Breaking It Down: Deadline Deals

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has been a busy guy over the last few days and weeks and because of that, the Yankees look like a different team. Raul Mondesi, Robin Ventura and Brandon Claussen are out. Aaron Boone, David Dellucci and Gabe White are in. Have the Yankees improved their chances to win it all in 2003? Have they hurt their chances at succes for 2004 and beyond? Is it all enough to stave off the Red Sox? Come inside and find out how the Yankees worked the trade deadline.

Claussen Boone Yankees Get:

IF Aaron Boone

Cincinnati Gets: 

LHP Brandon Claussen, LHP Charlie Manning, cash

My immediate reaction to this deal was something along the lines of "Here we go again."  At first glance, it looks as though the Yankees are dealing away their top prospect for a two-month rental of a third baseman that they may or may not need.  And that's certainly partly true.  The Yankees offense was already among the top in the league, but - as we'll get to in a few minutes - it had suffered a fairly heavy blow with the Mondesi trade and Ventura had been struggling.  

Claussen showed off his goods in a game against the Mets earlier in the season.  On June 28, Claussen went 6 1/3 innings and allowed just one earned run on eight hits while grabbing a win.  It was quite an impressive debut for the much-heralded prospect, considering how recently he had undergone Tommy John surgery.  The bottom line is that while Claussen was the top prospect in the Yankees' system and a left-handed pitcher to boot, he isn't the huge prospect he once was.  His strikeout numbers in AAA are way down (39 Ks in 68 2/3 innings), but his ERA is very nice at 2.75.  Most Yankee fans - including myself - were hopeful that Claussen would end up being the first home-grown Yankee pitcher since Andy Pettitte, but apparently that won't be so.

Manning is a single-A pitcher with decent numbers, but doesn't appear to be anything spectacular.  He was 2-4 with a 3.45 ERA in 6 starts for the Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League.

What the Yankees get in Boone is a versatile fielder and hitter.  He's got the speed to bat leadoff or second and the power and run-producing abilities to bat sixth.  He can play third base (where he will spend most of his time in pinstripes), second base or shortstop and he brings a lot to the table.  Since 2002, only five players have stolen 40 bases and hit 40 homeruns:  Vladimir Guerrero, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Beltran, Mike Cameron and Boone.  That's some decent company.  

The bigger problem here is that Boone is arbitration eligible after the 2003 season, and eligible to become a free agent after that.  Experts predict Boone could pull around $5.5 million in arbitration - affordable for the Yankees - if he decided to stay in New York.  But there's no guarantee of that.  Claussen has the chance to become an effective pitcher down the road.  So this move is definitely intended to help the Yankees win right now, and for all intents and purposes, it should be effective at that.

Ventura Yankees Get:

OF Bubba Crosby, RHP Scott Proctor

Los Angeles Gets:

3B Robin Ventura

This deal actually looks like something of a steal for the Yankees.  Announced within an hour of the Boone trade, the Yankees shipped off the now-superfluous Ventura to the offensively-challenged Dodgers for AAA prospects Crosby and Proctor.  Several things make this deal potentially excellent for the Yankees.

First of all, the Yanks were paying Ventura $5 million this season and Boone is earning just $3.7.  The cash that the Yankees sent to Cincinnati offsets that difference, but its still nice to see that payroll go down.  

Secondly, Ventura hasn't been producing much at all this season.  He lost his ability to hit lefties (he was hitting just .194 against them) and was forced to platoon with Todd Zeile at third base.  Ventura was hitting just .251 overall and hadn't homered since June 10.  He was still playing excellent defense, but the Yankees were getting tired of his lack of offensive production.

So the Yankees shipped him off to the Dodgers, where Ventura will see time at both third and first base and where he will be an improvement in that sorry lineup.  In return, all the Yankees got was an outfielder who was leading the Pacific Coast League in batting average, and a pitcher with excellent numbers.

Crosby, who will turn 27 in August, is a little old to be considered a prospect now.  But he was leading the PCL with a .361 batting average in 277 at bats.  He also had 12 homeruns and 57 RBI.  His strikeout to walk ratio is acceptable (47:25) if not flashy, and he has eight steals without being caught once.  Crosby's window for success in the majors is closing, but its not out of the question that he could turn into a nice player for the Yankees.

Proctor is also a bit over-the-hill as far as prospects go.  He is 26 and just now showing signs of success in the minors.  Between AA and the AAA Las Vegas 51's, Proctor had a 5-4 record with a 2.58 ERA in 66 1/3 innings.  He also had 59 strikeouts in 41 innings.  Expect to see both Proctor and Crosby in September when the rosters expand.

