last year but otherwise has not appeared in the big leagues since 2011 with the Orioles (96 wRC+ in 590 PA). As was the case with Johnny Damon, I think the Yankees should be all over this. They have nothing to lose by bringing Vlad to camp on a minor league contract, and if anything it’ll create some buzz and add excitement to an otherwise mundane camp. He’s a disaster in the outfield these days, which is a bit of a problem, but it’s not like running Juan Rivera out there would be much better.

The Vlad Guerrero Option

(Jim Rogash/Getty Images))

The Yankees’ search for a part-time DH has essentially come down to three finalists: Raul Ibanez, who remains the front-runner; Johnny Damon, whose quest for 3,000 hits might be hindering his play, and Hideki Matsui, whose 2011 season looked like the end of the road. Chances are the Yankees will move on one of these players once they’ve shed A.J. Burnett and a portion of his salary. But none of that has happened yet. That leaves other suitors a chance to make a case. One has already spoken up.

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, Vladimir Guerrero “has made it known to the Yankees that he wants their DH spot.” We’ve been over many possible DH candidates, but to date we haven’t discussed Guerrero. He just didn’t seem to fit, based on a surface judgment. Instead of simply accepting this, though, let’s look a bit deeper into what Vlad can bring to the team. Might he be a better DH option than the current suitors?

The first strike against Vlad appears to be his handedness. All of the prominent suitors for the Yankees’ DH role, including minor league signee Russ Branyan, hit from the left side of the plate. Given the current roster construction, a lefty does make sense for that part-time DH spot. Since Andruw Jones will take reps against left-handers, the Yanks could use someone who can handle right-handers.

Yet that obscures the issue a bit. First, some of Jones’ at-bats will be at the expense of Brett Gardner. While Gardner can hold his own against lefties, he has absolutely no pop against them. Using Jones in left adds power to the lineup, while at the same time keeping Gardner’s legs fresh. The DH spot, then, can remain open against LHP at times.

The other issue: not every lefty hits righties better than every righty. This comes at the top of the scale — Jose Bautista and Miguel Cabrera, both righties, have hit right-handed pitching better than anyone in the last two seasons — and the bottom. That is, just because someone hits left handed doesn’t mean that he’s necessarily good against them. We can see this when comparing the DH candidates.

In terms of overall numbers, Damon and Vlad have been the best hitters in the last two seasons, producing 109 and 108 wRC+ numbers. Ibanez trails them by a bit, producing average numbers. Matsui, on the strength of his 2010 season, actually ranks just behind Vlad and Damon, with a 107 wRC+.

When we turn to production against RHP, Matsui actually comes out ahead with a 110 wRC+. From there Ibanez, Vlad, and Damon are all close, with slightly above average numbers. That is, there’s not a huge difference among them in terms of production against right-handed pitching. That is, Vlad can hang with them, even though he bats right-handed.

In terms of age, Vlad also holds the advantage. He’s 37 this season. Ibanez is 40, and Damon and Matsui are both 38. There might not be much to this, since they’re all past their primes and could fall off a cliff at any moment. There’s also the issue of their current declines. Here’s how much each one dropped off, in terms of wRC+, from 2010 to 2011.

Guerrero: -24
Damon: even
Ibanez: -19
Matsui: -30

Of course, the dips from Matsui and Guerrero are greater, because they had far better 2010 seasons than both Damon and Ibanez. At the same time, Damon is the only one to finish with above-average numbers in 2011. This makes the situation a bit murkier.

If one thing becomes clear when breaking down the situation, it’s that Ibanez’s status as front-runner makes little sense. He’s the oldest in the group, saw a pretty steep decline from 2010 to 2011, and overall produced the worst numbers in the past two years. While Matsui’s stark decline from 2010 to 2011 might disqualify him as a serious candidate, the same could, and probably should, be said of Ibanez. It’s hard to see where the optimism comes from.

Guerrero, it appears, isn’t at all the worst candidate for the Yankees’ DH gig. He might hit right-handed, but hey, so did the guy who was originally supposed to fill the DH role in 2012. The only big red flag is that he realized a marked drop-off in 2011, though part of that involves his quality 2010 season. His case is definitely stronger than I had originally envisioned.

Chances are the Yankees won’t seriously consider Guerrero for DH, and in a way that’s a shame. Maybe he doesn’t hit left-handed, but he looks like a better option than Ibanez right now. If the Yankees are having trouble working out something with Ibanez or Damon, perhaps Vlad does become a dark horse. It’s hard to make a case that the other guys are much, if any, better.

