With the Cliff Lee sweepstakes over and the Yankees barely missing out on the biggest of big prizes, who should they now target in the next few weeks?
It appears that Lee was the only big prize on their radar; the only player they’d be willing to give up a strong minor league package for. They haven’t really shown much interest in Roy Oswalt or Dan Haren, who both would also require big packages to acquire. (From a personal standpoint, I don’t think either one is worth a major prospect investment from the Yankees).
So let us look at some of the other possible names we will hear:
Adam Dunn, OF(?), Washington - Yes, the big question mark next to the outfielder designation, because he isn’t an outfielder. He is someone who puts on a glove and runs out to the outfield. However, Dunn has supposedly been lukewarm to the idea of being a designated hitter; must be a pride thing. Dunn would definitely fill the big void currently sitting in the designated hitter slot in the lineup, and he would provide tremendous power to the bottom half of that lineup. He’s also a free agent when 2010 closes, so there is no long-term commitment involved if the Yankees want to go in a different direction for the DH slot in 2011. (When you trade prospects for Adam Dunn, you are really trading prospects for Adam Dunn and two first-round 2011 picks. He’ll be a Type-A free agent, and his power will be impossible for other teams to shy away from even if it means they have to give up draft picks). These draft picks are more valuable than ever, and Washington will want value for those picks. The Yankees would probably have to start the package with Eduardo Nunez and work from there.
David DeJesus, OF, Kansas City - DeJesus has more value as an outfielder than Dunn, but as a hitter, he is nowhere near the same level. DeJesus does pretty much a little bit of everything, but no one tool is great. He walks enough to keep his OBP at a decent level (thanks to strong batting averages). Same goes for his slugging percentages; he has just enough power (and hits for just enough batting average) to keep his slugging percentage decent. He has some speed, but can’t steal bases (47-for-90 in his career). Overall, I don’t see anything all that special about DeJesus and I wouldn’t give up any prospect of significance to acquire him. He doesn’t really produce enough to throw in the permanent designated hitter slot, and he isn’t better than the three starting outfielders that they have.
Lance Berkman, 1B, Houston - Another guy who would be used simply for the designated hitter slot, Berkman has bounced back nicely from a poor start and is currently hitting .250/.369/.451 with 12 home runs and 43 RBI. He offers absolutely no versatility (hasn’t played the outfield in years), and probably needs to stay away from left-handed pitching as hasn’t been hitting well right-handed the last few seasons. Another issue for the Yankees may be the contract; not that paying the rest of his 2010 salary would be a bad investment, but he has a $15M option for 2011 & a full no-trade clause. In other words, his first request upon being asked if he would go to a new team may just be that the new team pick up that option. And that should be a major deal-breaker. If you want some production down the stretch and into a potential postseason run, Berkman does make a lot of sense. The cost will likely be high, but likely reasonable. The big option, however, could keep the Yankees far away – and it should. Berkman is not worth $15M in 2011.
Ty Wiggington, IF, Baltimore - In typical Baltimore fashion, they didn’t strike when the iron was hot. Wiggington was scolding the ball earlier this season in ways he pretty much never showed before; yet, Baltimore just sat on their hands and yet him run out the hot streak without seemingly even attempting to trade him to a contender. Now that Wiggington has cooled off back to where Ty Wiggington should be, it may be harder to extract good talent for him. This is not to say that Wiggington is without his uses; he covers the infield positions (other than shortstop, where the Yankees seem to like to go with a “defense first” approach when Jeter needs a day off), and he hits more than enough for what would be a role player. The Yankees may be looking for someone who can give Alex Rodriguez a day off to DH from time to time (and perhaps Teixiera as well), and Wiggington wouldn’t kill the lineup playing a few times a week. He’s also adequate protection in case of injury. The cost? Probably not too high; he’s cheap, and the Orioles have nothing much to gain by keeping him. Think a low-level prospect with a high ceiling plus someone else who may be a little closer to the majors with a lower ceiling. I think if Jeremy Bleich didn’t get hurt, he would be an ideal candidate in a trade like this. If Baltimore is still looking for a shortstop type of prospect, I can see Double-A shortstop Luis Nunez being someone of interest to them, or perhaps even Triple-A middle-infielder Reegie Corona. If the Yankees lost one of these guys, they’d still have the other, plus Eduardo Nunez.
Wes Helms, 1B/3B, Florida - I heard his name brought up today. The Yankees already have a better option named Chad Tracy in their minor league system. No thanks, even if it cost them nothing more than a signed Kei Igawa baseball.
