Pitching Prospect is an Ugly Word

Could he be wearing Yankee pinstripes soon? 

To quickly paraphrase ESPN’s Buster Olney, a potential trade of Philip Hughes, Austin Jackson, and Melky Cabrera for Johan Santana is too much to give up for the Yanks, considering they would have to extend Santana for around $150 million.

Olney continues, writing that,

“Even beyond the question of swapping promising young players like Hughes and Cabrera and Jackson, how much money does it save them to have cheap players on their roster. How much will it cost them to replace a Cabrera or Jackson? Without Cabrera or Jackson, the Yankees might have to sign a veteran center fielder in their place in a year or two.

And it’s possible that within three or four years, as Santana gets older and Hughes progresses, that Hughes might become something close to what Santana will be then. And you could say the same for [Red Sox pitcher] Clay Buchholz.”

Buster does a nice job of explaining his viewpoint, but he forgets one key fact: these are the Yankees.  While money is a huge factor for other teams, the Yankees essentially can’t spend enough.  To this point we’ve been shown no reason to believe they have any sort of payroll limit that would prohibit them from continuing to acquire All-Star talent whenever it becomes available.  Thus, the salient point that Buster makes about the cost of later replacing young talent given up in trades is mitigated. 

Additionally, the term “pitching prospect” itself is like a euphemism that your grandparents use when talking about race.  They want to project an image of tolerance and understanding, but really they remain stuck in an age when bigotry was the norm and no one judged them for it.  Well, calling a young arm a “pitching prospect” is akin to such talk because really it should be called a “guy likely to blow out his arm and never contribute on the Major League level.”  Think Francisco Liriano.  Consequently, we should think about the two main chips in this trade scenario: cheap, POTENTIALLY good Philip Hughes and THE BEST PITCHER ALIVE, Johan Santana.


A guy likely to blow out his arm and never contribute on the Major League level.

As can be seen in any economy, stability is the key to continued success.  This applies in the case of the Yankees because spending wads of cash is not an issue for them, instability is.  They should spend the most money in baseball, they just need to spend that money on the right guys.  Enter Johan Santana.

Going over his stats is redundant, but he has been the best pitcher in the game since Pedro Martinez‘s demise, and will likely continue to be top-5 for the next 4 years.  He’s worth the money he’ll get, and especially for a team that has the money to spend it.  On the other hand, the Minnesota Twins cannot afford to spend like the Yankees, and therefore must speculate more, which means trading the best pitcher on the planet for “a guy likely to blow out his arm and never contribute on the Major League level” and two other potentially good players.

As far as Austin Jackson goes, he is rated as a quality prospect by most, but is a few years away from contributing.  Cabrera is here already, but is definitely overrated in New York.  He is a quality player, but this past season had a .327 OBP and a .391 SLG.  Those are not very good numbers, but given his age and his previous work, one can expect he’ll continue to get better and be a valuable player for a team such as the Twins looking for a cheap replacement in CF.

So, when you truly break it down, this trade comes down to one thing: is the dollar cost of the transaction worth negating the obvious gain in talent and performance certainty?  Seeing as the franchise is worth more than a billion dollars, I vote no for the Yankees, and say if this rumor is true, they should pounce at the opportunity to get their answer to Josh Beckett, Fausto Carmona, C.C. Sabathia, and John Lackey.

Oh, and not to forget, their 2008 rotation would include Santana, Chien Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Mike Mussina, and potentially Andy Pettitte.  Not too shabby, and the two young guns in the rotation would be under less pressure to throw more innings than their development schedule would dictate.


3 Responses to Pitching Prospect is an Ugly Word

  1. jon says:

    If I’m the Yankees, I try to work that package with Ian Kennedy and NOT Phil Hughes. Include an extra prospect or two, but Hughes and Chamberlain should be untouchable!
    Keep Hughes even if it means not getting Santana. Any pitcher can get injured at any time, why pay $150 mil for it?

  2. obeese says:

    In response, I would say the Twins won’t accept Kennedy instead of Hughes or Chamberlain, thus negating that hope, although I’m sure the Yanks would check into that. But, when it comes to the “any pitcher can get hurt comment,” this is true, but is far more likely to happen with young pitchers who have never shown that they can handle the load of a full Major League season. Johan Santana has shown he is an ace, and can handle all the duties that come with being one: going deep into games, giving up a low number of runs, and doing so year after year. That’s what makes him so much more valuable than Philip Hughes–for the Yankees, because money is not truly an issue.

  3. […] ending this non-sense about the Yankees’ version of the Big Three being untouchable and doing what it takes (within reason) to acquire Johan Santana would be the preferred move for New York, diligently […]

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