Vlad, Cust, and Ibanez contacted Yankees about DH job

Via Ken Davidoff, the representatives for Jack Cust, Vlad Guerrero, and Raul Ibanez have contact the Yankees recently about their now vacant DH job. Cust signed with the Astros last night, so he’s already a non-option. Joe wrote about Ibanez yesterday, so I’ll just refer you to that.

As far as Vlad goes, he’s much more name than production at this point. The soon-to-be 37-year-old hit just .290/.317/.416 with 13 homers last year, drawing just 14 unintentional walks in 590 plate appearances. His big year with the Rangers in 2010 was more like a big first half, and it’s worth noting that his batted ball profile has changed dramatically since mid-2010. He’s a ground ball machine now, which means few homers and lots of double plays. I’d prefer a left-handed batter myself, one willing to work the pitcher and not chase the first pitch in the same time zone.

Mailbag: Vlad & Relievers

No, that's not Wilton. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Ryan asks: How different would the mid-2000’s of played out if the Yanks topped the Angels 5 year, $70 million contract for Vlad instead of signing Sheff for 3 years at $39 million after the 2003 season. Over the 3 years Sheff was in NY he produced a 10 WAR. Vlad over that 3 years, 16.6 WAR. I did enjoy Sheff but always felt that they should of went with Vlad.

You know what, I honestly don’t think things would have played out all that differently. The problems with those teams in the mid-00’s was pitching, not hitting. Plus it’s not like Sheff didn’t hit, because he absolutely did in 2004 and 2005 (.396 wOBA) before getting hurt. The Yankees almost certainly wouldn’t have traded for Bobby Abreu in 2006 with Vlad around, and you know what? They might not have been able to sign both Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon (four years, $52M each) prior to the 2006 season either. If they had signed only Matsui (since he was the incumbent), he and Vladdy would have been duking it out for DH at-bats the last few seasons. That would have been some ugly outfield defense, not to mention injury risk.

I wanted the Yankees to sign Guerrero instead of Sheffield as well, but I don’t believe the offensive and defensive upgrade he provided over Sheff would have been enough to overcome the pitching. And who knows how that contract would have impacted future free agent signings.

Tucker asks: A couple names for possible relievers: Mike MacDougal, Scot Shields, Jon Rauch, and Micah Owings.

The easy one is Shields, because he said he was likely to retire this offseason back in September. He hasn’t made an official announcement yet, but I imagine it’s coming. Even if he wanted to continue playing, he has been just a shell of his former self since injuring his knee in 2009. Over the last two years, Shields has struck out 7.2 batters per nine innings (down from 9+ at his peak) while walking 6.9 per nine, far too many. His swinging strike rate fell off a cliff as well. I’d be very, very afraid given his age (35), recent injury history, and overall career workload.

MacDougal is a walk machine, with 5.78 uIBB/9 over the last four seasons. His strikeout rate isn’t all that great either, just 6.73 K/9 during the same time. He still throws extremely hard, so that’s a plus. MacDougal has had a settle for a minor league contract in each of the last two winters, and I expect that trend to continue in this one. I’d have no trouble with giving him (or really anyone) a minor league deal to see if you can catch lightning in a bottle, but the expectations should be zero. Fun Fact: MacDougal’s real name is Robert Meiklejohn MacDougal.

He can hit! (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

People stopped complaining about the Yankees getting Ross Ohlendorf instead of Micah Owings in the Randy Johnson trade soon after they realized that Owings couldn’t pitch (5.03 FIP career) nearly as well as he could hit (.365 wOBA). He’s dealt with shoulder issues in recent seasons, and over the last two years he owns a 6.06 K/9 and a 5.06 uIBB/9. Owings is also a big time fly ball pitcher (64.1% non-ground balls in his career), so homers will be an issue as well. But again, same deal is MacDougal, minor league contract with no expectations is fine with me. I’m not guaranteeing either player anything more than a hotel room in Spring Training.

At this point, Rauch is the only real major league pitcher left in the group. His fine 2010 season was propped up by the best homerun rate of his career (0.47 HR/9), and that’s due to a) playing half his games in Target Field, and b) lucking out and not surrendering a single long ball to a right-handed batter. Over the rest of his career, he’s a one homer per nine innings guy, and I’d expect him to be at least that going forward. Rauch’s strikeout rate has hovered right around seven per nine with the exception of 2006 and 2008, when he was over eight, and his unintentional walk rate is close to two per nine in the last half-decade or so. He’s another extreme fly ball guy (66.4% non-grounders in his career), so that scares me a bit in Yankee Stadium, but Rauch is a quality big league arm that could help the Yankee bullpen. I have no idea what kind of contract he’s looking for, but I’d be skeptical of a multi-year guarantee.

