Thursday, January 04, 2007

Snake in the Grass, At Last

The Yankees and the Diamondbacks agreed to a less than inspiring deal that exchanges Randy Johnson and his $16 million, 43 year old, back surgery recovering body for Luis Vizcaino, Curtis Ross Ohlendorf, Steven Jackson, and Alberto Gonzalez (no not that one).

On one hand, what should fans expect to get back for a guy with the aforementioned situation? Should we expect to get to A prospects and a reliever, as was reported in early speculation? Is this deal even value? At first, I thought this was a horrible trade. I felt strongly for about 10 minutes that Cashman got punked. Reflecting more on it now, I think it's fair value. The problem that I have with this deal is that I feel we should have held out for Vizcaino and Owings, at least. It's all well and good to get your reliever and 3 prospects, but those players are all B or C prospects. It's far more palatable to take home one A prospect as quality over quantity. Minor beef, maybe.

My take on what we get....

The centerpiece to this deal to me is Ross Ohlendorf. He's not stellar, but I feel like he has something to give the Yankees. My opinion early on was that we would do well to get Ohlendorf in the deal and I quietly coveted him. The thing is, those feelings came in the context that he'd be the secondary take in this transaction. It was contingent on either Owings or Nippert coming to the organization as well. Now, I'm a bit lukewarm. He's a nice young pitcher with a good head on his shoulders. He's showed some improvement in his time in the minors, but he gives up a ton of hits. His K/BB ratio is improving, but it remains to be seen if he's topped out. That's the key to the deal. If his power slider can be complimented with a couple of other plus pitches, and he can locate them, maybe he has a bright future. Otherwise, he'll just be another AAA pitcher that floats around before disappearing.

Vizcaino is the Major Leaguer in the deal. I'm not impressed. He's very mediocre as relievers go. He's another righty in a pen with better options. Bruney's upside is so much higher, and we got his when Zona simply cut him last season. That's a better acquisition. The peripherals on Vizcaino are not great. His OPS Against the last 3 years in Arizona have been .723, .757, and .705 and that's in the NL. That means that every hitter that faces him looks like a utility infielder or 4th outfielder. I suppose that's a good thing, but we have plenty of guys who seem like better options. Where does he pitch? Long relief? Is he going to get Proctor's innings? Farnsworth's? Bruney's? Not sure what his role is.

As for the other two prospects, Alberto Gonzales is a light hitting shortstop with a reputation for an excellent glove. He hit better last year, and his value is probably about as high as it's going to get. For the Yankees, he's basically a guy to plug into the minor league system and leave there until he's either packaged in a trade, or shrivels up and starts a Wendy's franchise somewhere. I kid. Honestly, there isn't really a place for him with the Yankees now, and I can hardly imagine the front office pulling off the bold move of finding another position for Jeter. Even if they did that, it makes more sense for A-Rod to resume his role there than to bring in a kid to play SS.

The fine D'Backs blog "Baby Backs" has this description of Gonzales:

Alberto Gonzalez, 23-years-old, SS, Venezuela

Signed in 2002 at 19 years old. The best defensive shortstop in the system, Gonzalez has made strides with his bat as well. He hit .318/.359/.426 in Low A South Bend and then handled a double-jump to Double A Tennessee remarkably well, hitting .290/.356/.392. He ended the season with a brief 4-game, 15 AB audition in Triple A Tucson and was part of the championship-winning team. He won’t be a middle of the order hitter with little power and with Drew being the D’Backs SS of the future he may have trouble reaching the Majors with this team, but his glove will give him a chance of having a Major League career. Will be Richar’s double-play partner in Tucson next year. Was 15th in BA’s Top 20 prospect list for the Southern League.

At 23 years old, with a AAA assignment ahead of him, Gonzales is a couple of years away from a Major League gig. He won't get it with the Yankees so, logically, he must be moved. A LOT of Major League teams covet young shortstop prospects, especially when they flash leather and hit for average. If this young guy can handle the stick even a little bit, watch him exit New York with a pitcher sometime this season or next.

Steven Jackson rounds out the players here. He's a AA pitcher with a Clemson background. had this to say about the 6'5", 220 pound righty:

Another college pitcher who jumps straight to Double-A after spending last year in Lo-A South Bend, Jackson is a pure power pitcher who has a devastating slider that caused, among other things, 12 wild pitches last season. The Diamondbacks made have openly stated they feel their Double-A rotation could be the big league rotation before too long, and for a long time, and expect big things from Jackson, a 10th round pick out of Clemson in 2004, this season.

I believe that AA rotation included Ohlendorf and Owings when this was written. If he turns into something, I'd be pleasantly surprised. Obviously Cash and company know a helluva lot more than me, but Owings would have looked nicer here. In the end, it's really hard to complain too much. Shedding the aged and infirmed crankpot that is Randy Johnson, and his big money, is a good thing. Getting some prospects back is also a good thing. The giant gaping question that must now be answered is who will step into Unit's place in the rotation once the season starts.

