Less than Zero: Yankees’ moves have failed to make a difference

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, his hands tied by a $189 million payroll budget mandate for 2014, couldn’t and wouldn’t make a splash at or before the July 31st trade deadline. Just about one month later the Yankees’ lead in the American League East has been reduced to three games in the loss column prior to today’s games.

When the Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki they entered play that night with a six-game lead and left the field up by seven in the American League East. While no one was expecting Ichiro to be the savior (they didn’t need one at the time) they hoped he would provide a different dimension to the homer-happy hitters from the Bronx. Let’s see if he’s provided a boost to the club.

The Yankees acquisition of Ichiro Suzuki has provided little in the way of wins. (Image: Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE)

Ichiro is hitting .286/.309/.429 in 125 plate appearances as a Yankee. He has 6 doubles, 1 triple, 3 homers, scored 9 runs, driven in 14 and stolen 4 bases. According to FanGraphs.com, his batting value is -0.5, base running checks in at -1.2 and fielding at -2.0. This, in addition to replacement value and positional value adds up to a -0.1 WAR which basically says that Ichiro is providing less value to the Yankees than a replacement-level player would. While the Yankees didn’t seem to give up much for Suzuki; D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar were the Yankees prospects dealt, they could have called up a minor leaguer and gotten similar results.

The Yankees lone deadline deal netted Casey McGehee for Chad Qualls. The trade was looked at as a positive since they were close to designating Qualls for assignment anyway, so to get anything out of him was viewed as a good move. McGehee figured to help from the right side of the plate while manning at third base with Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list as a complement to Eric Chavez from the left side. McGehee was not exactly pounding the ball in Pittsburgh and became expendable after their deal for Gaby Sanchez. McGehee, not surprisingly, has failed to live up to his 23 homer, 104 RBI season with the Brewers in 2010. He is no better than a replacement level player himself. In actuality he has been worth less than that (-0.4 WAR) in a small 47 plate appearance sample. His line, .186/.234/.326 with four extra base hits (one homer) is so awful it got the Yankees looking for another right-handed bat.

McGehee was recently sent down to Single-A Charleston for a few days until rosters expand on September 1 in order to provide space for Steve Pearce who was acquired in a waiver deal on Monday. The book on Pearce is that he’s a righty bat with some pop against lefties. It’s too early to tell what, if any, impact Pearce will have and I won’t insult your intelligence by trying to summarize it in his six plate appearances in two games since being inserted into the lineup. I will say this; Pearce has been with four different organizations since being signed by the Minnesota Twins in the offseason, including the Yankees earlier in the season, so this is a dart thrown into the sea at best.

Speaking of darts, the Yankees signed Derek Lowe off a Cleveland scrap heap and since a gritty performance in his very first outing (four scoreless innings) he’s shown why the Indians dispatched of him. He’s allowed nine hits and four runs (three earned) in five innings. These are not mop up assignments either. He came into yesterday’s game with the Yanks down by one run and allowed the only two hitters he faced to reach base. Both runners scored when proclaimed, “move without a move” reliever Joba Chamberlain abruptly allowed a double to Yunel Escobar when he entered later in the inning with the bases juiced and one out.

Chamberlain, while not a trade or waiver deal, can be looked at as a deadline move because that’s how the Yankees drew it up and presented it at the time. He was quickly lifted from the minor leagues on July 31 after only 7.1 innings thrown. He hadn’t pitched at the Major League level since June 5, 2011 after Tommy John surgery AND ankle surgery, yet there he was up with the big club after ‘dominating’ players at the low levels of the minors. It has backfired and to this day, I have no idea why he was brought up so soon. Much like the Ichiro deal, there was no pressing matter to be resolved by the move. Now he’s been relegated to duties without pressure, though he was put in one yesterday after eight days without throwing a pitch in a game, and predictably he was wildly ineffective. Joba’s numbers since his return are mind-numbing; 7.1 IP, 8.59 ERA (7.74 FIP), 2.73 WHIP and another negative WAR (-0.4). Simply stated, he has no business being on a MLB mound right now. This “move without making a move” hopefully does not portend to the next two of those the Yankees intend to make.

Does Andy Pettitte have enough time to get ready before a potential postseason run? (Image: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE)

First, Rodriguez is now fielding grounders and taking BP. He could be sent out for a rehab assignment soon with either Double-A Trenton or Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, who will both be in their respective postseasons providing some time for A-Rod to get back to game strength. Even if he is back by the end of next week, how long will it take A-Rod to get up to full speed and find comfort at the plate?

