As spring training starts baseball juices flowing, it's time for a look at the latest members of the "Benedict Arnold Club", as Matthew Kory of Over the Monster calls it.
If you're a New York fanatic, there's always a twinge when you see a former favorite wearing the Red Sox uniform: think Alfredo Aceves. Similarly, members of Red Sox Nation cringe at the thought of seeing someone like 2004 World Series hero Johnny Damon don the pinstripes.
Making it worse for Red Sox fans is that the player movement along the Boston-New York corridor has been heavily in the Yankees favor over the years, starting with a guy named Babe Ruth.
Of the defectors in the last 20 years, I would guess Roger Clemens and Wade Boggs sting the most from the Red Sox side. Everyone over 30 will probably remember when Boggs joined the Yankees in 1993. That was bad enough, but seeing him on that horse after winning the World Series just rubbed salt in the wound.
Reliever Mike Stanton is another Red Sox player who found success in the Bronx. At the 1996 trading deadline the Red Sox sent him to Texas for two forgettable players. The Yankees picked him up the following year, and over the next seasons he went 30-12 out of the NY bullpen, earning an All-Star nod in 2001.
From the Yankees side, there have been fewer defections that have come back to haunt them in the past few decades—Aceves and Mike Lowell being the most recent exceptions.
A couple of others that come to mind are David Cone and Don Baylor, thought by many to be the catalyst for the pennant-winning 1986 Red Sox team.
Some players performed reasonably well for both teams: David Wells, Mike Torrez, Ramiro Mendoza and Eric Hinske come to mind.
(In fact, those last two names are the answer to a pretty good trivia question: Who are the only two ballplayers since 1918 to have won a World Series ring with both the Red Sox and the Yankees?)
Others have played for the dark side at the end of their careers: Luis Tiant, Bill Monbouquette and George "Boomer" Scott had twilight stints with the Yankees, while I imagine Yankee fans found it difficult to watch the great Elston Howard play for the Red Sox.
In recent years free agency has created most of this movement, when the Yankees were quite simply willing to pay more than the Red Sox for certain players.
Even before free agency, however, the Yankees always seemed to get the better of the also-ran Red Sox. Many people forget that Babe Ruth was not the only player sold to the Yankees because of Harry Frazee's money woes in the World War I era.
Duffy Lewis, Everett Scott, Ernie Shore, Herb Pennock and Carl Mays all contributed to the Red Sox winning five of the seven World Series played between 1912 and 1918. Kory points out they were all sold to the Yankees between 1919 and 1923, leading to the total dismantling of a Red Sox powerhouse that would not even become a .500 team again until 1935. (Of course, the Sox also sold the legendary Tris Speaker to Cleveland.)
Back in the day, Yankee star pitchers Red Ruffing and Waite Hoyt both came from Boston.
In 1967 the Yankees embarrassed the Red Sox by getting All-Star and Cy Young reliever Sparky Lyle in exchange for the immortal Danny Cater.
A surprisingly high number of the 2004 curse-busting Red Sox team also played for the Yankees sometime during their careers. In addition to Damon and Mendoza, Mike Myers, Doug Meintkeiwicz, Mark Bellhorn, and Alan Embree all donned pinstripes at some point.
A few other club members whose names are familiar to most baseball fans are: Kevin Cash, Rick Cerone, Nick Green, Rickey Henderson, Jim Leyritz, Mike Stanley and Tom Gordon.
In all, according to BaseballReference.com, there are some 210 players over the years who have played for both teams.
Last year, the only former Red Sox player on the Yankees major league roster was Bartolo Colon, while Aceves was the only former Yankee on the Red Sox roster. Chances are those numbers will be higher this year.
Mark Melancon, a 26-year-old right-handed reliever, was a ninth-round draft pick of the Yankees in 2006. In 2008 he was one of the best pitchers in the Yankees farm system, going 8-1 with a 2.27 ERA while going from Single-A to Triple-A in his first full season of professional baseball. In three minor league seasons he boasted a 19-3 record with a 2.89 ERA.
He appeared in 16 games for the Yankees before being traded to Houston in the Lance Berkman deal in 2010—so he is not totally unfamiliar with the AL East.
“I got a taste of [winning] in New York and now I’m on the other side, which is just as exciting,” Melancon told WEEI's Mark Petraglia last week. “I’m so excited. I’ve been on the other side for so long. It’s bickering back and forth and you hear the differences but you always have respect for your competition."