Clemens is the name. That would make Cashman look very good. The other options are Pavano, Rasner, Clippard, Sanchez, and Karstens. That's okay, but I'd love to see something a little more proven at the Major League level. Whatever happens, we still field the best team in the AL East, so Yankee fans' patience with this reorganizing of the system will certainly pay of in a year or two.


Anonymous said...

I am not going to mince words here - This is a flat-out awful, awful, trade and Cashman got fleeced. There is no other way to look at it. We don't need a mediocore, N.L. middle reliever, and we don't need 3 grade C + prospects, as rated by John Sickels, that in all likelihood will never seen the major leagues. What this was, was a salary dump plain and simple, and the New York Yankees do not need salary dumps, not when season tickets are already sold out or are pretty close to it....

This move just leaves an awful taste in my mouth, reminiscent of the Winfield/Witt, Henderson/Plunk, Cadaret, Polonia, Jack Clark/Jimmy Jones, Stanley Jefferson, Lance McCullers type deals.

I am generally a fan of Cashman (about 95% of the time), but today, Brian I need to be honest - you stunk!

Mike Plugh said...


I understand your feeling, but take a step back for a second and ask yourself what you'd do if Tom Glavine was out there and the Mets asked for Tyler Clippard, Humberto Sanchez, and Eric Duncan for him. Would you do that deal?

The Yankees should have held out for Owings and Vizcaino if they were going to do this, but what they got has value that will emerge later. It gives us tradable players that other teams will see value in. Cashman's far from done this year...or perhaps it happens next. Think about it from the other side, and then think about it long term.

It's not pretty, but it's not as bad as you think. Trust me, I felt the same way 24 hours ago when I heard it all floating.

Anonymous said...

Mike, Here is the flaw in your logic....if all we could get for a 43 year old with a bad back are 3 C-level prospects, than how can you expect we turn those players around and trade them for something good? Hughes is not going anywhwere, and I don't want to give up Clippard or Sanchez, so we really can't "enhance" the package the much, you know.

I was not asking for Sanchez, Clippard, and Duncan for Randy Johnson, but some value.

According to John Sickels, Sanchez would be in our top 10 (along with Kevin Whelan also acquired for Sheff), T-CLipp is a level B guy, and Duncan is ranked #20 and falling fast. The 3 guys we got were ranked 18, 19, and 20...thus, 3 Eric Duncans for RJ...Eric Duncan is terrible. This is a bad trade. If we got Owings straight-up, I would have probably been happy. We did not even get that.

How did we get Sanchez and Whelan (and a 3rd arm) for Sheffield (also old, coming off an injury, and looking for more money - just like RJ) but junk for RJ? Makes no sense...As always, I enjoy your blog...

Anonymous said...

ed, I agree that the trade was a little disappointing in that the Yankees did not receive Owings. However, a comparison to the haul the Yankees in the Sheffield trade cannot be done, because the circumstances were different. Sheffield has shown over the past three seasons that he is a consistent middle of the order hitter, while Randy is 44, coming off back surgery, and has not proven he would be worth the frontline starter money he is making. In addition, Sheffield did not have a no-trade clause, which allowed him to be traded to the highest bidder, while Randy presumably only wanted to go to Arizona, which destroyed much of Cashman's leverage. With these factors, it is understandable that the Yankees got less in return for Randy than they did for Sheffield. I do wish however that they had managed to get Owings, whether by addding in a little cash, or instead of Gonzalez and Vizcaino.

Mike Plugh said...

I feel your point Ed, but one thing to think about is the idea that Arizona's farm system is one of the best in baseball. The #20 prospect in Arizona may be closer to a #10 prospect for the Yankees than you'd think at 1st glance. Ohlendorf may not equate Sanchez, but he also may end up being very close to that level in the end.

Additionally, I think you have to look at the giant leap that Alberto Gonzalez made from Low-A to AAA in the span of one year as a plus. He's credited with a great glove and he managed to carry his .785 OPS from A to AA to a pretty close match. All that's missing from his offensive skill set is a tinge more selectivity and the power that will come with age. He's 23. If he can manage to put up a good year in 2007, he just might be a blue chip shortstop.

I can't disagree with anything you've said, but I encourage you to at least wait until the midway point in the season before you completely condemn the deal. Things may work out better than we all believe at this moment.

Anonymous said...

Did you guys read the recent article wrote By Yankees Hater - Mike Lupica's?

When the Yankees offered more money, and a player option for 2007, Pettitte came back from Houston on the dead run. Now there is at least the chance that Clemens could do the same. If that happens, if the Yankees do take him back, pay him a small fortune to start his season in June, then we will know how desperate they have become to win the World Series again.

The Yankees talk a good game with pitching, how they're always looking to the future. Then they throw more money at the past. First Randy Johnson's, now their own. The Big Unit goes. Clemens, the Big Phony, could be on the way.

I hope Yankees hater Lupica - that rodent, He never wakes up again and died from his sleep

Paul™ said...


It seems to register new names daily.

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