On paper, the Red Sox deadline dealing for Victor Martinez and Casey Kotchman easily outdoes the Yankees acquisition of Jerry Hairston. With a few days to digest the trades and their impact to both teams, I argue that the Yankees are the big winners.
Victor Martinez is Overrated
Since 2008, Victor Martinez has not been very good. He had a disastrous 2008 campaign marred by stints on the disabled list and lackluster play when off it. In 2009, after a torrid start, he has posted a .211/.303/.378 line since June 1. Effectively, the Red Sox traded for Jason Varitek.
Can Martinez bounce back at hitter friendly Fenway? That is what the Red Sox are hoping for. More likely, Martinez is facing the downward slide in productivity that normally hits catchers at 30 years of age.
Lineup Impact is Underrated
The major premise of the trade is that Martinez would be in the lineup every day. This is great news if you are a Yankee fan. There are two key downgrades that the Red Sox have to take into account when Martinez is in the lineup as a catcher and a first baseman.
The Yankees found out how difficult it is to integrate a new primary signal caller into the team midway through the season. Pudge Rodriguez had a negative impact on the Yankees team ERA, even with his reputation.
I expect similar difficulties for the Red Sox with Martinez behind the plate. Given that the Red Sox appear to have a slight advantage in pitching, this is a huge tactical error.
Quite simply, Martinez is a below average first baseman. The Red Sox team defense suffers at both first and third base. Lowell, for all his physical ailments is still considered an above average defender at third while Youklis is at least league average.
Given the additional weakness at shortstop, a previous strength of the Red Sox becomes a disadvantage.
Offensively, Martines is a below average first baseman. Lowell provided better than league average production at third base while Youklis provided at league league average production. Moving Youklis to third results in roughly equal production at third but a big drop off at first.
Late Innings Impact
Assuming that the Yankees and Red Sox are both playoff bound, the late innings impact of this trade must also be considered. It is clear that Casey Kotchman will be used as a defensive replacement at first. He will likely see a lot of time regardless of who starts the game at first. This is also a benefit to the Yankees.
While Kotchman does offer an improvement defensively, he is clearly not the same offensive player as Martinez or Youklis. His career numbers indicate a player who will best be suited to a bench role.
Lastly, in trading Justin Masterson, the Red Sox have potentially weakened their bullpen. Masterson has not had a particularly strong 2009, but he was a valuable "swing" player available to start and relieve. Given a better defined role, he could have rebounded to 2008 form.
Hairston and Hinske Fit Yankee Profile
While not a deadline deal, the Hinske trade was a smart move by the Yankees. He's familiar with the AL East and has shown that he can be an impact bat off the bench. He's off to a hot start, slugging five home runs in his first 21 at-bats.
Hairston is a third generation player that will not hurt the Yankees when inserted into the lineup. He is not expected to offer anything other than what he currently provides: position versatility and efficient at bats.
These two players are easily integrated into the Yankee lineup. Furthermore, freed from losing situations, these two players have shown to be pluses in the locker room.
Time Will Tell
The Red Sox have gone all in on Victor Martinez, hoping to add an impact bat for the stretch run and into 2010. I believe that this move will not pan out.
The Yankees have made a few minor moves at the edges of the roster. When it comes to the Red Sox and Yankees, these have historically been the more important moves.
Both the Yankees and Red Sox failed to address the bottom of their respective rotations. It is this area that will determine the outcome of the season. The Red Sox have made it harder on themselves when they traded for a catcher at midseason.
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