On afternoon of Free Agency, the New York Yankees completed a trade to replace Jason Giambi, acquiring Nick Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira from the Chicago White Sox for Wilson Betemit (one of my favorite players), and Minor League pitchers Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez.
Upon first impression, Brian Cashman looks like a genius and Kenny Williams looks like a goat. If you recall, Williams traded for Swisher just under a year ago. At this point, it appears obvious that Williams paid a lot more then he received for the slugger.
Wilson Betemit has power, nobody would argue that. He is still young enough to be seen as a player with potential. What he doesn't have are greater flaws then what he does possess. Betemit is poor at taking walks and great at striking out, not an excellent combination to have.
Betemit is also a capable fielder at essentially any position, save catcher. While he is stretched at places, he can certainly field them on at least a temporary basis.
As an arbitration eligible player, Betemit should see a modest increase from his 2008 salary of a little over $1.1M. What this part of the trade boils down to is Gio Gonzalez, Fautino De Los Santos, and Ryan Sweeney for a utility infielder.
While Betemit's still youthful enough to provide something offensively, he will have to beat out Josh Fields, or one of Chris Getz and Jayson Nix. Not an impossible feat, but one that is doubtful to provide anything beneficial.
The Yankees are also sending two pitching prospects, neither scoring very high on anyone's radar, and lacking the youth of true high upside players. However, both have scouting projectability to be watched for the next year or two.
The eldest prospect being Jeff Marquez, a 24-year-old pitcher that hasn't shown anything special throughout his professional career. Being a groundball pitcher and having an adequate walk rate, Marquez could fill an end of the rotation role.
However, Marquez was relatively homer prone in Triple-A this season. Possibly this was due to poor fortune, or maybe Marquez was at a level where his mistakes would go over the fences.
Entering last year, Minor League Balls' John Sickels rated Marquez as the 14th best prospect in a weak Yankees system. He was given a C+ grade, which I imagine had much to do with his age, then performance.
Baseball America had Marquez rated as the organizations number seven prospect. While a more promising ranking, BA asserts that there is not much outside of the top 5 in this organization, although the Yankees were taking steps.
In consideration of this, Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein placed Marquez as a just-missed player. While there are players that have gone under the radar, and largely ignored as prospects onto bigger and better things, it's tough to see that happening with Marquez.
22 year old Jhonny Nunez, the one-time Washington Nationals prospect, rounds out the players received from the Yankees. Nunez was received from the Nationals for glove-first short stop Alberto Gonzalez. In what was a nice trade at the time for the Yankees, is now much more attractive.
Nunez struggled in high A ball with the Nationals, although he pitched better then his 5.22 ERA would lead one to believe. Once Nunez moved to Double-A, fly balls began to stay in the park, and Nunez's strong strikeout and adequate walk numbers remained.
One could propose the idea that it was Nunez's conversion to reliever which had him take a major step this season. Personally, I'd like to see him in the rotation at Double-A to start the 2009 season. If it is a matter of getting weaker as the game wears on, then a move to the bullpen won't be the worst thing.
I find it interesting that despite being in a weak Nationals system, only Sickels had Nunez listed on his top prospects list. Albeit, Nunez was fairly low on his radar, ranking as a C+ prospect and No. 18 out of 20. It wouldn't surprise me to see Nunez be bumped up everyone's list this year, although cracking the top 10 may still be a stretch.
Sending a utility infielder, an at best No. 4 or 5 starter, and a likely Major League reliever in exchange for a hitter of Nick Swisher's talent is what could be referred to as a bargain, a steal, an improper exchange of valuables.
Swisher will be 28 years old as of Opening Day and entering the prime of what has already been a nice career. While 2008 was certainly a disappointment for Swish, it also marked the worst season of his career, one with uncharacteristically low batted-ball figures.
It can be expected that Swisher will rebound in 2009 and hit at least to the levels of his career average (.800+ OPS).
At an average of close to $8M a year for the next four seasons, Swisher is an absolute bargain. One hot season and the Yankees could certainly flip him for some high level prospects. However, if the Yankees choose to hold onto Swisher through the duration of his career-and the duration of his prime years-the annual savings will allow them to overspend in other areas, even more so than they already do.
As if Swisher was not enough, Cashman had Williams throw-in Kanekoa Texeira. In terms of "throw-ins" go, this is as good as it gets. In fact, Texeira has as good of a chance at being a quality Major League contributor as either Marquez and Nunez.
Armed with an arsenal of fastball, change-up, and what was considered the best slider in the White Sox organization, Texeira is a reliever that has had success at every level of the minors since being drafted in the 22nd round of the 2006 draft. Texeira's performance to date shows that he very well could be ready for the Majors immediately.
While it is unlikely that he starts the 2009 season on the big-league club, an eventual call-up is not out of the question. It also seems reasonable to expect Yankees fans to deem him the heir to Mariano Rivera. Unjustified as it may be the Yankees swiped a very good prospect here.
This is a very confusing trade and one that certainly has to be given to the Yankees. The White Sox are not a small-market club, so it isn't as if they could utilize the salary flexibility and this was more of a cash dump. In fact, the ChiSox may have been better off eating some of Swisher's salary and then shopping him.
Whatever the reason, there is little doubt that the White Sox took a major step back from the day before they acquired Nick Swisher to today. They sent the A's three very highly coveted youngsters and swapped that product for three end of the roster players.
Worse yet, while Kenny Williams has a "surplus" today, this is the last year of Jim Thome's contract. Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye are not getting any younger. Josh Fields isn't going to get any better repeating Triple-A for the forth season. REGRET, is soon to be spelt S-W-I-S-H-E-R in the South Side of Chicago.
For the winner of this deal, it appears unlikely they will go after Mark Teixeira, or any other top hitter via free agency this off-season. While Teixeira would be an obvious upgrade over Swisher, the teams rumored to be interested in the first basemen should drive up his price making him less valuable.
That being said, the Yankees can concentrate on acquiring pitching and spending like, well, like the Yankees.
I will discuss the Cubs-Marlins trade tomorrow.