Joakim Soria, RP, Kansas City - There will come a time when the Royals won’t feel the need to trade off their assets, but that time is not now. Soria is a luxury for a franchise that doesn’t need what he provides right now. Saving 35 games a season for a team that cannot win is a bit of a waste; when Kansas City is about to contend again, Soria may no longer be in a position to be extremely helpful. That’s why, at the age of 26, they should probably think of trading him away. This is not to say he will come cheap, because he won’t. Soria has a 2.15 career ERA and leads the American League with 25 saves in 2010. His K/9 ratio is outstanding (10.9 in 2010; 10.1 in his career), and he has yet to show any signs of slowing down. Of course, as with any reliever, you just don’t know when that brick wall will be hit; and, as is the case every year when August comes around, you have to factor in just how many games he will really be able to impact, and if that is worth the big price the Royals will command. As always, I will say no to that question because I hate trading for relief pitchers. But I also understand that this is an area of concern. The Royals can use just about anything, but would probably look hardest at the collection of young arms in the Yankees system if they started talking. So, start thinking again about shortstop Eduardo Nunez plus a selection from pitchers such as Ivan Nova, David Phelps, and Hector Noesi just to get to the bargaining table.
Octavio Dotel, RP, Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh has no use for him. The Yankees? Perhaps they would have a little more use for him. If you are just looking to catch lightning in a bottle and have a disposable prospect to dump, Dotel could be intriguing for a few months. Pittsburgh seems to like the Yankees farm system, so finding a match would likely be easy. Dotel is 2-2 with a 4.75 ERA in 37 games this year. He has maintained his usually insane strikeout rate (42 in 36 innings pitched), but has also continued his high walk trend (4.3 per nine this season, which is down from his 5.2 last year; but still high).
Kerry Wood, RP, Cleveland - Recently placed back on the disabled list. Would be another “let’s hope he can stay healthy for a few months and help us” type of move, but he has been injured twice this year and hasn’t been all that effective when healthy. With his latest trip to the DL, an absolute pass in my book.
Ted Lilly, SP, Cubs – With the Cubs in selling mode and Andy Pettitte gone for a while, Ted Lilly could become an intriguing possibility. Especially with AJ Burnett having a rough season and Phil Hughes’ innings limit. Lilly has pitched fairly well for the Cubs this season, albeit with reduced velocity. He is 3-8, but with a respectable 4.08 ERA and 108 ERA+. In 104 innings, he has allowed 92 hits while walking 25 and striking out 75. Lilly has had productive seasons in the American League (but he did have his best stuff then; he doesn’t really have that now). Starting pitchers like Lilly usually command a decent prospect package, and I wouldn’t expect the Yankees to get off easily if they attempted to get him. He would be strictly an insurance policy, but a fairly strong insurance policy. The Cubs would probably look for young arms in return (they already have a big shortstop prospect), and the Yankees could probably dig up a few middle-of-the-road prospects to intrigue the Cubs. Again, the Yankees would probably love having a healthy Bleich around for this type of move.
Ricky Nolasco, SP, Florida - The first thing that jumps out at you is the strikeout rate – the guy can strike hitters out with the best of them. But the results otherwise have been very uneven. More than just a rental as he is still a young pitcher, Nolasco struck out more than one batter an inning as a starting pitcher in 2009, putting up a 9.5 number. He also posted a strong 4.43 K/BB ratio. Yet, he was just 13-9 with a 5.06 ERA. His FIP, however, was a very healthy 3.35. This season, he is 9-7 with a 4.66 ERA; while his K rate has fallen, his walk rate has fallen at the same rate. Hence, his K/BB ratio remains at 4.43. His FIP has climbed to 4.22. He is a fly ball pitcher, but I don’t mind that type of pitcher if he limits the walks and gets a lot of strikeouts; Nolasco provides both. That said, the cost for a pitcher on the good side of 30 who has shown the potential to be a good major league pitcher is going to be quite high, and should be quite high. And although I don’t advocate going too far with the “He hasn’t pitched in the American League!” stuff, I do think it should be on the list of considerations when looking at a trade like this. Nolasco could easily be a swingman for the rest of 2010, allowing Phil Hughes to slow down his inning rate while also filling in for Andy Pettitte while he is out. Not a bad pitcher to look at; but I cringe at what Florida may ask for in exchange for a talented, but wildly inconsistent, young power arm.