Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Trade Winds

The Yankees picked up the best player available to them at the trading deadline. Bobby Abreu is a pretty good player. He used to be a great player, but he's still a pretty good player. There are "better" players who might be available (Soriano, Oswalt, Tejada, Zito), but the Yankees don't have the prospects to pull the trigger on a trade for any of those players. Abreu was available to the Yankees because they could afford him. It's as simple as that. The Yankees first inquired about Abreu a couple of months ago when Matsui went down with a broken wrist. They were told at the time that the asking price was Phillip Hughes. The Yankees decided that was too rich for their blood and went about putting together a patchwork outfield. Two months later and with the Phillies 14 games out of first and facing the prospect of having to pay Abreu $20 million over the next two seasons, the asking price came down significantly. The Yankees also picked up Craig Wilson from the Pirates for Shawn Chacon. Chacon provided the Yankees with a boost last year and helped them make the playoffs by going 7-3 after coming to the team. This year started out well enough for him, but after getting hit on the shin by a batted ball, he was never the same. His ERA since that incident has hovered near 10.

So how will the changes affect the Yankees? Well, on paper they have improved the club. The changes might be worth 3-4 wins over the remainder of the season and that might be enough to get them into the playoffs for the 11th straight season. Of course the games aren't played on paper. Many players have been unable to perform up to their abilities when they come to NY. The pressure here is different than in any other city. Suddenly every mistake is magnified. The press and sometimes the fans can be merciless. It's a tough place to play. It's also the best place to play if you win. The fans never forget a champion.

Abreu is a big upgrade in the lineup. His power numbers this year are way down from his previous seasons, but his OBP is well over .400. He can provide either protection for Arod in the number 5 slot or get on base ahead of Giambi in the 3 slot. Either way he should help make the Yankees a better offensive team. The same can be said of Wilson. While he's not the impact player that Abreu is, he will provide a significant upgrade over Andy Phillips. Phillps has been horrible this year against left handed pitching (to the tune of a .195 average). Wilson has an average over .300 against lefties and has much better power numbers than Phillips.

Cory Lidle is the last piece the Yankees picked up. He came over in the Abreu trade. His ERA was 4.74 in the national league, which does not bode well for his chances in the better hitting American League. He was playing in a hitters paradise in Philly, but I'm not sure that he will have much success in NY. He was brought over to be the fifth starter and considering that he is essentially replacing Shawn Chacon, I guess whatever he can provide will be an upgrade. If he can pitch 6-7 innings a game and keep the opposition under 5 runs a game, he might just end up being "the key to the pennant" (I put that in quotes because it's my friend Tom Stolfi's favorite line about every player he picks up for his fantasy team. I wanted to give him credit for the phrase).

The Red Sox talked about a couple of major trades over the last few days, but in the end did not make any. The Red Sox are in first and are on the verge of Wakefield and Wells returning (wells actually came back last night and got shelled), so they are hoping that their returning players provide them with the bump that a trade would have provided. Once again on paper it looks like the Yankees have made the moves that would make them the favorites to win the east. Not only did they fill their outfield gap, but also they added a fifth starter and strengthened their bench. Matsui may be able to come back by the end of the month and if Sheff does come back then they would have the best lineup in baseball. The lineup for September may look something like this; Damon, Jeter, Abreu, Giambi, Arod, Matsui, Sheffield, Posada, Cano. Every single one of those players has been an all star and all are capable of carrying the team for a short stretch. The problem with that scenario is that the Yankees have to play a five game series in Boston in August. At that point Sheff and Matsui won't be back and those five games may very well decide the Yankees fate.

I don't think the Yankees moves are going to separate them from the field, but they should help to keep the Yanks in the thick of the race. As I said at the beginning of the season, the difference between the Yankees and the Red Sox is minimal. The winner of the east will come down to who gets the breaks. And given the number of injuries that Yankees have sustained, I mean that literally.



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