Thursday, January 04, 2007

Randy and Minky: Ships Passing in the Night?

I started hearing the rumors just before 4:00 on Prospectus's internal mailing list, that the Yanks and D'Backs had agreed to a package of players in return for one Randall David Johnson. By the time I got home to check things out, the story was being reported by MLB.com, just with less certainty about the names involved. A short while later, it was on ESPN--confirmations on the names, and that Arizona and Johnson had entered one of those 72 hour negotiating periods--y'know, the ones made infamous a few off-seasons ago when Boston was trying to deal for A-Rod--that meant a deal was in place, just awaiting financial negotiations between the team and player to convince Johnson to waive his no-trade clause.

No one expects Johnson's 72 hours to stretch over more than a week, like the A-Rod negotiations did back in 2003-2004. Newsday's convinced that Johnson's already reached a "back-channel" agreement with his old team on the terms under which they'll reunite. No one is taking these negotiations as a real barrier.

So for all intents and purposes, it's possible that this is a done deal. So let's look at what the Yankees get:

Luis Vizcaino -- A righthanded reliever (yeah, another one), Vizcaino's the veteran portion of the Yanks' haul. Veteran, as in, he's 32 years old, with about seven major league seasons under his belt. He's pitched 410 career innings, all of them in relief. Started out a hard-thrower in the Oakland system, and that's been pretty much his calling card throughout his career. Had some gopherball problems early in his career that he seems to have put in check as he's gotten older. If this deal goes through, Vizcaino's the fifth righty in the pen, sixth if you rank Britton ahead of him, which wouldn't be unreasonable. Hard throwing Dominican reliever coming into his age-32 season? Haven't we seen this before? Steve Phillips, who's been on this story for ESPN, could tell you from experience--trying to corner the market on middle relievers never works. Heck, at least when Phillips tried it with the Mets, he was hoarding lefties, which are relatively rare...

The three prospects alleged to come along with Vizcaino all played most of their ball last season at AA:

Ross Ohlendorf -- Because Mientkiewicz wasn't hard enough to spell, I suppose. Big righthander, with a big fastball but no reliable secondary pitch, which projects him--wait for it--as a reliever. That means the 24 year old joins the teeming righthanded masses including Kevin Wheelan, Jose Veras, TJ Beam, Anthony Claggett, Mark Malencon, JB Cox, Darrell Rasner, and Jeff Karstens, all hoping that one or more of the six righthanded relievers ahead of them on the Yanks' depth chart--Mariano, Scott Proctor, Kyle Farnsworth, Brian Bruney, Vizcaino, and Britton--gets traded, injured, demoted, or simply decides to quit playing baseball.

Alberto Gonzalez -- A smooth-fielding shortstop, Gonzalez has a decent righhanded bat, but not much pop--about a .100 isolated power over the last two years. Could be a utility infielder of the future. At least the Yankees finally dealt for a position player.

Steve Jackson -- ...but that doesn't mean they're not out to get even more righthanded pitchers! At least this one's a starter. Jackson's fastball sits around 91 MPH, topping out around 94, and complemented by a splitter, sinker, and change. Despite a nice 2.65 ERA at Tennessee this season, he isn't considered a top prospect--Kevin Goldstein didn't rank him or the other two prospects in this deal among Arizona's top ten, and John Sickels has the three of them at the bottom of his top 20. Jackson will be 25 before Opening Day, he got raked in the AFL, and he hasn't reached AAA yet. But at least he isn't another relief prospect.

All told, this is far less swag than the visions of Miguel Montero and Alberto Callaspo we had stuck in our heads, or even the more modest talk of higher-tier pitching prospects like Micah Owings and Dustin Nippert. To some, having Randy Johnson gone is motive enough--it would appear that Brian Cashman is among these people. Still, I was hoping the Yanks would make the D'backs squirm a little to get the Unit back, part as payback for the 2001 World Series, the other part as payback for the way they made the Yanks crawl in order to get Johnson in the first place. If this is what they get, it's an opportunity missed. Stay tuned.

****

As alluded above, and mentioned in the linked article, the Yanks have signed Doug Mientkiewicz as their new firstbaseman. It's not a bad deal, part a defense move, part a hedge in case Josh Phelps turns out to be a scrub. The most likely scenario has him platooning with Phelps or Andy Phillips, either on a righty/lefty or offense/defense basis. At a reported $1.5MM, Minky's expendable should a better option come along. Heck, maybe Dougie Spellingerror can teach Matsui to play first base...

Back when Mientkiewicz was the proud possessor of the 2004 World Series game ball, I kept hoping the Yanks would sign Minky, and buy the ball off him as part of the deal. I imagined the Yankees having an elaborate ceremony before their first home game against Boston, where the accursed ball would be presented and destroyed by explosion--like the Bartman ball was, in Chicago. Then the remains of the World Series souvenir would be thrown into the stands, for the right field bleacher fans to floss with.

A man can dream, can't he?

1 comment:

Jon the Dback fan said...

The Yanks ripped off the Dbacks...I have no idea why the Dbacks would trade any talent at all for the right to pay the Big Unit $14 million this year and about $10 million more in 2008 when he's 45!! Stunningly stupid deal by the Dbacks!!!