As the trade deadline approached, I became increasingly confident that the Yankees were going to be spectators. The Bombers certainly would have benefited from getting Ubaldo Jimenez, but there were enough question marks surrounding his price to make me doubt any eventual deal. Now that the dust has settled on this year’s trade deadline, it is clear that the Yankees made the right move not trading for Jimenez, or any other players included in this year’s thin market.
This may seem like an about face for me. Earlier this trade season I argued that the Yankees could easily part ways with Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances for Jimenez. My logic was simple. Jimenez is currently a young front of the rotation talent. The Yankees would benefit from having him over the next several seasons. While in time they may have wound up the losers in that deal, if Jimenez was truly as he seemed the immediate benefits were probably worth it, especially since it was uncertain that any of the big three Yankee prospects would develop into as talented a player as Jimenez. I stood by that trade at the time. I stand by it now. I’m happy that the Yankees didn’t make a move, but not because my opinion of Montero, Banuelos or Betances has changed.
At the time that I was arguing such a trade would have been worth it for Ubaldo, I was adding two critical caveats to any potential trade. The first was that the Yankees keep Ivan Nova. In time Nova may not become as good a pitcher as Manny or Dellin, but he has become a known, reliable quantity for the Yankees right now. He serves as starter 5A, which is a valuable insurance plan to have on a rotation as creaky as the Yankees. The entire logic of getting Jimenez is to win now. If the Yankees are truly committed to winning now then they would need to keep Nova.
The second caveat of any deal for Ubaldo was his health. Much has been justifiably made of Jimenez’s declining velocity this season. For his career his fastball has been around 96 mph, but this season it is down a few miles. That is significant. A pitcher as young as Jimenez should be entering his prime. He should be able to throw the ball harder than ever. That he cannot indicates a possible injury that hasn’t yet been diagnosed. If the Yankees were to make such a block buster trade for Jimenez, he would have to remain healthy. The entire move would be a cosmic bust if Ubaldo wound up spending a year on the DL.
It is being reported that the Rockies wanted any trade with the Yankees to start with Ivan Nova, and that the team would not allow the Bombers to give Jimenez a physical prior to completing any trade. Those demands are why the Yankees made the right move. The trade would feature the only player that I would consider off limits if I were in Brian Cashman’s shoes, and as a policy I wouldn’t make a trade for any player I couldn’t have my own physicians assure me was in perfect health. If those were the Rockies’ demands then the smart move was to let some other team meet them. Jimenez is a great talent, but no one is so great a talent that he shouldn’t have to take a physical.
With respect to the other names being tossed about during this trade season, names like Wandy Rodriguez and Hiroki Kuroda, I say meh. The fact of the matter is that there was no crown jewel to be had at the deadline this season. Jimenez would have been a nice addition, but the price was wrong. Any other trade would have needed to be one sided in the Yankees favor or risk smacking of desperation. While it is unfortunate that the Yankees didn’t make a move in a season in which the team is a legitimate contender with a starting rotation that was literally assembled from the scrap heap, it is for that very reason that the Yankees needed to be cautious at the deadline. Entering this season the Bombers were said to be under dogs (sort of). Now, the team is just two games off Boston’s pace with a chance to take the division lead this week end. If the Yankees make it to the ALCS again this year (a distinct possibility) the team’s management will certainly write 2011 off as a stunning, unexpected success. That’s what happens when you win with pitchers like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. Between their resources and wealth of prospects the Yankees will have plenty of opportunities to improve the team in the coming seasons.
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