Showing political adroitness, he added, "Now I’m on the other side of the fence, which is the better side, so I’m looking forward to it.
“I have all respect for them,” Melancon said of the Yankees. “They’re first class. It’s very similar, actually, in how [both teams] go about things. Winning is a priority and that shows.”
According to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, Melancon's 2009 major league debut came against the Red Sox, and he threw two shutout innings. Later that season, Abraham reports, "Melancon further endeared himself to Yankees fans when he drilled Dustin Pedroia in the left shoulder with a fastball after throwing a pitch over his head."
The 26-year-old Melancon racked up 20 saves in 25 chances for the struggling Astros in 2011. He ended up 8-4 with a 2.78 ERA in 71 appearances. He held opponents to a .234 batting average and struck out 66 batters while walking 26.
The operative word in that sentence, however, is "Astros" (as in the 106-loss Astros).
He saved more than 35 percent of his team's wins last year even though he did not become the closer until mid-May. The problem is, contending teams devalue saves made on behalf of a cellar-dwelling ballclub. They don't believe that such saves constitute pitching under pressure.
So, the big question is, "Can Melancon make the transition from the laid-back, sparsely attended, meaningless games played by the bottom feeders of the NL Central to the pressure-cooker known as Fenway Park during a pennant race?"
Cedeño pitched in the Red Sox system from 2002 to 2005, primarily as a starter. He never made it beyond High-A Wilmington before being dealt to Kansas City. Thereafter, the young Dominican pitched for the Royals, Tigers, and Dodgers, never getting past Double-A. Even at that level he was hammered to the tune of a 5.80 ERA in 111 games.
In 2009 he decide to try his luck in Korea, where he went 4-7 with a 5.70 ERA.
On the heels of a 6.49 ERA for the unaffiliated Rio Grande Valley Whitewings last summer, Cedeño finds himself at the Yankees camp. This seems to be a bit of a reach for someone with such an unspectacular minor league career, but I guess being a living, breathing person who throws left-handed means getting unlimited chances in baseball.
I wrote about Ohlendorf earlier this month:
Drafted by the Diamondbacks in the fourth round in 2004, he is a footnote to the eventual Arizona World Series win over the Yankees. Ohlendorf was one of four prospects traded to the Yankees for Randy Johnson before the 2007 season.
He reached the majors with the Yankees as a September call-up that year, and pitched in 31 games for NY, including five starts, before going to the Pirates in the Xavier Nady/Damaso Marte deal at the 2008 deadline.
Ohlendorf's signing this year is similar to the signing last February of right-hander Alfredo Aceves. As Alex Speier pointed out on WEEI.com, both are former Yankees coming off of disappointing seasons cut short by injuries; both can start or relieve; both offer roster flexibility because they have minor league options left; and if they work out, they can remain under team control for a good while.
"I’m really excited about having the opportunity to compete for a World Series." Ohlendorf told Speier. "Obviously, the Red Sox are that caliber of team every year. When I was with New York, I really enjoyed it, especially the Red Sox-Yankees games. There’s so much excitement. Fans are really into everything. I’m excited about that.”
"IT'S OFFICIAL IM A YANKEE!!!!!!!!#IwannaRing!!!!"
That's how Bill Hall tweeted his signing with the Yankees early in February.
There is no record of what he tweeted last week, after hearing that the Yankees also re-signed Eric Chavez, effectively taking Hall's roster spot away. "Hopefully [Hall will] spend some time in the minor leagues to start the season while he waits for the almost inevitable injury Chavez will suffer," wrote Rob Abruzzese of Bronx Baseball Daily.
To be fair, Hall is quite versatile, having played all three outfield positions (240 games) as well as more than 200 MLB games each at second, third, and short.
Hall played for the Red Sox in 2008, hitting .247 with 18 home runs and 46 RBI, and a .772 OPS. He also struck out 104 times in 344 at-bats.
Since then, however, he has tanked completely .211 with only four HR in 124 games with the Astros and the Giants. Things were so bad in 2011 that the 106-loss Houston Astros cut him in June. The 35 home runs he hit for the Brewers in 2006 are way in the rear view mirror.
Mike Axisa at RAB reports that Hall's old friend from his Brewers days, CC Sabathia, may have put in a good word for him with the Yankees brass. Axisa adds that there have been rumors involving the Yankees and Hall in each of the last three or four offseasons. "So Brian Cashman finally got his guy," Axisa concludes.
