Nothing infuriates a fan base more than watching a young player—formerly a prospect within their team’s system—blossom into stardom in another uniform.
One would tend to think that when rooting for a team like the New York Yankees, this mindset would apply much less frequently—as they often demand a prospect fire sale to bring in the latest available superstar on the market.
That may have been the case when the best prospects to establish themselves in the big leagues outside of New York were Eric Milton, Christian Guzman, Ted Lilly, Jake Westbrook, and Nick Johnson (welcome back).
The fans of the Yankees are now as prospect-conscious as ever, and have many times showed displeasure toward potential deals for former All-Stars because of a young player’s involvement in the deal.
It has now reached the peak with the backlash of the Austin Jackson for Curtis Granderson swap, as well as the now unfair expectations for impressive prospect bat Jesus Montero in Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre.
Jackson, a 23-year-old rookie CF, has shown marvelous outfield range while on pace for 50 extra-base hits, 25+ steals, 100+ runs, and nearly 200 hits. He will now forever be compared to Granderson, who has had a poor inaugural season in pinstripes.
However, the trade most Yankees fans should be putting to task is the one going largely unnoticed. To prepare for the stretch run in 2008, New York gave away young OF prospect Jose Tabata to the Pirates in a deal for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady.
The Yankees missed the postseason in 2008, Nady was lost for the 2009 season and ultimately not re-signed, and Marte (although a vital World Series contributor) has produced next to nothing over two and a half regular seasons.
Whatever happened to Tabata? He is starting every day as a 22-year-old rookie in Pittsburgh, and has hit .335 with 39 R, 80 H, and 12 SB over his last 60 games. These are on pace for 105 R, 216 H, and 32 SB over a 162-game season—all while displaying very solid outfield range defensively.
Tabata has displayed equal speed and run-scoring ability, better run-producing, and superior average and on-base percentage than Jackson—all while in a much less dangerous lineup at a younger age.
The Yankees may still yet get an All-Star season out of Granderson in the next few years, and the deal has plenty of time to shift momentum from one side to the other. The Tabata deal, however, can only get worse from here on out.
Much can be said for Marte’s ability to tame Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, and others during his nearly perfect World Series display. It is impossible to ignore its importance, but Marte was only on that 2009 team because of a free agent signing after the 2008 season—one that likely would have occurred regardless of the trade.
All of the raw talent seen in Tabata when the Yankees signed him at 17 years old in 2005 is beginning to come to fruition, and New York fans are left wondering “what if.”
If trading Jackson for a power-hitting CF with speed was second-guessed so ferociously, then certainly the Tabata trade should be generating a tad more negative buzz from the “Yankees Universe.”
It remains to be seen if Tabata will be figured out by National League pitchers as time moves on, but his current progression is already leaps and bounds above the production seen from the players New York received in return for him in 2008.
The “Jackson vs. Granderson” debate will likely wage on in chat rooms, Twitter conversations, and blog posts all over the tri-state area for years to come. However, the true unrest over trading a young OF prospect for a veteran OF should instead be about Tabata vs. Nady.