Next is Andy Pettitte. Remember when the estimates had him back in early September when he suffered his broken ankle? He had a setback early on which is now looking very costly. Time is running out on his ability to pitch in any minor league games and Yankees manager Joe Girardi mentioned the possibility of Pettitte logging innings in short outings at the big league level in order to work himself into consideration for the postseason rotation. Girardi also admitted that was not an ideal solution with the division race at a full boil. Pettitte’s next step at this point is to throw off a mound.

Reaching the postseason once seemed like an inevitable occurrence, but now looks somewhat daunting. Any moves the Yankees have made with an eye toward the stretch run have more or less been worthless. Again, none of the moves were seen to be ‘game-changing’, but the team didn’t pull the trigger without a thought they would help win some games. Now the Yankees have two more ‘moves’ for which they are holding their breath. Both have potentially great upside, but also come with multiple question marks; age, ability to reach 100% and now with only a three-game lead staring the team in the face, having enough time to make a difference. Maybe a minor league player will have a hot streak to ride, but the Yankees can’t assume there is anything of the sort on the horizon.

The Yankees decided to stay away from a splashy move because of a payroll obligation two seasons into the future. What’s worse, the Boston Red Sox proved a team can shed payroll at massive clips if needed (during the waiver period no less), something the Yankees didn’t have the vision to see by going for it now. It could prove to be a huge mistake for 2012, as the middling moves they did make have provided nothing but empty results. Hopefully the next two pan out or the Yankees could be looking toward 2013 for World Championship number 28.

Topics: New York Yankees

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  • Jimmy Kraft

    Great look into the deadline’ish moves, Chris. Couple of things…In regards to the Red Sox proving they could offload millions upon millions in payroll only happened because of the caliber of the players they were trading, losing record, GM situation, manager situation, and a willing (and hungry) trade partner out to prove they want a winning ballclub in town after the McCourt divorce. ALL of those things had to occur in order for that move to even be thought of.

    Secondly, here I thought Ichiro was doing alright…those numbers hide a very dark side, which is unfortunate. Ichiro was one of my favorite non-Yankees, and I rotted for him even more when he was traded to the ball club. Just goes to show how much Brett Gardner is missed…along with A-Rod and Pettitte (and now Tex)

    • Chris_Carelli

      Thanks Jimmy. I hear what you’re saying and I should have been more clear, that I don’t ever expect the Yankees would want to burn that much money at once (or hope there is never a reason they feel they have to), but maybe one of the few hefty contracts is not out of the question and could clear space down the line. Look at it this way; did you think A.J. Burnett was movable considering his less than inspiring time with the Yankees? That was a large contract for an underperformer (and yes the Yanks are paying for some of it) which was wanted by a lower-mid payroll team before they even entertained the idea of a playoff run. The Yankees may never be able to rid themselves of any of their large contracts, but the notion that it is impossible is shortsighted if that is the team’s stance.

      As for Ichiro, I was hoping he’d go on one of those patented tears where he’d run off multiple three-hit games, but it seems those days are long gone. There is still a month left of his services so maybe he can catch fire. Regardless, I hope that D.J. Mitchell doesn’t turn into much (2-2, 2.95 ERA in 42.2 IP with Triple-A Tacoma so far).

      • http://YanksGoYard.com/ Matt Hunter

        To be fair, one month of UZR data is virtually meaningless. My impression is that he is still a good fielder and that he’s been a good fielder for the Yankees so far. So yeah, he’s still not playing that well, but he’s hitting better than he did with the Mariners, and if you assume slightly above average fielding, he’s about what the Yankees expected.

        The truth is, these little moves weren’t supposed to make big differences. Yeah, they could have caught lightening in a bottle, but they got Ichiro, McGhee, Pearce, and Lowe primarily as insurance and filler pieces. It looks bad now since they’re in the middle of a cold streak and the division is in danger, but I still believe that they Cashman was right to avoid a big move at the deadline. This is a fantastic team that has had some bad luck with injuries, but I think they are more than talented enough to hold off the Orioles and Rays and go far in the playoffs. It’s just a matter of whether they can get hot at the right time. I have a feeling they will.

        • Chris_Carelli

          Maybe he’s hitting a little better than with Seattle which isn’t saying much and has he really added anything to the team? While the metrics are small samples and shouldn’t be used to foretell the future, they are what they are and what he’s provided, you can’t change them. I’d have to disagree about Ichiro and the Yankees trading for him as an insurance policy. Insurance policies don’t start virtually everyday. Big move, no and I stipulated that up front with when discussing all of these moves, but Ichiro is more than a filler piece.