He can reportedly opt out of this contract if he’s not on the big league roster by April 4th. The smart money is that he will not be on the roster, but he will not opt out either. There just won't be that many other teams (if any) demanding his services.
If any of you doubt the ongoing fierceness and intensity of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, I suggest you look up Yankee Stadium beer vendor Steve Lazarus, who learned the hard way not to share a laugh with an arch-rival Boston Red Sox player. He was suspended after jokingly asking former Yankee pitcher Alfredo Aceves (who was in his Red Sox uniform, walking through a freight area) for an ID.
Perhaps Yankees brass was miffed because the player was Aceves. For once, it appears the Yankees were fleeced by the Red Sox; Boston signed Aceves in February of 2011 after the Yankees released him in November 2010.
Even though he had been shut down that May due to a bulging disc, it is still puzzling that the Yankees let him go. After all, he had only posted a 14-1 record for the Bronx Bombers, including going 10-1 for the 2009 World Series champs.
Perhaps the fear he would not be effective was magnified by the fact that he broke his left collar bone in a bicycle accident in Mexico in December 2010.
The versatile Aceves dropped 20 pounds and came back with a vengeance, making 55 appearances (including four starts) even though he started the season at Pawtucket. He had a 10-2 record and an earned run average of 2.61. He also posted a 1.80 ERA during September when the rest of the pitching staff collapsed.
Earning only $650,000 last season, Alfredo Aceves probably provided the best return on investment on any Red Sox free agent signing in recent years.
At Ben Cherington’s October 25, 2011 press conference, he specifically pointed out the acquisition of Aceves as the model of the type of “buy low” deal the Red Sox would like to do for 2012.
In his four year career with the Red Sox and Yankees, Aceves has an incredible record of 24-3 with an ERA of 2.93. In late and close situations, in tie games or with a one run lead he is lights out—batters hit less than .200 against him. His .889 winning percentage is the best ever for a pitcher with at least 25 career decisions.
Also, Aceves can and does eat a lot of innings; He had seven games in which he came out of the bullpen for at least three innings and didn’t allow a run, and four more in which he allowed just one.
While Aceves has started nine games in his career (five for the Yankees and four with Boston), he is clearly a far superior pitcher as a reliever. As a starter, his ERA is 4.18; relieving, it is 2.62. His strikeouts-to-walks ratio as a starter is almost even, while as a reliever he punches out almost three times as many as he walks.
Aceves is known for lightening the mood in the clubhouse while he marches to his own drummer. Davis Ortiz told Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, “He’s on his own program.”
Mark Melancon, who roomed with Aceves when they pitched together in the Yankees farm system, concurred. "What I like about Ace is he’s not scared to step out and do something different,” he told Lauber.
"Doing something different" has included being notoriously late for meetings, calling his own pitches in a Triple-A game, and experimenting in-game with a bizarre new pickoff move, costing him a balk call.
Ortiz, who got in trouble by insisting that Aceves should have been starting games when the Red Sox rotation collapsed in September, is one of the pitcher's biggest supporters.
“When he was with the Yankees, I think his back was hurting, so his velocity wasn’t like it was last year,” Ortiz said. “He’s more powerful now. And he works like a bull. He always wants the ball. It gets no better.”
The former Red Sox setup man hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2010 and hasn’t been really productive since 2008, when he posted a 3.27 ERA in 72 games with the Red Sox.
Since then, the right-hander lost command, his velocity dropped off, his strikeouts have fallen and his walks have gone up considerably. He spent all of 2011 in Triple-A (Seattle and Texas) and struggled to a 5.59 ERA, even at that level. He was released by both teams.
The Yankees signed him to a minor league deal, probably for organizational depth more than anything else. (If the Yankees need another arm out of the pen, it's a lefty.)
Having said that, the 30-year old pitcher has shown he can be a dominant middle reliever in the AL East. In 2007 he appeared in 44 games for the Red Sox, posting an outstanding 2.05 ERA.
His career record is 11-8 with a 3.97 ERA in 298 big league appearances. According to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, Delcarmen made all but nine of those appearances in a Boston uniform.
It would be a major upset if Delcarmen actually made the team. As Steven Goldman wrote on PinstripeBible.com, "There is no reason to think he has much left to offer, but he could always get hot and win the Luis Ayala Memorial Game-Out-Of-Reach Role for a few weeks."
