The July 31st trade deadline is one of my favorite times of the year. Its that point where every baseball fan seems to break out their general manager business suit, and propose ideas that you’d never fathom, for better or for worse. I’ve always been reluctant to take trade chatter seriously, but it’s also easy to get caught up in the excitement.
Last year’s trade deadline was somewhat disappointing for those looking for another Kerry Wood type pickup. The Yankees didn’t make a single move before the deadline, the first time since 1999, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t pursue anyone. In fact, the Yankees likely scouted and inquired on more players than we’d likely expect. This year’s trade deadline kicked off with Kevin Youkilis‘ trade to the White Sox last weekend, so I’d like to start the not-so-serious musing of July with a look back at last year’s “what ifs”.
We start off with a few relievers, this one a lefty with the ability to pitch to righties. Last year’s bullpen was somewhat struggling at this point, Rafael Soriano was on the DL, Mariano Rivera was dealing with tricep issues, and no one was sure if David Robertson was for real. With Pedro Feliciano out as well, the Yankees were left with one lefty in the bullpen in Boone Logan, but Sean Burnett was showing some interesting upside. The 28 year old was coming off a 2010 where he posted a stellar 2.14 ERA and 8.9 K/9, and the Yankees were willing to look past his 5+ ERA in 2011. How would Burnett have impacted the Yankees going forward?
The front office was right to look past the ERA, and Burnett finished up his 2011 season with the Nationals by giving up only 2 more earned runs in 17.2 innings. With a couple more years of team control, Sean Burnett’s success has continued into the 2012 season. He’s posted a 1.71 ERA over 26.1 innings, an 8.5 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 6.5 H/9, and a 0.987 WHIP. Clay Rapada has pitched well for the bullpen, but the 29 year old Burnett has been significantly better, holding lefties to a .182 average, and righties to a .220 average.
With the former closer of the Padres facing a contract year, there was plenty of speculation that Bell would be traded. Amongst a handful of teams, the Yankees had some late interest in making a deal. After being traded by the Mets in 2006, Bell was always an elite reliever for the Padres, but 2011 held some warning signs for the 33 year old. Although his 2.28 ERA was good enough to keep the elite title, in the past, Bell relied heavily on strikeouts, and he was only positing a 6.9 K/9 at the end of July.
By August 1st, he was never traded, and he continued to post a mid 2 ERA with the remained of his time with the Padres. The Yankees would have added a quality piece to their bullpen, but with Soriano, Robertson, and Rivera contributing at the end of the year, he may have ended up as the 6th inning pitcher.
Despite being Bell’s setup man, Mike Adams was probably the best reliever on the trade block last year. In 2009, Adams posted a 0.73 ERA, a 1.76 ERA in 2010, and a 1.13 ERA in 2011 before being traded. Adams also had 2 additional arbitration eligible years of team control. After being traded to the Rangers, Adams posted a 2.10 ERA with the Rangers, and continued to be lights out in his smaller ballpark. He’s been slightly less impressive this year, spiking the ERA to 2.88, but also seeing a drop off in strikeouts, and an increase in his H/9. Adams would have been a nice contribution to the bullpen this year and last, but like Bell, he may have ended up as the 6th inning pitcher, or forced another reliever into Cory Wade‘s role. The cost was two good, but not top-100 prospects, and that would have been too much for a not-so-big upgrade to the bullpen.
Here’s a familiar name who could have been a big addition for the Yankees last year. At the time of the trade deadline, Phil Hughes was the struggling 5th man in a rotation without a #2 pitcher, and Ivan Nova was a minor leaguer who had a little known slider he was working on. Kuroda ultimately threatened to reject a trade from the Dodgers, but you could argue that he would have produced as he has for the Yankees this year. The right hander has arguably pitched as well, if not better than Sabathia in 2012, and it’d be hard not to call that kind of contribution significant to last year’s run. Maybe, if the Yankees land Kuroda in 2011, they have the pitching to progress further in the playoffs, but maybe they never call up Ivan Nova, and he never makes his ridiculous second half run of 2011.
It was ownership that pursued Wandy Rodriguez, and offered to take on $21m of his $38m contract. The Astros ended up rejecting any trade, and demanded teams to take on his full contract. At the point of the trade deadline, Rodriguez had a 3.47 ERA, and several years of solid pitching with Houston, but many questioned his ability to pitch in the American League East.
Rodriguez would finish the year with a 3.49 ERA, and put together a solid second half performance, and has put together a 3.52 ERA in 2012. If Rodriguez had translated those numbers to the American League East, he may have filled Kuroda’s role this year with similar results, but that’s a big if. This year, Rodriguez has shown signs of decline at 33 years old, showing a drop of 2 K/9, and nearly 1 more H/9 this year. His contract isn’t up until the end of the 2014 season, so there is a chance that we see his name this year as well.
Initially, the Rockies asked for a deal that included 3 out of 4 of Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, and Ivan Nova. The ridiculous asking price was one factor in the trade falling apart, but another factor was a decrease in velocity and results for the once top of the rotation pitcher. From 2010 to 2011, Jimenez saw a 2 mph drop on the fastball, from 96 to 94 mph. The Yankees were supposedly “all over” the 27 year old until we heard that talks fell apart when the Rockies refused to allow a standard pre-trade physical. Although the FIP remained at 3.85, Jimenez finished his 2011 season after being traded to the Indians, and posted a 5.10 ERA. At the beginning of 2012, Jimenez showed up to camp throwing an even slower fastball, and has averaged 92.4 mph thus far. His 4.59 ERA for 2012 has been much worse than expected, and the 5.28 FIP no longer indicates that his dropoff was a matter of small sample size. Jimenez has dropped off to the point where it looks like the Yankees dodged a huge bullet.
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