Thursday, June 27, 2013

Looking At Another Trade Target

Jim Salisbury of mentioned a few Phillies that he thought would be of interest to the Yankees. Philadelphia is three games under .500, and currently sits seven games in back of the NL East leading Atlanta Braves, so I was a bit skeptical. 

And there's something about the Phillie Phanatic that doesn't seem right. I mean... what is that?

For starters, I don't believe the Phillies are a team that would really be interested in salary relief. They have the third highest payroll in Major League Baseball, which shows they aren't the must budget conscious team in the league.

Secondly, we're not talking about a team that's known for being okay with rebuilding. At least as of late. Philadelphia hasn't finished worse than 3rd in the National League East since 2000, and they actually won that division five straight times between 2007 and 2011. So after missing the playoffs last season, and there being a good chance they miss them again this season, I can't believe they would just give anybody away in a trade. 

Let's face it, with the lack of big-time prospects to offer in a deal (at least in the upper minors), the Yankees will be relying on a team that's looking for salary relief and doesn't plan on contending right away next year. The Phillies don't fit that mold.

But what the hell? Why not at least take a look at the guys Salisbury mentioned as players the Yankees might be interested? 

The first player brought up was Chase Utley. Utley is currently hitting .266/.335/.462 with 8 home runs. Those aren't horrible numbers by any means, but they don't really grab your attention and make you jump out of your chair yelling "BUY, BUY, BUY!" Perhaps I would bother to delve a bit deeper into what he's done lately if it wasn't for the fact that he just doesn't fit the team's needs. Chase has played exclusively as Philly's second baseman since 2009, and hasn't started more than 6 games at any other position (1B) since 2005. So unless the Yankees were to move Robinson Cano to a different position, which is highly unlikely seeing as how Cano has played all but 1 inning of his MLB career at second, then there's no point in giving Utley another thought.

Moving on...

"Really? Are you sure?" - Chase
"Yes" - Me

Michael Young was mentioned by Salisbury as well. The 36 year-old third baseman has played a decent amount at first base, including a couple starts there this season and 40 starts there for the Rangers last year. As a right-handed hitter I can see where the Yankees may be attracted to Young, as he could not only play third base regularly, but could play first base in place of Lyle Overbay when facing a left-handed starter (I don't recommend looking up Lyle's numbers against LHP, as they are pretty ugly). As for what Young can do with the bat, over the past 3+ seasons he's had a really good batting average (.297), decent on-base percentage (.341), and some power (.426 SLG while averaging double-digit home runs per year). Seeing as how Young's contract is up after this season, and therefore we don't have to worry about a guy that will turn 37 in October (the 19th... same birthday as mine!) being around another year or more, I can see him being of interest to the Bombers.

But it's the final player that was mentioned that intrigued me the most... Carlos Ruiz. 

Now let me get one thing out of the way before I go any further here. I'm not concerned about the 25-game suspension Ruiz served due to testing positive for the banned amphetamine Adderall before this season. While doing an interview in Spring Training, Carlos broke down crying due to how bad he felt. Phillies manager, Charlie Manuel, backed up his catcher and said that he was confident Ruiz had learned from his mistake. I don't know the guy personally, so I can't tell you whether he and Charlie are simply full of it or not, but at this point I'm really not concerned when it comes to this subject.

What I am concerned about is whether or not Carlos Ruiz can play. A quick look at his batting line so far this season may make you say "no" right away, which I can understand considering that triple-slash is currently .273/.310/.299. But if you keep in mind that this is a guy that hit .325/.394/.540 last season, and has hit .303/.388/.454 over the previous three years, then it wouldn't surprise you when you see what Ruiz has done lately. In his past 7 games, Carlos is hitting .346/.357/.346. The power still hasn't come around, but I have reason to believe it will. 

Carlos is hitting a lot more balls on the ground than he normally does (about 54% ground balls, as opposed to hitting about 45% throughout his career), while hitting the ball just as hard (20% line drive percentage, just over his career number of 19%). The fact of the matter is this... a batter is going to have a really hard time hitting home runs, or more than a couple extra-base hits, if he's not getting the ball up in the air. 

Besides the fact that Ruiz is a pretty good hitter, we have to consider the fact that our current crop of catchers are just not getting it done. Yankee catchers this season have hit a combined .231/.298/.336. Many Yankee fans can't wait to get back Francisco Cervelli, but if they think he's going to come back and continue to bat .269/.377/.500 then I'd recommend they visit a neurologist and get their heads checked. Sure, Frankie may be able to keep up that batting average, as he's hit .271 in his MLB career, but he won't get on base that often (.343 OBP in 201 MLB games), nor will he hit for that much power (.367 SLG in those 5+ years). And you can't discount the fact that he fractured a bone in his throwing hand, which is surely going to have some effect on his game.

Cervelli hasn't played regularly since his 2007 season with single-A Tampa, being the back-up catcher on each team since. So while I don't think it's imperative that the Yankees trade for a catcher, it's definitely something to consider. But with Cervelli returning, Curtis Granderson returning to give the outfield a bit more oomph, and Derek Jeter coming back to settle things up at shortstop, the team may want to give first and third base the majority of their attention.

"Ready to give me another look?" - Michael
"Perhaps." - Me

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