          Cashman prefaced each of the big deals he was avoiding by saying he was not going to make a move to just make a move. So, he had to feel something would come out these smaller moves, or at least hoped so. I think they would look just as bad if the Yankees won 13 out of their last 21 instead of lost 13 of 21. I just wish they didn’t feel so glued to a number in 2014 which could directly and negatively impact 2012.

          • http://YanksGoYard.com/ Matt Hunter

            I disagree that the fielding metrics are what they are and are what he’s provided. There’s so much noise and uncertainty in one month of UZR data that it’s pretty much useless to use. He could have been a fantastic fielder during that time and still had a negative UZR, just because of the way that UZR is calculated (by sorting batted balls into relatively broad categories). I’m just not confident saying anything about his fielding so far, and I’d much rather use his career numbers and my eyes, both of which say that he’s a great fielder.

            Yeah, I guess insurance policy was a bad choice of words. I meant they weren’t meant to make huge differences. Of course Cashman hoped he would get a lot out of these moves, but if they were guarunteed to be really valuable, they would have had to give up a lot more to get them. Cashman knew he had a valuable team but not a lot of depth and a few holes, and I think he did a good job of filling them.

          • Chris_Carelli

            I’ll concede the fielding argument, because where is it going to go plus it’s a small piece of the overall picture. Yes I agree, Cashman did a fine job filling the voids considering what he was willing to spend or retrieve from the scrap heap. Nonetheless, not one of the players has panned out (maybe I’m being hard on Suzuki) and that’s pretty much all I set out to say. I respect where you are coming from and I totally see the rationale. Whether it is metrics, my eyes or whichever basis I use, not one of these moves did much of any good in my opinion.

          • http://YanksGoYard.com/ Matt Hunter

            Oh no question. The moves definitely haven’t panned out. But I don’t think they were bad at the time, and I definitely don’t think they should have made a big move at the deadline. Their position at the time was too stable to warrant sacrificing the future for the present. Even now, chances are still strong that they’ll win the division.

          • Chris_Carelli

            I sure hope so!

  • http://twitter.com/UrKllinMeSmalls Squints Palledorous

    “reliever Joba Chamberlain abruptly allowed a double to Yunel Escobar when he entered later in the inning with the bases juiced and one out.” at least try to be honest in your evaluations. He allowed a catchable ball Andruw Jones turned into a double. He has been bad since his return from the DL but this appearance wasn’t one where he failed the team.

  • http://twitter.com/UrKllinMeSmalls Squints Palledorous

    “Maybe he’s hitting a little better than with Seattle which isn’t saying much and has he really added anything to the team?”

    People’s exhibit one: Raul Ibanez in LF all damn year. He has been good defensively, metrics aside. He has provided some decent ABs and acceptable production.

    The Yankees loss of ground in the win – loss column has a whole lot more to do with Nova imploding in a few starts, Hughes having a couple of stinkers, Soriano and the pen costing us a couple games than it does anything Ichiro (or even McGhee) has done.

    And don’t get me started on a manger who bats Martin cleanup & seems to handle the bullpen like every game like it’s game 7 of the world series whilst letting the offense just “do whatever swing for the fences” as if they play in some beer league.

    • http://YanksGoYard.com/ Matt Hunter

      I wouldn’t agree that Ibanez has been good defensively. Yeah, he hasn’t committed an error, but he has a bad arm and no range. He’s been better than I thought he would be, and acceptable, but definitely not “good”.

      Also, the Yankees have arguably the best offense in baseball. They’re only 4th in runs scored but 1st in OPS. So I say let them keep doing what they’re doing.

    • Chris_Carelli

      Thanks for the comments. Can’t argue with much of what you said. He post was just about the deals or moves and whether they panned out yet. Read more of my pieces and you will see I give ample credit for the Yankees recent losses to all those you mentioned and some.

      Chris

  • Thomas M

    The Yankees rarely make major moves during the season. The last “big” trade Cashman made in season was proably Abreu in 2006. They did try for Cliff Lee a few years ago, but that fell apart. The Ichiro trade was similar to the Berkman trade, two guys passed their primes who they hoped could just round out the line-up. Cahsman likes to build his team in the offseason and just add peices along the way to keep the machine moving, but not every peice will workout they way you’d like. The guys that are going to help us win are already on this team, they are just playing like crap right now.

    • Chris_Carelli

      Thanks for the comments Thomas. I couldn’t agree more about the recent play. Again, the point of the article was more about the fact that we’ve gotten little to nothing for the moves that were made. I totally get nothing is guaranteed especially with the smaller moves, but they were made and I’m just stating they have been ineffective.