The GM Game: Michaels To The Bronx?

The Yankees are in need of some help in center field. Would Jason Michaels be an upgrade over Bubba Crosby? The Yankees have long been intrigued by Michaels and the two teams have discussed potential deals this off-season without coming to an agreement.

Here's what Dom in Richmond might try to do if he were the GM of the Phillies...Look for Jason Michaels to go to the Yanks. A kid by the name of Eric Duncan, who is their top third base prospect could come in return.

Dom, I'm not quite sure if you're predicting this deal would be done or proposing it. For the sake of our game though, let's say you're proposing it.

Eric Duncan is definitely one of the better prospects around. He just turned 21 last week and spent the 2005 season at AA Trenton, turning in what was actually a disappointing performance. While he hit career highs in homeruns (19) and RBI (61), his average sank to .235 from a career minor league mark of .273 coming into the season. He stuck out 136 times, which was a career high, but not by much. In his time in the Yankees minor league system, Duncan has shown more power, but his strikeout totals have ballooned as well. In his first pro season, Duncan struck out 44 times in 239 at bats or once every 5.4 at bats. His average this past season was once every 3.3 at bats. Of course, he hit just four homeruns in his inaugural season.

With all that being said, Duncan is on a path toward the majors, possibly by late in 2006, which would put him on a perfect track to replace David Bell, who is in the final year of his four-year deal with the Phillies.

If I'm Yankees GM Brian Cashman, I say...

Sure, why not? Michaels is going to help a club either as a utility player or as an everyday outfielder. You might not want him in center field long-term, but then again, he truly should be better than Bubba Crosby as a center field option. Michaels projections over a 162 game schedule give him about 8 homeruns and a .291 average. Odds are that playing everyday, his homerun numbers may climb a little and his average could dip a little. After all, it's tough to project how a bench player will adjust to playing every day. If the Yankees were able to work out some sort of platoon situation, Michaels numbers may actually be a little better than projected.

There are never any guarantees with prospects and the Yankees have never been shy about trading them away. With Brian Cashman seemingly flexing his muscles though, there is likely to be a little more emphasis on young players staying with the club after progressing through the system. Duncan is somewhat expendable, since Alex Rodriguez is signed through 2010 and there is no reason to believe that he can't play third base until the end of his contract, the Yankees don't figure to need a third baseman anytime soon. There would be plenty of time for the Yankees to either develop another third base prospect or find one in another organization.

The Phillies value Michaels more than most other clubs do. The plan was to get a starting pitcher for Michaels, but that hasn't worked out. In talks with the Yankees, the Phillies have already asked for Chien-Ming Weng, a right-handed prospect or for Carl Pavano in exchange for Michaels. The Yankees have balked at both deals and have said that Weng is basically untouchable. They also insist that they've decided to keep Pavano, at least that's the word for now. It's likely that without Michaels playing a full season as an everyday player, there aren't going to be much better offers made for him. After all, he'll have a decent salary through arbitration and he'll turn 30 during the 2006 season. Most teams wouldn't even give a prospect with the status of Duncan, but the Yankees situation allows them to make such a deal.

If Duncan were to fail, the Phillies can hope that Mike Costanzo develops at a brisk pace and could then plug him in at third base. In the event that Duncan becomes the player that most believe he'll become, the Phillies would be in a position to deal either an established third baseman in Duncan or a prospect in Costanzo when the time comes to make a decision on who to go with at third base.

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