The weeks surrounding the MLB trading deadline can represent an emotional roller-coaster for everyone involved.
Often, players are finding it increasingly difficult in our technological and information-obsessed modern world to tune out the buzz linking them to potential trades. Players like to remain stoic, as if they don't pay attention to any of the swirling rumors. But realistically, in this age, that scenario is nearly impossible.
It's easy to view team executives and management as emotionally detached from personnel maneuvers, simply performing the tasks that their profession entails. This isn't true either as general managers often become intimately entangled in the successes and failures of players. After all, GMs are chiefly responsible for bringing players into franchises, so a player's fortunes often directly correlate to an executive's baseball-related decision-making prowess and business acumen.
Also, just from the human angle, no general manager can enjoy telling a player that he's no longer welcome, no longer able to go to battle with his friends and teammates and must now go ply his trade elsewhere. As easy as it is to dehumanize authoritative figures and presume that they are devoid of feelings and simply acting out of a sense of duty, they feel the impact too. It's just part of their jobs to sweep the emotional aspect aside and strive toward the betterment of their ball-club.
Fans too experience the emotional turmoil associated with the weeks of rumor and innuendo, eventually culminating in the arrivals of exciting new recruits or occasionally the departures of our favored sons.
It's rather easy to gauge the impact of these transactions on the players directly involved. Players often get emotional when they're traded away. Occasionally, we witness these indomitable embodiments of athletic endowment in moments of unguarded, raw, emotional honesty, breaking down for all the world to see.
Conversely, when players are imported into new teams, we also get to witness the contrary reaction. The welcoming press conference replete with smiling faces, optimistic pronouncements and handshakes as his new manager or teammates help him try on his new jersey. If he's been traded from a struggling franchise to a contender, the pain of his departure is eased greatly by the promise of winning baseball and the looming prospect of October glory.
But, what of those left behind?
Trades don't solely affect those directly involved. For every personnel transaction, there can be a multitude of repercussions felt throughout the team.
In light of the recent non-waiver July 31 deadline trading completed by the New York Yankees, it interests me to contemplate the direct or indirect impact of those moves on the players who remain with the franchise.
Considering that we're discussing the Yankees, their deadline maneuvering has been closely scrutinized and well-documented. By now you've likely heard that the Yankees acquired through various trades, first baseman/designated hitter Lance Berkman, relief pitcher Kerry Wood, and utility outfielder Austin Kearns.
Commencing with the highest profile arrival Lance Berkman, while he will likely provide a positive influence, he is profoundly impacting the way Joe Girardi utilizes his squad. Berkman will essentially fill the role originally envisioned for the predictably injured Nick Johnson, acting primarily as a designated hitter, and occasionally spelling Mark Teixeira at first base.
The first Yankee that this impacts is Juan Miranda. Although he was used infrequently by Girardi, the 27-year old Cuban slugger had been vying for a sustained opportunity to prove his worth in the Bronx. Now though, after being optioned once again to the Yankees' affiliate at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Miranda's future in the Bronx appears bleak. Already fully aware that his path at first-base is blocked for at least six more years by Mark Teixeira, Juan's opportunity for big league success likely lies elsewhere.
At 27, Juan Miranda is nearing the age at which baseball players must fully evaluate their situations, determining the realistic prospect of making a career in the major leagues. If the Yankees have no use for him, he would likely be best off finding out soon, when he still may hold value to other teams. The employment outlook for beyond their prime baseball players— who left their families behind in Cuba with no option to return home—are discouraging at best.
Beyond Miranda, the Berkman acquisition creates ripple effects throughout the roster. Due to Berkman's struggles as a right-handed hitter, and Marcus Thames' prowess against left-handed pitchers, Thames will likely get regular action in the DH spot when left-handed starters take the hill against the Yanks. This won't change Thames' situation drastically, as he is far more effective in a platoon role, and is best utilized far from any defensive role.
As for other Yankees, it will reduce Joe Girardi's roster flexibility and ability to give aging veteran's Jeter and Arod, among others, half days off by serving as the DH for a day. This will force Girardi to keep them in their regular roles most often, hopefully not sacrificing production as the season wears on. With Arod and Jeter staying in their respective positions as often as possible, this reduces the backup role of Ramiro Pena, making it likely that he only sees action in dire emergencies or as the occasional late-game defensive replacement.
Furthermore, Girardi must decide what this means for Jorge Posada. While the long-time Yankee catcher remains a potent offensive contributor, his days behind the plate are dwindling. With his deteriorating defensive skills, limited mobility and increasingly injury-prone body, Posada is best suited for DHing many nights while Cervelli catches, and donns the "tools of ignorance" on a limited basis. With Berkman now taking a sizable portion of the designate hitter at-bats, the Yankees must soon determine what type of balance best suits the team.
The insertion of Austin Kearns into the outfield equation provides more flexibility, with less need for controversial decisions than does the Berkman move. Kearns, a solid right-handed outfielder who can capably cover all three outfield positions, allows Girardi the option of resting any one of his regulars on a given night. His arrival also guarantees that we are unlikely to see the defensively challenged Thames in the field very often at all, if ever, which any Yankee fan can heartily accept.
Kearns also provides the option of a platoon partner if Granderson's severe struggles against left-handed pitchers continue. Granderson's .538 OPS versus left-handers and 25 percent strikeout rate are more than a minor concern. The team would likely be best served by starting Kearns in left against tough lefty starters and shifting Gardner to his natural center-field.
Of course, the player most drastically affected is 25-year old outfielder Colin Curtis. Along with Miranda, he was optioned back to Scranton. Curtis likely wasn't entertaining the notion of a permanent stay in the Bronx, but once tasting the good life of the big leagues, no one wants to return to the long bus rides and less comfortable life of the minors. Curtis performed admirably, if unspectacular, while dutifully sharing his backup outfield duties with Kevin Russo, Chad Huffman, Randy Winn, and Marcus Thames throughout the course of the season. He'll bide his time at Scranton for now, providing cover in the event of another injury to a regular.
The Yankees also made a player acquisition to address their most glaring need, a late-inning bullpen arm. By trading a player to be named later, the Yankees landed Kerry Wood, the oft-injured Cleveland Indians closer who still possesses impressive enough stuff to warrant giving him an opportunity to help solidify the bullpen. Gambling on Wood's health is no sure bet, but the thought of potentially catching him while healthy and possibly right at the beginning of a hot streak, certainly tantalized Brian Cashman. If healthy, Wood offers plentiful veteran experience and still-scintillating stuff to try and bridge the gap to Mariano that has wobbled at times in 2010.
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