White Yankees Get:

RHP Gabe White

Cincinnati Gets:

Player To Be Named Later 

While not officially part of the Boone trade this deal was announced shortly thereafter as the trade deadline quickly approached and makes the loss of Claussen a bit easier to swallow for upset Yankee fans.  This is the third deal involving a player to be named later that the Yankees have pulled off this season.  Earlier in the year, they acquired Karim Garcia and Dan Miceli from the Indians, and more recently they received Jesse Orosco from San Diego.  White is an excellent left-handed reliever to compliment Chris Hammond and Orosco in the bullpen, strengthening it for the stretch run.  

In 34 games this season with the Reds, White had a 3-0 record with a 3.93 ERA.  He also had a nifty 23:6 strikeout to walk ratio in 34 1/3 innings.  Recently, White landed on the disabled list with a groin injury and he hasn't pitched since June 26.  He was on rehab when he suffered a setback and will stay on the Yankees disabled list for the time being.  When he returns however, he will be a factor in a bullpen that also now features Armando Benitez, Orosco and a healthy Antonio Osuna.  The Yankee relief corps has gone from being a major weakness to an above average asset. 

White, 31, is signed through 2003 and has a $3.5 million option on his contract for 2004 with a $0.25 million buyout.  If he is successful in pinstripes down the stretch, he could return for next season.  In nine major league seasons, White has a career ERA of 4.26 with a 31-22 record and 16 saves.

Mondesi Delucci Yankees Get:

OF David Dellucci, RHP Bret Prinz, C Jon Sprowl

Arizona Gets:

OF Raul Mondesi, $2 Million

This move came almost unexpectedly, but like the Ventura deal could end up greatly benefitting the Yankees.  It was public knowledge that Mondesi and the Yankees weren't exactly getting along.  The Yanks felt that Mondesi was playing to his potential, and on several occasions asked Mondesi to take the day off or pinch hit for him in important situations.  Unhappy, Mondesi didn't travel with the team to Anaheim for their latest series and instead arrived on his own.  Shortly thereafter, Mondy was dealt to the Diamondbacks who were looking for an outfield bat.

The Yankees rid themselves of Mondesi's sometimes bad attitude and in return picked up Dellucci - a guy with a reputation for being a good team player that will fill a bench role for the Yanks, Prinz - a reliever with an excellent arm and a high ceiling but also happens to be returning from a bad injury, and Sprowl - a single-A catcher with good numbers.

Dellucci will be used mainly as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner, with the occasional start in right field.  Mondesi's departure leaves a hole in the outfield that will be filled primarily by Karim Garcia and Ruben Sierra in something of a platoon situation.  Both players are capable of putting up solid numbers.  Garcia in particular could show off some power with the short right-field porch in Yankee Stadium.

Prinz will start his Yankees career with the AAA Clippers, but he shouldn't be there long.  Injuries have limited him to just one inning in the major leagues in 2003, but the side-armer can be very effective when healthy, especially against righties.  In his first season in the majors (2001), Prinz stepped into Arizona's closer role when Matt Mantei went down.  He converted nine of 12 opportunities while posting a 2.63 ERA in 46 games.  He ran into some trouble in 2002, posting a 9.45 ERA in 20 appearances, but he has the ability to become a solid arm for the Yankees down the road - perhaps as soon as September.

Sprowl, 23, is a left-handed hitting catcher in single-A.  With the South Bend SilverHawks of the Midwest League, Sprowl was hitting .296 with four homeruns and 42 RBI in 321 at bats.  He also had an impressive 31:54 strikeout to walk ratio and even stole five bases.  He's not a top-tier prospect by any stretch - he was drafted in the 47th round in 1998 by the Cubs - but he's no slouch.

Overall, Cashman has done well here.  He's vastly improved the Yankees bullpen, as well as adding an All-Star bat to the lineup in Boone, without doing much damage to the Yankee farm system or their present team.  Parts of Mondesi's game will be missed, particularly his defense and throwing arm, but his .151 batting average with runners in scoring position will not.  Ventura was a fan-favorite in New York, but the Yankees have improved at third base and you can't really turn that down.

The bottom line is, the Yankees are a better team right now in 2003, and should be able to fend off the hungry Red Sox and win the American League East.  Depending on how long Boone and White stick around, the Yankees might have overpaid for them.  Claussen has a chance to be a very good pitcher, and now the Yankees will once again have to turn to free agency in 2004 and beyond to fill holes in their pitching staff.

But that's the future.  Right here in 2003, this is an excellent Yankees team.

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