Yankees overhaul bullpen
Slipping under the wire of that other big story today were two trades the Yankees made. One makes a lot of sense. The other, not so much.
Trade A: The Yankees send Kenny Lofton and cash to Philadelphia for Felix Rodriguez.
Despite the fact that Joe Torre refused to use him in the playoffs last year, Lofton was still a fairly useful player, almost exactly league average as a center fielder. His speed is almost gone, but he still gets on base at a decent clip and covers enough ground to not embarrass himself in center field. However, he turns 38 next May and is due $3 million next year, and the Yankees decided they needed bullpen help more than they needed an expensive fourth outfielder. Felix Rodriguez isn’t the dominating setup man he was in 2001, but he’s still pretty darn good, posting good numbers across the board. He’ll become the Yankees third best RHP out of the pen and give them some depth in the middle innings. Total cost to upgrade the pen? About $1 million, plus the bonus of removing a player they didn’t want around.
This trade makes a lot less sense for Philadelphia, unless they spend that $1 million really well. Lofton isn’t the flycatcher the Phillies need in between Burrell and Abreu, and he’s not the leadoff hitter they’ve been looking for. He’s a nice spare part now occupying a position where the Phillies had an opportunity to get significantly better. The opportunity cost of filling the CF gap is the real problem here. The Phillies saved some cash, but they just made it that much harder to improve themselves. Ed Wade continues to spin his heels with a roster that should be much better than it is.
The best news out of this deal, though, is that those infernal Randy Winn for Ryan Howard suggestions can finally die. Hallelujah.
The Yankees sent Felix Heredia to the Mets for Mike Stanton and $1 million in cash.
Heredia was the Yankees version of Shigetoshi Hasegawa. He posted a superficially solid ERA in 2003 and earned a nifty little two year deal for his work. His ratios said the performance wasn’t sustainable, and wham, a 6.28 ERA in 2004 earns him a trip to Queens. Ironically, the Yankees may have made almost the same move they did last year when they gave Heredia that extension. Stanton’s 3.16 ERA for the Mets last year might remind some of his 2001 dominance in the Bronx, but he clearly wasn’t the same pitcher. His ratios have plummeted and his effectiveness against southpaws is almost completely gone (they hit .269/.370/.426 against him last year). Heading into his age 38 season, there’s little chance Stanton will post an ERA below 4.00 again, and he’s a decent bet to end up with an ERA somewhere around Heredia’s.
The money the Mets are sending only covers half the difference in contracts, so the Yankees paid another $1 million for this supposed upgrade. Don’t be surprised when Stanton is filling Heredia’s role as the Lefty-That-Joe-Torre-Is-Too-Afraid-To-Use next October, however.