The Official “Don’t Even Think About It” Post

It happens every offseason. Out of nothing but pure boredom and an overdose of creativity, we’ll see suggestions about oddball players the Yankees should acquire to improve their team. Last year’s the fetish was Mark DeRosa, who would have presumably played every position under the sun while giving the regulars a chance to rest and play designated hitter for a day. Nevermind the tendon sheath he tore in his wrist late in the 2009 season, he was a perfect fit as a super-sub!

Sure enough, DeRosa played just 26 games (.241 wOBA!) in 2010 before rupturing that same tendon sheath, ending his season in early-May. All for the low low price of $6M. Rich Harden as a setup guy was another popular one, and the “trade Robbie Cano and sign Orlando Hudson” scenario had a two or three year shelf life. And, of course, there’s the always popular “sign a closer and make them a setup man” routine. As much as we might want these things to happen because we believe they make the Yankees better, they never do happen for a multitude of reasons. I doubt I need to explain them all.

Consider this post a preemptive strike. I want to cut off some of the dumb ideas before they even start, using some good old logic and reason. The offseason is a cruel mistress, it makes us think crazy things that make us wonder what the hell we were thinking when we look back on them. So let’s get to the list …

Get the trainer. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Erik Bedard

There’s no denying that Bedard is a special talent. His last two seasons with the Orioles were preposterously good (3.40 FIP, 9.3 K/9, .298 wOBA against), but you know what? That was three full years ago. Bedard has dealt with a barrage of injuries since 2008, the most serious of which were a pair of shoulder surgeries: one to repair a debridement and remove a cyst, the other to repair a torn labrum.

Bedard has made just 30 starts in the last three years, including zero in 2010. The Mariners shoveled $16.25M into his pocket since acquiring him before the 2008 season, and all they’ve gotten in return is 2.9 fWAR. There’s a ton of talent here, no denying it, but it’s bottled up in a big glass container of risk.  The heath of Bedard’s shoulder is a total unknown, and the chance of getting zero return is rather large. There’s no reason for him to receive any kind of guaranteed contract this offseason.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Vlad Guerrero

Texas unsurprisingly declined Big Vlad’s $9M option after the World Series, during which he reached base twice (one single, one walk) in 16 trips to the plate. He got some attention after putting up a monster first half (.339/.383/.580 with 18 homers and a .405 wOBA through June 30th), but he was rather pedestrian down the stretch (.327 wOBA after June 30th) and straight up terrible in the postseason (.243 wOBA in 62 plate appearances with 16 strikeouts). Vlad’s had an awesome career, but he’s a shell of his former self and the risk of total collapse is just too great at age 35 (36 on Opening Day).

Gerald Laird

(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

The defense behind the plate was a sore sight for Yankee fans in 2010, and Brandon Laird’s older brother is generally considered one of the best defensive backstops in the game. He threw out 34.1% of basestealers in 2010, and over the last five years that number is a whopping 37.6%, truly top-of-the-line.

But there’s a little of a catch, and that’s that Laird can’t hit. Like, at all. He put together a whopping .207/.263/.304 (.256 wOBA) batting line in 2010, and over the last three seasons he’s hit just .238/.303/.342 (.293 wOBA). If you take out the hit by pitches and intentional walks, his on-base percentage since 2008 drops to just .269. Yeah, terrible. No amount of catcher’s defense is worth that kind of offensive cipher.

Willie Bloomquist

Yep. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

When rumors circulated that the Yanks were interested in acquiring Bloomquist at the trade deadline this year, I almost quit being a fan. Okay not really, but seriously, it was bad. Bloomquist has been worth a total, a total of -0.7 fWAR over the last four seasons, during which he’s received 1,047 plate appearance. There’s a reason teams like the Mariners and Royals are bad, and that’s because they employ players like Willie Bloomquist.

Unable to hit for power, get on base at a decent clip, or play passable defense at any of the seven defensive positions he plays, Bloomquist has basically no redeeming qualities. His versatility just means he can suck at more positions. There’s nothing to like about the guy, and if the Yanks were to sign him as a free agent, his very presence on the roster would be an insult to my intelligence and fandom. Yeah, I’m not a Bloomquist fan, but it’s justified.

* * *

The pool of free agents is something like 200 players deep this year, and that’s before non-tenders hit the market in a few weeks. These four players have very little if anything to offer the Yankees, and don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise. There’s either too much risk or too little return, and in some cases both. Finding better options at the same price won’t be difficult at all, and that’s the avenue the team needs to pursue.