Some more on deadline trades
I enjoyed my BP colleague Christina Kahrl’s take on the Dodgers’ acquisition of George Sherrill from the Orioles for prospective third baseman Josh Bell and righty Steve Johnson:
Torre had his talents, no doubt about it, but he did become spectacularly risk-averse in the bullpen. Most managers are, but Torre reached an extreme. As I’ve remarked before, Joe Girardi has “made” more Major League relievers in less than two years running the Yankees than Torre did in his last five years, perhaps longer.
If you’re the Orioles, you wish you could have done more than this, but the organization isn’t willing to move Brian Roberts, while Melvin Mora and Aubrey Huff haven’t been productive enough to excite anyone. Still, in Bell they added the possible replacement for Mora, and none too soon. There’s some question as to whether Bell can stay at third, and the club still desperately needs help at shortstop, but this is a start.
The Red Sox made an excellent move in picking up Victor Martinez. They received an offensively talented catcher-first baseman who can spell Jason Varitek, Kevin Youkilis, or, by pushing Youkilis to third base, Mike Lowell. Martinez can’t throw, but Varitek can’t either, so no big loss there. Martinez can belong to the Red Sox for another year if they pick up his $7.5 million option, which seems like a no-brainer. The one risk here is that Martinez has been in a severe slump; in his last 30 games he’s hit .161/.268/.279.
The acquisition of Martinez rendered Adam LaRoche redundant, so he was swapped off to the Braves for Casey Kotchman. Kotchman is the New Millennium Doug Mientkiewicz, and he’ll take on that role for the Sox. A greater role in the future will depend on this offseason. If Varitek wants to come back, he has the contractual right to do so, and that could block up the catchers’ position a bit. Mike Lowell has another year to go on his deal, and has no-trade protection. David Ortiz is also signed for another year.
The Braves made an odd deal here, picking up an imminent free agent who isn’t a great hitter for a first baseman. True, Kotchman hadn’t hit like on either, but he’s better at getting on base and is the superior gloveman. The Bravos may do well in the short term given that LaRoche is a second-half hitter, but the gain here is likely small and they may be in possession of neither player by November.
These moves will have an impact on the Yankees as they fight the Red Sox the rest of the way. The Sox have hit well in their own ballpark, averaging 5.7 runs per game in the Fens, but have hit just .252/.336/.402 on the road with an average of 4.6 runs per game. The league-average offense scores 4.7. How the addition of Martinez benefits the Red Sox depends on how they spot him to best advantage in different pitcher match-ups, and if they’re willing to cut into David Ortiz’s playing time now and again or bench Mike Lowell against the odd right-hander in road games. In addition, the deal cost the Sox Justin Masterson the versatile swingman. They might miss having him around.
In terms of the moves the Yankees did not make, it’s a bit surprising to see the long-coveted Jarod Wasburn go to the Tigers for two left-handed pitching prospects, Luke French, who has pitched seven games in the majors this year with strong results, and Mauricio Robles, an A-ball pitcher. Neither is a high-value prospect, just “interesting,” and it seems odd that the Yankees couldn’t have made a competitive offer had they wanted to do so. Now they have the choice of sticking with Sergio Mitre, pulling Phil Hughes out of the bullpen, or trying another minor leaguer, either another retread like (choke) Kei Igawa, or go with an untried pitcher such as Scranton’s George Kontos or Trenton’s Zach McAllister (currently on the disabled list with a “tired arm”). Given Mitre’s track record, they have very little to lose by rolling the dice on anyone this side of Sidney Ponson.