New York Yankees: Discussed Cliff Lee Trade a Sign of a Great Farm System

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New York Yankees: Discussed Cliff Lee Trade a Sign of a Great Farm System
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UPDATE (July 9, 2010, 4:10 PM) : It appears via several sources that the Lee to the Yankees deal is OFF. The reason has been given that the Mariners did not feel comfortable with the ankle injury of second base prospect David Adams.

While I view that excuse as a made up one, it seems to me that the Mariners were using the Yankees as leverage to maybe get a better deal from another team.

Or maybe they received a last minute offer which they deem as much better.

The Texas Rangers have appeared to become the front funner, likely finally including first base slugger Justin Smoak in the deal. The Mariners obviously liked Smoak over Montero.

What this turn of events does not do is lessen the point of the article, which bring sinto focus the vast talent the Yankees have at their disposal via the draft and international free agent signings.

ORIGINAL PIECE:

While I am shocked that Cliff Lee will be traded to the Yankees, I am not shocked the Yankees were able to trade for him.

Most people will scream that the trade smells of the Yankees ability to pay for the remaining millions on Lee's current contract, and that the rich will get richer.

But many other teams were willing (and able) to pick up the remaining $4 million. Teams like Minnesota, Texas, and to a lesser extent, the Cincinnati Reds and Tampa Bay Rays (all financially tight teams) have thrown their hat in the Cliff Lee ring.

But what the Yankees do have over those teams is a deep farm system with talent at highly desirable positions. This was about the Yankees having the resources to obtain Lee via trade by having developed one of the top farm systems in all of baseball.

And Branch Rickey is quietly smiling.

When Brian Cashman obtained complete control of baseball operations in 2005, the one aspect he wanted to improve was the franchise's farm system. The Yankees began the trend of drafting hard to sign guys, then offering big money to get them away from college. They also became very aggressive in the international free agent market.

Other teams quickly followed suit on these tactics.

Their amateur drafting and international free agent signings would focus on "up the middle" talent, primarily catchers and pitchers, and to a lesser extent, center fielders and second basemen.

Positions which are important to building a quality, homegrown team, but players to be developed at positions which other teams also need. And which other teams trying to rebuild would trade established veterans for.

This trading of young talent for veterans is no different than what the Yankees of the 1980's and early 1990's did. But now the Yankees have built so much depth at these key positions, they are dealing from strength and not emptying their entire farm system to snag one or two players.

This is not like the Philadelphia Phillies trading several of their top players for Roy Halladay, then turning around and having to trade Lee to the Mariners to replace prospects from a now weaker system.

So trading Triple-A catcher/DH Jesus Montero , Double-A second baseman David Adams, and likely Triple-A 22-year-old starting pitcher Zach McAllister for one of the top five pitchers in baseball does not hurt the organization in the long run.

The Yankees still have highly regarded catchers Austin Romine in Double-A, J.R. Murphy in Low-A Charleston (although I still think they turn him into a corner outfielder), and 17-year-old stud Gary Sanchez , who is a man among boys in the rookie Gulf Coast League.

Sanchez hit his fourth home run today and has 20 RBI in 15 GCL games. Also, his throwing arm rivals many already in the majors leagues.

At High-A Tampa, the Yankees have left-handed hitting, smooth-swinging second baseman Corban Joseph , who will likely get a call up to Double-A Trenton before too long. They also have some 27-year-old guy named Robinson Cano in the majors.

And the Yankees have ridiculously strong pitching depth in the minors with Ivan Nova and David Phelps at Triple-A and Hector Hoesi , D.J. Mitchell (who has only been pitching for four years), and Andrew Brackman at Double-A.

And, despite what Jim Callis thinks , a boatload of highly-regarded pitching prospects are at High-A Tampa , with Dellin Betances, Manuel Banuelos, Graham Stoneburner, Adam Warren, and Shaeffer Hall.

With the rise of Phelps this season from dominating Double-A to his latest start at Triple-A, McAllister, who I have always liked , became expendable in order to obtain Lee.

And with those three highly-regarded players in Montero, Adams, and McAllister on their way to the Mariners, the Yankees still have tremendous depth in their system at catcher, second base and on the mound.

It's not like the other New York team, which has just started to produce homegrown talent, but did not have enough chips to get the prize this season.

The Yankees have depth at the key positions, both to build from within and trade away to obtain their needs. This has been the plan all along for Cashman and the Yankees' hierarchy since 2005.

And it appears to have paid off handsomely.

So please do not cry and whine about how the Yankees are buying their way to another World Series title.

Save that for December when Lee signs a long-term deal with them.

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