Yankees in Spring Training #4 – A Very Important Trade

Today, the Yankees traded “surplus for surplus” according to Brian Cashman. But maybe, just maybe, this very minor trade might have a major impact on what I was talking about yesterday.

Sergio Mitre who was not going to make the starting rotation was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder, Chris Dickerson. Now, the attention has been on the Yankees removing Mitre from the starting rotation mix but more consideration needs to be given to Dickerson. Dickerson is a more than respectable defensive outfielder who has batted higher than .270 in each of the last three seasons whilst making only sporadic appearances at the major league level. Now what the Yankees need is someone who can bat more than .250 as a backup outfielder.

Might Dickerson be a better bet than Andruw Jones?

Trying to catch up

I still haven’t got my baseball analyses for October and the post-season up on the site. They have appeared elsewhere but I’m going to try and get them transcribed and up on the blog prior to New Year.

Meanwhile, it seems like the Yankees are not content to sit on their laurels. They’ve re-signed Andy Pettitte and failed to re-sign their World Series MVP Hideki Matsui (now with the Angels). They’ve brought in Curtis Granderson for centrefield and starting pitcher Javier Vazquez is going to be given a second go around. Meanwhile, relief pitchers, Phil Coke, Ian Kennedy and Mike Dunn are gone as part of those trades as are prospects Austin Jackson and Arodys Vizcaino. Brian Bruney has gone from last season’s strongest team (Yankees) to last season’s weakest (Nationals). Most significantly, for my money, the Vazquez trade sees Melky Cabrera heading in the opposite direction and preparing to pull on a Braves shirt next year. Cabrera bounced back from a horrible 2008 campaign and I think the Yankees are significantly under-rating him.

Yankees at second base …. but far from home

The Yankees used only 4 players at Second Base during the 2008 series. Here they are:

Robinson Cano (159 games). All Cano’s 159 games involved some time at Second Base although for three of them he entered the game as a pinch hitter before moving to that position. His previous years’ performances were the reason for the confidence they placed in him. The nadir of that confidence came when Girardi benched him for not running down infield hits.

Year   G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG AVG
2005   132 522 78 155 34 4 14 62 239 16 68 1 3 .320 .458 .297
2006   122 482 62 165 41 1 15 78 253 18 54 5 2 .365 .525 .342
2007   160 617 93 189 41 7 19 97 301 39 85 4 5 .353 .488 .306

With Cano you’re essentially looking at someone who hits singles well but this year he fell away in some major offensive categories

  G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG AVG
2008 159 597 70 162 35 3 14 72 245 26 65 2 4 .305 .410 .271

Effectively, he produced less hits in 597 at-bats this year, than he had in 115 less turns at the plate in 2006 

Question marks against Cano are such that if any team requested him as part of a trade then the Yankees wouldn’t need much persuading. In reality, this is unlikely to happen. Other teams are as likely to be as wary of his falling away as the Yankees are right now. Expect him to be in the line-up on opening day.

Alberto Gonzalez (28 games). Only 4 of Gonzalez’s 28 appearances in a New York shirt came at Second Base. I’ll say more about him when we get to the shortstops.

Wilson Betemit (87 games). Only 3 of Betemit’s appearances came at Second Base. See my first base analysis for some comments on his season. Update: Betemit’s time as a Yankee came to an end last week as he was a key piece in the trade that brought the White Sox’s Nick Swisher to the Bronx. This leaves the Yankees with the task of finding a suitable backup for the middle infield positions. Last season’s principal choices Betemit and Gonzalez are no longer around.

Cody Ransom (33 games). Only 2 of Ransom’s games involved time at Second Base. See my first base analysis for some comments on his season.

So Cano seems very likely to be the first choice second baseman, at least at the beginning of the season. Expect the Yankees to try and pick up a solid bench player during the off-season to help out at 2b, 3b and ss.

Ch-Ch-Changes

It’s been a grim few weeks. But there have been some glittering things in the dross.

 

First highlight was the Bob Dylan “Drawn Blank” exhibition at Halcyon Art Gallery near Green Park in London. A few years ago, Dylan was a writer and his “Chronicles” book was well-worth the investment. A few months ago, he was given a Pulitzer but I’m not exactly sure what for. This isn’t to imply he doesn’t deserve one. I’m just not sure why then. Now he’s an artist. And somehow he still manages to always be on tour and make the occasional album.