Okajima was one of three former Red Sox relievers signed by the Yankees this year, which in my mind qualifies him as a member of the Benedict Arnold Club.
The asterisk is there because Okajima failed his physical and was released by the Yankees. Okajima failed the physical after Yankees doctors didn't like the results of an MRI done on his left shoulder, tweets David Waldstein. There is always the possibility that his deal could be reworked to protect the Yankees while the 36-year-old lefty tried to work things out in the minors.
When Okajima first signed with the Yankees, I wondered whether or not Red Sox Nation should be concerned. As I wrote about Okajima's situation in December:
I guess that you can feel a small twinge of pain at contemplating one of the 2007 Red Sox heroes wearing pinstripes. It's a knee-jerk thing, kind of like how you feel when the girl YOU dumped starts dating someone else.
But let's be realistic here; Oki is not an icon like Luis Tiant, or even Johnny Damon. Those moves to the Yankees caused real heartaches among the faithful. Okajima's departure for the dark side should be far less upsetting.
How many people even remember the last two lefty relievers who went from the Red Sox to the Yankees? Jay Schreiber of the New York Times Baseball Blog points to side-arming Mike Myers, who pitched for the Red Sox in 2004 and 2005 before joining the Yankees in 2006 and 2007, and also Alan Embree, who joined the Yankees in 2005 after pitching for the Red Sox the previous year.
Hey, Embree and Myers were both part of Boston’s historic comeback against the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series (as well as the World Series sweep of St. Louis). Bosox fans did not sweat those defections, so they should not worry about Okajima.
The Yankees and David Aardsma signed a one-year contract for $500,000 with incentives and a team option for 2013.
According to BombersBeat, Yanks GM Brian Cashman has had his eye on Aardsma for several months—ever since Tommy John surgery last July abruptly ended the pitcher's very effective run as the Mariners closer. In 2009 he posted a 2.52 ERA and 1.16 WHIP while earning 80 saves. He struck out 80 in 71.1 innings. In 2010 he added another 31 saves before hurting his arm.
If Aardsma can return to his 2009/2010 form, he will be a steal for the Yankees, who now need to contemplate life without Mariano Rivera.
Cashman was quoted as saying, "The move could help us in 2012, but it has a lot more eyes toward 2013."
A former first-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2003, Aardsma bounced to the Cubs and White Sox before being traded to Boston in January of 2008. He went 4-2 with a 5.55 ERA in 47 games. His WHIP was horrible (1.726), but he did have a decent strikeout ratio of 9.1/9 innings.
Less than a year after joining the Red Sox, Aardsma was traded to the Seattle Mariners on January 20, 2009, for minor league pitcher. In the Pacific Northwest, Aardsma blossomed as a closer.
The ex-Red Sox pitcher with the best chance to stick with the Yankees is Cesar Cabral. He is only 23 and he has a great upside. Alex Geshwind of YankeeAnalysts.com described Cabral as, "A left hander with a fastball that touches the mid-90s, an above average changeup, and a pair of breaking balls…Cabral has shot through the Red Sox minor league system since the start of 2010, missing a ton of bats at every level."
He also did well in the Dominican Winter League last December.
For the second year in a row, the Red Sox rolled the dice by leaving Cabral unprotected in the Rule 5 draft. He is a young left-hander with good stuff, which pretty much guaranteed that he would be drafted if he were not protected on the 40-man roster.
The Royals plucked him, then traded him to the Yankees. GM Brian Cashman told reporters that Cabral could be a second lefty in the New York bullpen behind Boone Logan.
According to Alex Speier of WEEI.com, the Red Sox believe Cabral still needs more seasoning and development before he is a big league caliber pitcher.
If they are right, and if he does not stick in the majors all year with the Yankees (or, if he is claimed off waivers, with the claiming team) then he comes back to Boston.
The Red Sox won that gamble last year. Speier points out that the Rays drafted Cabral, but placed him on waivers in spring training. He was picked up by Toronto but ultimately ended up back with the Red Sox when he did not stick.
He had a solid year in High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, ending up with a 2.95 ERA, 70 strikeouts and 22 walks in a combined 55 innings.
His combination of stuff, left-handedness and age led the Sox to anticipate that he might be selected by another organization; at the same time, he is raw enough that the team believes there is a good chance that it could get Cabral back.
This one will be interesting to watch.