Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Exactly who is Brian Cashman trying to fool?  We Yankees fans are an intelligent bunch.  We know when our team needs help, and more importantly, we know the kind of help it requires.

Does he think he’ll be able to appease the masses through inconsequential transactions?

It sure seems so.

I think I’ve given him the benefit of the doubt for the better part of the past two seasons, but his latest work on our team has left me shaking my head.

I patiently stayed positive as he put together a team featuring Lyle Overbay and Chris Stewart last year.  Somehow Joe Girardi managed to keep that squad in the playoff hunt until the final weeks of the season.

This off-season my hopes were renewed and my patience seemingly rewarded when our GM landed Masahiro Tanaka while signing Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann to multi-year deals.  Brian Roberts was signed to a one-year deal ($2 million) in the hopes that the Bombers could harness some of the lightning he once had as an elite second baseman (before injuries stole most of the past 5 seasons).  Finally, I thought we were headed back into October play.

Our pitching staff looked deep and strong.  Michael Pineda would finally realize some of his great potential and Ivan Nova would only be more confident and capable with a solid season under his belt.  The rotation of CC Sabathia, Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda, Nova and Pineda could compete with the best in the league and certainly would give us quality depth in the playoffs.

Sure the bullpen lost our Great One, Mariano Rivera, but David Robertson was more than ready to assume the role of closer.  Shawn Kelley had become a strikeout artist in 2013 and made for a nice setup to “DRob”.  Adam Warren and David Phelps gave us some of the best long relief in the business and each could spot start when needed. 

Oh the best laid plans.

Poor first-half offensive performances by Beltran, McCann and Roberts have derailed – at least temporarily- the team at the plate.  As of this writing, the team has only scored FIVE more runs than last year’s crew at this point in the season. Five.

On the mound, injuries have removed Sabathia and Nova from the equation for the season, and Pineda is hoping to return for the final month.  We have somehow managed to remain within 3.5 games of first place in the division with a rotation of Tanaka, Chase Whitley, Kuroda, David Phelps and Vidal Nuno. Only Tanaka has had an ERA under 4, but Phelps and Kuroda have been stellar as of late.  Even Nuno had pitched better, holding a 3.70 ERA over his last three outings. 

In spite of our ability to stay in the race to this point, it is clear that the team isn’t going to succeed going forward without a boost to the rotation.

Over the past few weeks rumors had been growing that the Yankees were looking into putting together a deal for the Tampa Rays’ David Price.  Their season has been disappointing and they could be one of the “sellers” at the All-Star break.  He’s one of the elite starters in baseball and would make an immediate impact upon our starting five.  Suddenly a one-two punch of Tanaka and Price makes the Yankees a viable contender for the AL East crown.  The only question is whether or not the Rays would deal their star to a division rival.  It would undoubtedly require our team to part with multiple top prospects as well as one or two current stars.

Unfortunately, the Rays have gotten hot (winning eight of their last ten) and sit 8.5 games out.  The prospect of bringing David Price to New York is cooling.

There was also speculation that the team had a shot at landing the Cubs top pitcher, Jeff Samardzija.  That fell through when the A’s acquired him.

Not to worry though, our GM has made a deal for a starting pitcher!

Yes fans, this one will bring us the pennant.  I’m sure.  Brian Cashman has traded 26-year-old southpaw Vidal Nuno for 31-year-old right-hander Brandon McCarthy.

Sorry, but I fail to see the point of it.

Nuno has struggled this season; limping to a 2-5 record with a 5.42 ERA.  He’s given up 15 home runs in 78 innings pitched, but as I noted earlier he has pitched better recently.

McCarthy hasn’t been much better for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  His record this season is 3-10, and his ERA is only slightly better than Nuno’s – 5.02.  Clearly he has more experience, but his best years were with Oakland in 2011 and 2012 when he went 17-15 with a 3.29 ERA over those two seasons.  Last year with Arizona, McCarthy was 5-11 with a 4.35 ERA – not much better than what he is doing in 2014.  

So what then was the point of this transaction?  The bottom line of it all is that we gave up a young left-hander for a right handed hurler whose best years are behind him. 

I desperately want to understand this deal and I want to believe that it will make us better in our rotation, and to that end I decided to dig deeper and analyze what we gave up verses what we are getting.

McCarthy throws a sinker, curve, cutter, 4-seam fastball, and on occasion a change.  His velocity is decent, reaching 95 with the fastball and 94 on the sinker.  While he has a good ground ball/fly ball ratio (2.01), the primary pitch to induce ground balls-the sinker-has yielded a .331 batting average to opposing hitters.  Sure, he can keep the ball in the park, but he isn’t keeping the batters off the base paths.  Given his record and ERA, he may as well just let them hit it out of the park.

Nuno primarily throws an 83 mph slider and a 90 mph fastball. He occasionally adds a curveball, sinker and change.  Obviously his ability to prevent the long ball is not as good as McCarthy, but neither of his two primary pitches are being hit for a .300 average (opponents have a .290 average off his slider and only a .191 average against his four-seam fastball).  Clearly he hasn’t been able to build off his success with the fastball to improve results with the other pitches.

To me, this deal is a wash.  Depending upon how McCarthy reacts with Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch, it could actually turn into a disaster.

I’ve just never been a believer in trading a yet-to-reach-his-prime pitcher for one who appears to have already crossed the summit of his career; especially when it means giving away a left-hander for a righty. 

I feel sorry for Brandon McCarthy.  He has virtually no room for failure.  If he isn’t successful from the start, there will be little mercy shown his way.

For Brian Cashman, this represents yet another move where the belief is that putting on the pinstripes heals all wounds.  His recent long line of similar attempts with Lyle Overbay, Chris Stewart, Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis, Ben Francisco, Alfredo Aceves, and Brian Roberts (there’s more, but I grow weary) suggests that he’s ignoring his results.

If this recent move is a way of Cashman saying “look over there” to distract us from the fact that he cannot – either because his hands are tied, or he just doesn’t have the resources – really improve the team with a deal, he’s failing.

We are, after all, Yankees fans, and we know a snake oil show when we see one.


--Steve Skinner, BYB Writer
Twitter: @oswegos1

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