While the excitement surrounding the acquisition of a 14-time All-Star catcher with over a dozen Gold Gloves, an MVP Award and a World Series ring to boot hasn’t been there in Pinstripe Nation quite yet, this deal is yet another great move by Brian Cashman.
Lost in the wake of Farnsworth’s recent nine-inning hitless streak is the fact that Kyle Farnsworth is, well, Kyle Farnsworth. He is a flame-throwing reliever who has been known throughout the course of his decade-long career for his inability control his pitches and his susceptibility to the gopher ball. During his time in Pinstripes, he served up a whopping, Lima-esque 28 homeruns in just over 170 innings of work. He also hasn’t been known for any particular fortitude on the mound in big situations. Until his recent streak, his ERA both this year and in his time in the Bronx was well in line with his 4.42 career mark.
Say what you want about the bullpen overcoming its early season struggles as it established itself as one of the top relief corps in the big leagues and how messing with the chemistry could be a mistake. This is a necessary roll of the dice and the timing was perfect. Kudos to Cashman for dealing Farnsworth at a time like this for an everyday guy with a great track record like Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez the same day Jorge Posada underwent season-ending surgery. Looks as if the Yankees sold off Farnsworth like a stock at its peak value.
Although Jose Molina has proven to be a great insurance policy for Posada as he calls a great game and neutralizes the running game with his excellent defense, being an everyday player might have been a little much to ask for from the backup catcher. He was not blessed with the hitting ability his older brother Bengie has, (his older brother)nor can he swing it like Yadier (younger brother), as he is hitting just .226 without a homerun in 195 at-bats.
Molina also does not appear to be in marathon-runner type shape and has never played more than 78 games in a season. With 70 games already under his belt this year, who knows how he would fare for the rest of the season catching everyday. If the Yankees let the trade deadline pass and found themselves stuck in the predicament of Molina getting injured in the heat of the pennant race, could anyone imagine Chad Moeller being handed the reigns everyday?
Enter Rodriguez, the future first-ballot Hall of Fame catcher who has been named to the Midsummer Classic squad 14 times. The only Hall of Fame that will elect the man they traded for him would be the Youtube brawl Hall of Fame for his famous pummeling of Cincinnati Reds hurler Paul Wilson.
Rodriguez, on the other hand, was also considered the leader of the Marlins in 2003 when they beat the Yankees handily in the Fall Classic (after famously beating Farnsworth’s Cubs) and of the 2006 Tigers when they embarrassed the Yankees in the Division Series before losing the World Series to St. Louis. Also on his mantle of trophies are the 1999 AL MVP Award and seven Silver Sluggers and the only 20-20 year ever by a catcher.
All of this would sound amazing when listed on his plaque in Cooperstown, not to mention his approaching 300 homeruns and possibly 3,000 hits, except Rodriguez still has plenty left in the tank. While his power and speed have deteriorated noticeably, Pudge is still hitting .295, hovering just below his career average of .302 and has won the Gold Glove at catcher for the AL in each of the past three seasons to hush those fans of Molina’s stellar defense and can still handle a full workload behind the plate.
While first-year manager Joe Girardi can now pencil in Rodriguez at catcher and use Jose Molina in the preferred role as either as a great backup catcher and a possible personal catcher for Mike Mussina, skeptics of the move will point to the new void in the pen. Despite the fact that Farnsworth was pitching well, he was bound to return to earth soon enough, so it isn’t exactly Mariano Rivera we’re losing. With the emergence of Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras this season along with the acquisition of lefty Damaso Marte and the call-ups of Dave Robertson and Dan Giese the bullpen is still plenty strong.
For those who feel the Yankees still need a replacement, there is Brian Bruney who is now healthy and ready to re-join the big club. He was just as effective as Farnsworth last season and reported to camp in great shape this spring and was stellar in his first nine outings before getting injured. Expect Ramirez to become the top setup man now with Bruney inheriting Ramirez’s old role. 23 year-old Mark Melancon also has a 1.81 ERA in Triple-A in 49 innings and can be considered ready for the next level. Yet another insurance policy is former Montreal Expos closer Scott Strickland, who has a 2.15 ERA in 54 innings in Triple-A and sports a 3.34 career ERA in the bigs.
While it was great to see Farnsworth tough it out through the boos and the nicknames such as “Farnsworth-less” when he entered games and become effective on the big stage again, Posada’s injury created a need which Farnsworth was able to fill by getting on a plane to Detroit. Now Farnsworth gets a chance to close for a serious contender that desperately needed another good bullpen arm and the Yankees greatly upgraded their lineup and added a proven winner for a guy who Baseballreference.com lists as most similar statistically to the forgettable Mike Trombley and Russ Springer.
This was a trade that looks great for both sides and can be considered a great move on the part of Cashman as he gears up the roster for another postseason push.