Bill Madden, of whom I’m no great fan (so let that be a disclaimer) wrote a piece recently about the Yankees and their apparent need to trade for Joakim Soria. On the surface level, I don’t entirely disagree with the idea. Adding Soria would make sense since he’s one of the top relief arms in all of baseball and because he’s relatively cheap. I disagree with what Madden thinks the Yankees should give up and why they should do it.
I’m not going to go paragraph by paragraph and do a full FJM on this bad boy because it doesn’t deserve that, and that tune’s more than a little bit played out. I may cut and paste certain quotes to highlight, but mostly I’ll be commenting on the tone of the piece and Madden’s justifications.
Starting with the tone, it doesn’t come off as all that desperate, but the title of the piece does. While the Yankees’ offseason has certainly not gone entirely as planned, that’s mostly due to losing out on Cliff Lee. Granted, that’s a very big thing on which to miss out, but they’ve still re-signed Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera while bringing in a lefty reliever–a stated goal–and adding some depth by signing Russell Martin. If Andy Pettitte retires, things may look a little more grim, but that hasn’t happened yet so I’m not going to freak out. The team as of right now has some flaws but it still a generally well constructed team with a top-flight lineup and a solid bullpen.
A lot of people in the media and the various comments sections across the Yankee blogosphere keep saying that the Yankees are desperate because they keep missing out on big pieces, like signing Lee or trading for Zack Greinke. The patience the Yankees have shown in this offseason, not jumping on a player simply for the sake of jumping on a player demonstrates a dearth of desperation. What the Yankees are doing now is exactly what they should be doing: Waiting for the right move to come along. Making a trade or making a signing simply for the sake of doing so is a way to waste money in the present and in the future.
Getting back to the Soria-non-trade and Madden’s actual words:
His first paragraph ends with a statement we’ve heard all winter: Kerry Wood saved the Yankees’ season. Kerry Wood threw 26 innings with the New York Yankees. They were a solid 26 innings, but they represented 1.8% of the total innings thrown by Yankee pitchers in 2010. When you pitch just 1.8% of a team’s total innings, you are not a savior. If you want a season savior, go look at CC Sabathia with the Brewers in 2008. Never have 20something innings been made such a big deal by the New York media or the fans (well, except one 20something inning stretch that I’d rather not discuss anymore).
The next bothersome statement is that Madden calls Kansas City GM Dayton Moore’s refusal to trade Soria “shortsighted.” I’ll agree with that–it’s silly for the Royals, a team that is unlikely to contend this year, to tie up resources in a great closer. He’ll have a minimal effect on such a bad team. However, when Madden suggests that the Yankees should trade Jesus Montero for Joakim Soria, that’s even more shortsighted. Madden displays a complete lack of awake of awareness here. Even though Soria has options through 2014, trading a hitter like Jesus Montero is a complete waste. Madden mentions that the Yankees offered Montero for Soria earlier in the season, but we never got official confirmation of that and the rumor was that they “dangled” Montero; that doesn’t mean they offered him.
From the article: “Holding on to [Soria] would seem like a waste, especially since his value couldn’t be higher and the Royals won’t likely be contending for another couple of years. Said one AL exec: ‘It’s a lot easier finding closers than it is power-hitting catchers. Dayton’s got a chance here to fill two huge needs – catcher and shortstop – to complement that bumper crop of talent he’s got coming. Why wouldn’t you do that?’” Well, A.L. scout, you wouldn’t do that because it probably wasn’t offered. If the Yankees did offer Montero for Soria and a deal didn’t go down, both GMs made a mistake: Cashman for offering it in the first place and Moore for not accepting it as soon as the offer was made. (Note: the shortstop discussed is Eduardo Nunez, who is probably unappealing to the Royals for a few reasons: 1) He’s Eduardo Nunez and 2) They just traded for Alcides Escobar; Nunez isn’t a need for the Royals and shouldn’t be a want.)
The assertion that Austin Romine is as close to ML ready as Jesus Montero is at the moment is also off base. In terms of raw OPS, his numbers have dropped steadily each year (.781-.763-.726), though that’s admittedly rather simplistic analysis. However, it’s something of which to take note. We also saw a big second half drop off from Romine in 2010 and his defensive reputation took a bit of a hit as well. Romine also doesn’t have near the offensive potential that Montero does, which gives the latter some more flexibility. Montero may not be able to stick behind the plate in the majors, but his bat will likely allow him to play anywhere, including first base and DH (Jesus Montero will be just 27 when Mark Teixeira’s contract is up). That second half swoon from Romine suggests that the Yankees will likely start Romine at AA Trenton agains this year, especially if Montero is going to start the year with the AAA team in Scranton-Wilkes Barre. And, even if the Yankees did sign Russell Martin, that doesn’t mean they’ve given up on Jesus Montero, especially when Martin’s primary back up going into the season will be Francisco Cervelli. It should signal that they’re willing to be patient with Montero and let him get some development time in Scranton–as well as see what they have in Martin–before bringing him up to the big leagues.
Madden closes the bulk of his article by talking about signing Rafael Soriano for “the sake of the staff” which is a misguided notion I’ve covered before, so I’ll sum up my thoughts in one sentence: A good bullpen does not make up for a lacking starting rotation and the Yankees shouldn’t be interested in giving up a draft pick for a relief pitcher and multi-year deals for relief pitchers are a bad idea and Madden even takes note of the Yankees’ spotty history with multi-year-deal relievers. Okay, that was a run on sentence, but I’m okay with it. Madden also says that the Royals need to “come to their senses” and build for the future and unload Soria. Yeah, sure, I’ll agree. But first, Madden needs to come to his senses and realize that trading one of the best prospects in the minor leagues for a relief pitcher is a near-senseless idea.