The Yankees are cruising. Even still, behind the great record, a few cracks are emerging. Andy Pettitte's injury reveals a lack of depth on the mound, what with Javier Vasquez's issues. And while some of the older Yankee players are not seriously injured, it does show that the Yankees are one serious injury away from catastrophe. A trade for depth might be a smart move.
Here are two trades I think the Yankees should make.
1. Yankees trade 1B/DH Juan Miranda, SS Eduardo Nunez and 2B Kevin Russo for LHP Luke French and OF Chone Figgins
The Mariners can pitch with anyone. They have the 2nd lowest team ERA in the AL and Cliff Lee hasn't really come into his own yet. What they can't do is hit: They are last in the AL in OBP and in HRs and 2nd to last in batting average. They need players who can hit and they need them now.
Eduardo Nunez, not quite 23, has risen through the Yankees organization quickly. And that's because the kid can hit. Hitting .344 this year in AAA, after hitting .322 last year in AA, Nunez also has 8 stolen bases. Baseball America also voted him Best Infield Arm in the Yankee minor league system. Unfortunately, Ramiro Pena is ahead of him on the Yankee depth chart as is some guy named Jeter.
Likewise, Juan Miranda and Kevin Russo are blocked by Mark Teixiera and Robinson Cano respectively or they would have already been tested in the majors by now. Russo is batting .296 in AAA and has a .382 OBP, with 3 steals in 25 games. Miranda, after a slow start, has hit .317 in the last 10 games, with 3 HRs. Last year, he had a .498 slugging percentage with 19 HRS and 30 doubles. In his limited time in the majors, Miranda has not been overwhelmed, going 7 for 19 with 2 BB, 1 HR and 1 double.
Right now, the Mariners options at 1B are Casey Kotchman (.220 BA) and Mike Sweeney (.172). SS Jack Wilson is faring a little better, batting .253, albeit with no HRs and only 1 SB.
The Mariners made big moves last year, trading for Cliff Lee and Milton Bradley (oops) and signing Chone Figgins. With Cliff Lee testing the free agency market next off-season, the Mariners are trying to win right now. This trade offers them other options right now, with 2 minor leaguers ready for the next step and who can swing the bat both for power and for slap-hitting. And it doesn't cost them anything much.
Luke French doesn't figure into the Mariners plans this year as they already have 6 starters in the majors and as stated before, have one of the best staffs in the majors.
As for Chone Figgins, unprotected by the Angels big bats, he is scuffling this year, batting just .202, often swinging at bad pitches. That is very unlike him. The league leader in walks last year, in 615 AB, Figgins struck out 114 times in 2009, for a 5.39 K/AB ration. This year that average is down a strikeout every 3.35 AB.
In the Yankee lineup, however, Figgins would be much more protected.For the Angels, his lowest average as a starter was .267. In the Bomber lineup, Figgins average would mostly return to his normal averages. And more importantly for the Yankees, Figgins could provide depth at several positions, having played all of them except catcher and 1B, which the Yankees have backups for anyway. Should Rodriguez, Swisher, Gardner, Jeter or Cano go down for a little while, Figgins can answer the bell for any of them.
Overall, this trade makes sense for both teams. It gives the Mariners some options for their major league hitting woes (it really can't get any worse) by getting 3 major league-ready prospects. For the Yankees, it gives them a little depth in both their position players and for their major league rotation. Should one of the starters goes down for a while, French is an option the Yankees can have to patch the hole for a while (especially should Aceves and Mitre bomb). And with Figgins—who's bat would most likely revive in the Yankees lineup—it protects the Yankees from injury to one of their players.
This trade also makes sense should the Yankees consider the next trade.
RHP Javier Vasquez and RHP Jonathan Albaladejo for RHP Randall Delgado and RHP Kris Medlen
Let's make one thing clear: Javier Vasquez can not pitch in a Yankee uniform. Even when he was a few years younger and had a couple of more mph on his fastball, he still stunk. Now, in 2010, he is just plain awful. He has no comfort-level on the mound and it shows in flat pitches. And this is just a few months after getting 4th place in the NL Cy Young race by throwing up a 2.87 ERA. Last year, in Atlanta, Vasquez has a 1.026 WHIP, was 2nd in the NL with 238 Ks and was the ace of the Braves staff.
This year, the Braves need him. Jurrjens is down with an injury. Derek Lowe is....well, Derek Lowe. And Kawakami has an ERA north of 5.40, leaving only Hudson and Hanson to carry the heavy load for the Braves. Surprisingly though, the Braves are only 4 games out of the NL East lead. And being Bobby Cox's last year, the Braves want to win. Why not get the best pitcher on your staff last year, and add him to the mix so your team can contend in the East? Vasquez can pitch in Atlanta. Last year, he seemed comfortable and dominant. He never seems comfortable in New York. Trade him and Albaladejo—another blocked Yankee prospect—and get a potentially dominant reliever (1.32 ERA with 8 saves in AAA this season) should Wagner get hurt or falter.
Delgado is ranked in the Top 10 of most Braves Top Prospects lists. However, he is not close to being the best pitching prospect in a pitching-rich farm system. Only a High-A pitcher, he would not factor into the Braves plans this year.
Medlen was dominant in the minor league system for Atlanta, earning a cumulative 2.42 ERA in 4 seasons, as both a reliever and a starter. With Vasquez gone, a 5th starter is needed. Most likely, that job would fall to Aceves, Mitre or possibly Chamberlain. However, with the aforementioned French and now Medlen, the Yankees have options. And depth and options make for a much more dangerous team, come the playoffs.
Overall, the Yankees trade Russo, Miranda and Nunez and Albaladejo—4 talented but blocked AAA players—and Vasquez, a pitcher who can't pitch in New York. And what do they get back? 2 talented AAA pitchers ready to make the jump to the back of a rotation, a fantastic utilityman and a high-ceilinged pitching prospect.
However, this will never happen. Cashman will stick to his guns and keep Vasquez for the season. Which is too bad. These trades make sense for not only the Yankees, but for the Mariners and the Braves.