There is absolutely nothing going on in Red Sox land lately. The most recent transaction or news of any kind came four long and agonizing days ago when the Red Sox signed Runelvys Hernandez (scroll to see the Royals Authority’s take on this releasing of Hernandez from the Royals). Even my favorite Rotoworld is of no help, as the only piece of news they have on the Red Sox after Hernandez is December 23rd, when the big bombshell dropped that Javy Lopez is talking to the Colorado Rockies about joining the team, but may also be considering retirement. As earth-shattering as that news may be, all is quiet on Yawkey Way. This means one of two things. One: nothing’s going on. Two: Something big is going on and they’re tight-lipped. Please be two.
In the meantime however, if we want to talk baseball, we will have to chat about something non-Sox related, and since the Randy Johnson trade rumors are pervading the media, I’ll jump on the bandwagon because the Yankees are our division rivals, after all.
When I heard about this trade, I was immediately split into two camps. The first camp was “Wow, that’s a pretty smart deal for the Yankees if they can dump him and get something or anything of value.” The other one was “Yesss! Please do it, please trade RJ!”
Let me explain both sides, as I still feel this way.
Randy Johnson is 43 years old and is making $16 million this year. Every year has seen an increase in the number of fly balls he has coughed up and the number of home-runs he has given up, which is 60 over the past two years. His ERA soared to an even 5.00 and the WHIP went up to 1.24 despite going 17-11. It is clear, painfully clear, to everyone involved that RJ is indeed at the tail end of his career. It makes it all the more baffling why teams are interested in trading for him until one realizes the majority of the suitors are in the NL West and pitching is always hard to come by.
So far, the heavy favorites seem to be the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks. I’ve heard that the Yankees want Chad Tracy and two prospects from the Diamondbacks, and the Diamondbacks (rightfully) balked because at the same time, the Yankees want to pay exactly zero of the $16 million Johnson is due this year.
An aging, expensive, ineffective and injury-prone starter who has not been “the difference maker” that fans demand you are once you arrive in New York is definitely something I would want Boston to explore if RJ was in this position on the Red Sox. Add to the news that the Yankees may take the money remaining and chase Barry Zito or Roger Clemens, and Yankees fans definitely have to be overjoyed at this news.
This is where I start shifting to the ‘joy’ side myself of this trade.
The Yankees have some good pitching depth. They have some good pitching prospects. Does it not make sense to trade from the glut of starting pitchers the one pitcher who has some trade value but is not exactly lighting the world on fire?
Oops. I was thrilled the Red Sox got Wily Mo Pena for Bronson Arroyo last year because of these exact same reasons why Yankee fans want to deal Mr. Johnson.
If Johnson is dealt, here is the proposed Yankee rotation:
1. Chien-Ming Wang
2. Andy Pettitte
3. Mike Mussina
4. Kei Igawa
5. Carl Pavano
6. Humberto Sanchez/Philip Hughes/Jeff Karstens/Darrell Rasner
I really hate to be mean, but can I just chuckle for a little bit?
Okay, I understand why Wang is the ace. He had a tremendous year last year, bar none. He went 19-6 with a 3.63 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. I’m just not sold on him yet. It’s the same reason that while Brandon Webb was very deserving of the NL Cy Young award, he was… not very good in 2005. Pitchers who rely on control and a ground ball percentage will usually end up to be excellent pitchers, but not if they’re inconsistent or they lose their “touch.” This is only Wang’s third year in the majors and second full one, as a matter of fact. You need three full years to accurately define who a player is, and Wang is undefined right now. No question about it.
Andy Pettitte is a very solid pitcher, and I was upset the Yankees got him because I am a huge fan of Pettitte personally and Pettitte’s makeup, endurance … it’s all there to be a pitcher you want on your side. But he also had a 4.20 ERA in a division where the champions, the Cardinals, won 85 games. His WHIP soared to 1.44. For comparison’s sake, Johnson’s ERA was 5.00 in 2006 with a 1.24 WHIP. Not sold on Pettitte.
Mike Mussina had a revival for the Yankees in 2006 before stumbling bad down the stretch, which was obvious due to his previous history and his age. His revival was directly tied to him starting his off-season throwing regimen later. This means his arm is basically about to give out. I wouldn’t count on another revival this year.
Kei Igawa … we’ll wait and see, but he’s no Daisuke Matsuzaka. (And that’s even without us knowing how Matsuzaka will fare in the majors.)
Carl Pavano … yes, he has promise. Yes, he won 18 games for the Marlins in 2003. But what has he done since? Even if he has a “great desire” to change what’s happened to his career since he was a Yankee and even if he’s working out furiously, this is a career 4.27 ERA guy who’s career statistics are largely because of his 2004-2004 run with the Marlins, as they were his only (at the time, and remain to this time) two full seasons as a major league starting pitcher.
Humberto Sanchez, Philip Hughes, Jeff Karstens, Darrell Rasner … there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect. I know Hughes has ace potential (and he probably will morph into an ace) but to count on any of these four for 2007 is ludicrous.
Randy Johnson is no world-beater. He doesn’t make batters go weak at the knees anymore. But he is still an effective major league pitcher (yes, even though he has a 5.00 ERA) and the Yankees may be scrambling if and when: Mike Mussina reverts to 2005 Mussina. Igawa does not pan out. Pavano crashes and burns. Pettitte becomes the new version of Randy Johnson. Will all of these scenarios happen? Probably not. Then again, who knew all these scenarios of the Red Sox pitching would happen last year? The only person I’m willing to count on any sort of effectiveness from whatsoever is Wang, and that’s only based on 2006. He could fizzle, he could even out, he could improve. No one knows.
Yes, the money saved MAY be used to get Barry Zito or Roger Clemens.
May. MAY. That word needs to be stressed: MAY. Zito could just end up going to the Mets, or the Rangers’ Tom Hicks could bid against himself and make Zito a Ranger. The Red Sox may lose a starter to injury and make a hard push for Roger Clemens, who we all know feels that he should have chosen the Red Sox last year to end his career full-circle, or just end up retiring.
They MAY get Zito or Clemens. They MAY get away with trading Randy Johnson for prospects or to get a first-baseman.
This is a trade full of mays, and my experience as a Red Sox fan tells me that the “may” trades never work as often as you want them to.