 

“Drawn Blank” however is a little unusual even by Dylan’s standards. First published in book form in 1994, these drawings were hardly noticed. Then his critical rating was low and nobody cared what he was drawing. Now painted, the “Drawn Blank” exhibition comes at a time when his star is in the ascendancy. Consequently, it is all over the broadsheets (The London Times, no less) and is worthy of an art gallery exhibition on the continent and two here in the London and no doubt some others I’m missing. Then, no-one cared, now the £1250 signed prints are all sold out and the first book is selling for £400 a copy. Strange. Of course, with Dylan, we’ve encountered this before. When he went electric, he was a Judas, until we decided he was a genius. His “Jesus” shows were dire for many, but are now spoken of as amazing feats where an artist like Dylan chose to perform only new songs in a show of passion, energy and commitment. Then few could see past the evangelism and booed his accompanying girl vocalists. I’m waiting for the “Empire Burlesque” reassessment.

 

I purchased the 1994 book of “Drawn Blank”. I purchased the 2008 book of the same drawings painted. I thought they were okay. Some good, a few very good. However, seeing them extremely well presented at the Halcyon, moved them up a notch in my estimation. Well worth seeing.

 

Second highlight. John Foxx’s “Tiny Colour Movies” at the Apple Store, Regent Street, London. Musical artist again but this time not paintings but films. Now I’m not much for the world of contemporary commercial films and I hate most cinemas. I do mean hate. So that I have now gone to see “Tiny Colour Movies” three or four times must mean that this set of films has something more going on than simply being the work of one of my favourite musicians and the fact that I have to keep going beacuse despite my persistent requests Mr Foxx will not put it on DVD.

Tiny Colour Movies is a collection of 14 concept pieces assembled from the home movies of a bygone generation. It is moving, thought-provoking, vivid and imaginative. It has a tremendous ambient soundtrack which the artist accompanies his films with, standing alongside, like the pianist adding sound to a silent movie. It is quite, quite wonderful and if it comes to a town near you, I might just follow it there.

 

Finally, on this smorgasbord of updates, a little baseball. Surprise, surprise. As the trade deadline approaches the Bronx is seeing new faces. First in was Richie Sexson. Now in 2007, Sexson, then at Seattle, hit .205 BA with 21 home runs. Fortunately, he turned this all around by storming to .218 with 11 homers by the first week of July. Not surprisingly, the Mariners released Richmond Lockwood Sexson. I’m not quite so sure why the Yankees decided to sign him later in the month. Perhaps it had something to do with that florid name. At least they didn’t invest in Bonds. I’m not holding my breath for this acquisition to be a great success. Indeed, I’m praying that by the time of my return to the Bronx in September, he will have headed toward waivers. We’ll see.

More significant (hopefully) was the trade made yesterday which has brought Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte over from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Marte, who actually spent a little while in the Yankees system a few years ago but never made it to 161 St. and River Avenue, is that crucial item a left-handed relief pitcher. Occasional promotions for Billy Traber and Kei Igawa have not added such a thing to the roster for very long. Marte with his 3.47 ERA, 4 Wins (no losses), and 5 saves seems a much better prospect.

Nady is a good addition at least because Matsui and Damon are not likely to see much time in the outfield for the remainder of the season. However, there may be more. His contract has another year beyond 2008 and he is 5 years younger than Damon. He is batting .330 with 13 home runs. There might be quite a lot in this for the Bombers.

A slight downside to this came in the final detail of the trade. The original detail suggested that the Yankees were giving up Ross Ohlendorf and three minors who were barely on my radar. Now Ohlendorf  looked good earlier in the year but then his mechanics fell apart and he might not be a huge loss but I was a little more disappointed with today’s update. The news is that the Pirates final list for the trade sees Jeff Karstens heading over to Pittsburgh. Now I’m not sure quite where Karstens’ career was headed (he’s been rather injury prone) but I’ve followed his career since seeing his early appearances for the Staten Island Yankees some years ago. I’m disappointed that he will never be established in the Bronx. It was an interesting journey.

The final footnote to this was that the very disappointing LaTroy Hawkins was designated for assignment and that Kei Igawa was removed from the 40-man roster and outrighted to Scranton (AAA). The Yankees are paying him in excess of $5 million – and they finally seem to have given up on him. Now that’s an amazing story.