On June 30, the New York Yankees acquired Eric Hinske from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Casey Erickson and Eric Fryer. On the forefront, it seems like a harmless trade. Hinske is a pretty good player, and the Yankees gave up very little for him.
But if you really look into the deal from the Yankees standpoint, it is not only a pointless trade, but could easily end up hurting the Yankees.
The trade was unnecessary on the part of the Yankees.
Hinske, essentially, will be taking the place of Ramiro Pena, who was the utility man, who generally covered the left side of the infield along with some second base. Hinske plays first and third base, along with all three outfield positions.
This creates the first problem. Pena played second, third, and shortstop, and Hinske only plays one of those positions, third base.
Though Hinske plays all three outfield positions, the Yankees have Nick Swisher as a fourth outfielder, and the Yankees tend to alternate Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner as centerfields. This means that the Yankees have little or no need for Hinske in the outfield.
Well, at least he can still play in the infield, right? Well, he can, but the Yankees just got Cody Ransom back from the 60-day DL, and my gut tells me that the Yankees will let him have a chance to play at third base, because in his first game back with the Bombers he went 2 for 5 with 2 RBI's.
There is also a man named Alex Rodriguez who plays third base, so Hinske will be competing for a backup job in which he will get little playing time, unless A-Rod further injures (knock on wood) his hip.
Hinske also plays first base, but the Yankees have Mark Teixiera as a starter, and Nick Swisher also plays 1st base when needed. So now, tell me, where's the need for this guy?
For all of the criticisms about the circumstances in which the Yankees were in when they traded for Hinske, he's not even that good. Despite being the Rookie of the Year in 2002 with Toronto, a season in which he hit .279 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI's, he hasn't yet lived up to that rookie season.
Since 2002, his highest batting average has been .271, his highest Home Run total has been 20, and his highest RBI total has been 69. Though he is a decent power hitter, he won't provide much offensive production for the Yankees.
I want to take this time to compare Hinske with Pena, the man Hinske will ultimately be replacing. Though Hinske had a few more RBI's than Pena, Hinske had 20 more at-bats than Pena. Plus, Pena's batting average was .012 points higher than Hinske (Hinske=.255, Pena=.267).
Though these are minor differences, it shows that Hinske, if an upgrade at all, is not much of an upgrade. Also, Pena is a rookie, and is extremely motivated to play for playing time, as well as, though a little bit down the road, a contract. Hinske, a seasoned veteran, is obviously motivated for playing time, but he can't replace the motivation of playing for a contract as a rookie.
The last thing I want to talk about is something that will probably be non existent, but I want to bring it up anyway. This is the possibility of Casey Erickson and Eric Fryer, the two players the Yankees traded for Hinske, becoming successful players in the MLB.
The Yankees acquired Fryer from the Brewers in exchange for Chase Wright, who is most well known for giving up four consecutive home runs to the Red Sox a few years ago.
Erickson, in 21 games for the Charleston River Dogs, (Class A) Erickson has a record of 3-3 with an ERA of 2.25. Though it is just Class A, Erickson has some potential to move up the ranks of the minor leagues quickly, especially now that he will be with the Pirates, a team always looking for some players. So it might seem completely unreasonable, but there is a chance that Erickson could become a decent pitcher.
Though I have mentioned many negatives, there are a few possible positives from the trade. In 7 1/2 major league seasons, Hinske has 106 career home runs, including two 20 home run seasons, which aren't great numbers, but definitely not bad.
Hinske's contract is worth $1.5 million, which is pocket change for the Yankees, who have a payroll of nearly $200 million.
Don't get the impression that I don't like Hinske. I think that Hinske is a decent player, and could be very valuable in certain situations (he was great down the stretch last year when Tampa Bay made it to the World Series, and was also clutch on the 2007 Red Sox World Series winning team).
If Swisher and Ransom were both on the DL, I would not have a problem with the move. What I do have a problem with is the fact that those guys are not on the DL.
I also had a problem with the fact that they had to send down Ramiro Pena, who is having a better season than Hinske, and the fact that Hinske doesn't play the positions that Pena played, and all of the positions that Hinske plays are already filled, and there is no more depth needed.
As I close out this piece, I will say just one more thing. A team doesn't get Eric Hinske because they want to get him. A team gets Eric Hinske because they need him, and frankly, the Yankees had no need for him, and that is why this trade makes absolutely no sense.