Tuesday, December 08, 2009

From the Rumor Mill: NYY/DET/ARI *UPDATED

*Scroll to the bottom for the update on this trade

Here is a potential trade that had a little bit of buzz this morning.

Yankees Get:
Curtis Granderson (from DET)

D'backs Get:
Edwin Jackson (from DET)
Ian Kennedy (from NYY)

Tigers Get:
Max Scherzer (from ARI)
Phil Coke (from NYY)
Mike Dunn (from NYY)
Austin Jackson (from NYY)

Yankees' Perspective
Coming In: They get the best player in the deal, Curtis Granderson. A lot of people have been taking shots at Granderson this off-season, talking about his decline in batting average and issues against left-handed pitching. Both of those are legitimate concerns, but Granderson is still a vast upgrade in CF for the Yankees. The fact that he is a pull-hitting lefty is also a plus with that short porch at the new Yankee Stadium.

Heading out: The Yankees lose a lot of pitching depth here. I personally don't think Kennedy will ever have much success in a hitters park in the AL so losing him is not that big of a deal. Similarly, Coke's breaking ball has never missed enough bats for him to be a lefty specialist so he is not a huge loss. Dunn is a bit like Coke but with better stuff and less command. I like Dunn, I was expecting him to play a role for the Yankees this year but relievers are volatile and replaceable so no matter how much you like them, losing one should not block a larger trade. Finally we come to Austin Jackson, long hailed as one of the Yankees best hitting prospects; however, Jackson's stock has fallen a good deal in the last 18 months. He's lost some of his athleticism and now does not project as being either a burner on the base paths or having plus power. He had only four HR in over 500 at-bats in AAA last year and his 300/354/405 line was bolstered by a .390 BABIP. True he was only 22 and playing in AAA but those are not exactly inspiring numbers. Combined with a 3:1 K:BB ratio and Jackson no longer looks like a stud prospect.

Overall: Although generally trading 4 major league ready or near major league ready players for one player with plenty of faults does not make sense, I believe it does in this case for the Yankees. Granderson has already played at a level in the past that is better than Jackson's ceiling appears to be and none of the pitchers they are trading away are high-impact. Because the Yankees are so capable of filling in depth with free-agents because of their budget, this is the kind of trade they should be making, quantity for quality.

Diamondbacks' Perspective
Coming in: In Edwin Jackson the Diamondbacks get a durable, consistently mediocre starting pitcher. Jackson has essentially pitched his entire career in the American League and I would expect him to post better numbers in the more pitcher-friendly NL. He has two more arbitration years left and should be pretty cost effective even if his ERA never gets below the mid 4's. Ian Kennedy has proven he can dominate every level of professional baseball except the majors. Still, he is a good, cheap, low-risk option for Arizona. With his fringy fastball Kennedy probably fits best in the NL, and the Diamondbacks might be able to extract some good years out of him in the same way Milwaukee did with Dave Bush from 2006-2008.

Heading out: Arizona has to part with one of their best young players in Max Scherzer. Scherzer made 30 starts in 2009 and was very effective for Arizona, posting a 4.12 ERA (3.87 FIP) with just over a strikeout an inning. The only concern with Scherzer is his durability. He has a bit of an awkward arm action and a lot of scouts have suggested this will lead to injuries down the road; in fact most projected him to be a reliever while he was in the minors because of those concerns.

Overall: This seems to be a slam-dunk for the Diamondbacks. They would be bringing in two capable starters for one. Scherzer obviously has a higher ceiling than Jackson or Kennedy but if you believe he is an injury waiting to happen, then this is the time when his value is the highest. This is also simply a numbers game for Arizona, would you rather get 400 IP at a 4.30 ERA or 200 IP at 3.75 and 200 at 5.00+? For a team that had to use Yusmeiro Petit, Billy Buckner and Kevin Mulvey for 34 starts last year, that extra depth is very compelling. Also, it is important to realize that Brandon Webb will be coming off an injury and Doug Davis is a free agent. After trading Jon Garland late last year, this team has a lot of rotation slots to fill in.

Tigers' Perspective
Coming in: The Tigers are getting one very hard throwing righty in Scherzer to replace Jackson. Scherzer also has a higher ceiling and is, most importantly, cheaper. Detroit also gets three young players who are playing for peanuts right now. That is essentially the biggest factor for Detroit. They will be getting back four guys that they could put on the 25-man roster right now that make very little money. Sure Jackson and Dunn could use more time in the minors but they are probably advanced enough at this point that they will not completely embarrass themselves and Coke is a capable reliever.

Heading out: Granderson has been the face of the franchise in a lot of ways the last couple of years and it seems harsh to trade him away without getting much back. 2007 probably was a career year that will never be repeated, but in his three other full seasons he had a WAR ranging from 3.4 to 3.9. That's solid production for a player that still has two years of arbitration remaining. Jackson's raw stuff is still great but his command has never really come around and everybody seems to realize that his first half in 2009 was a fluke. At this point, he is what he is; an average pitcher with one plus pitch (his slider) and command issues. However, average pitchers get signed to huge contracts every year and Jackson is cheaper than most of those.

Overall: I know the intent in Detroit is to save money, but is this really the best they can get four two useful players? Sure they save a lot of money, but they have to be able to get more value back than this. If I was Detroit I would ask for more back from the Diamondbacks since they are so clearly coming out ahead in this scenario.

End Result: This trade probably will not come to fruition because the Tigers simply are not getting enough value back for their two best trade chips. Arizona would do this deal in a heartbeat and the Yankees probably would but it is much closer for them.

**Update Below:
It now appears this trade is going to happen but with one important change. Instead of the Tigers getting Dunn from the Yankees they will be getting Daniel Schlereth from the Diamondbacks. For the Yankees, since this trade seemed doable before it now is a must-pull-the-trigger situation. Schlereth is a much better prospect than Dunn is so for the Tigers it now goes from a questionable move to one that has to be considered. I still think they could probably get more for Granderson and Jackson but they know their situation better than I, and for a team that is desperate to shed salary they could do worse.

The new trade is much worse from Arizona's perspective because they now have to include one of their best relieving prospects. This now moves the trade from slamdunk territory to questionable for Arizona in my opinion. The difference in production between Scherzer and Jackson will probably be fairly negligible but the difference in salary is not. Also Kennedy is a low ceiling guy while Schlereth is a potential closer. If the Diamondbacks are really scared about filling in that last rotation spot I can see why they would pull the trigger here, but they are now giving up a lot of future value; a questionable move for a team that won only 70 games last year.

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