Revisiting The Gary Sheffield Trade

According to MLBTR, the Tigers released Gary Sheffield today, eating the 14 million dollars he is owed for 2009 rather than have him remain on the roster. This got me to thinking about the trade that the Yankees made with the Tigers after the 2006 season, in which the Yankees sent Sheff to Detroit for Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan, and Anthony Claggett.

The Yankees had traded for Bobby Abreu close to the trade deadline in 2006, a season in which Sheff played 39 games. This made Sheffield a spare part, and many believed the Yankees would decline the 13M dollar option that they had on Gary. Instead, Brian Cashman picked up the option so as to get something for a proven commodity like Sheffield. One week later, the deal with the Tigers was done. Here is what Keith Law had to say at the time about the three guys the Yankees got:

In exchange for Sheffield, the Yankees get some much-needed pitching depth in their farm system, acquiring three power arms who all rank among the hardest throwers in the Yankee organization. Humberto Sanchez was considered the Tigers’ most tradeable young asset back in July, but elbow inflammation ended his season a few days before the trading deadline. He’d been throwing at the Tigers’ complex in Lakeland, and the Yankees are satisfied that he’s healthy. At the Futures Game, Sanchez showed a solid-average fastball touching plus at 91-94 and an average slider at 80-82, throwing one split at 84. He’s a heavyset guy with some effort in his delivery, although part of what boosted his stock this year was a newfound commitment to staying in shape (word is that the rapid ascension of his buddy Joel Zumaya lit a fire under him). He’s worked as a starter so far, but it’s more likely that he’ll at least start his major league career in the bullpen.

Kevin Whelan is the potential diamond in the rough for the Yanks, although that’s no slight to Sanchez. Whelan is a converted catcher who has only been pitching since 2003, but he’s got two things that converted guys often don’t have: great feel and a quality offspeed pitch. He pairs a mid-90s fastball (touching 95-96) with a filthy splitter, 84-86 mph with a sharp tumble and great bottom to it. He still has below-average control, but that’s not a surprise in a kid with so little pitching experience, and he won’t advance quickly until he throws more strikes.

The third pitcher in the deal, Anthony Claggett, is another converted position player, this one a shortstop, and he shares Whelan’s characteristic of an above-average secondary pitch, this one a hard slider, to go with a low-90s fastball. He’s also given up just one home run in 82 pro innings. He’s a long way off and is a low-probability prospect, but he has upside and the Yanks just didn’t have a lot of upside in their farm system before this trade.

The trade has not worked out very well for either team. Sheffield did not play more than 133 games in either of his seasons with the Tigers, and did more talking off the field than producing on it. For the Yankees, while they did get something for a player they were going to let leave, the prospects they obtained have struggled. Sanchez has fought injuries and ineffectiveness, while Whelan still shows an inability to hit the strike zone with his awesome stuff. Claggett is probably the best prospect of the three at this point, as he projects to be a solid reliever. You would typically hope for a better return on a player like Gary Sheffield.

What do you think about the trade?

0 thoughts on “Revisiting The Gary Sheffield Trade

  1. Better trade for a 37 year old vet coming off an injury plagued season?

    I guess if Sanchez moves quickly this season and returns to form then that would give the Yankees two future relievers. Maybe Cashman can spin one of them for another part somewhere.

    • Not sure. However, they did get three solid prospects from Detroit, so I would guess that Sheff had enough value to get something of value in return. Dont get me wrong, it was a good trade at the time, it just has not worked out due to the Yanks missing with their choice of prospects.

      • I think its to early to give up on any f the three. Kevin Whelan seems to have the best upside and the team is good with young arms anyway so there is time to be patient. I was thinking about this and maybe you could let me know if you agree. The article that was on the blog last week ranked the Sox system ahead of the Yankess. I dont understand that their best starting picther prospect is Bucholz and the Yankees is Hughes-Their best reliever is Bard and ours is Melancon-and their best hitter is Lars Andersen and ours is Austin Jackson-I dont see how thier system is much or better at all than the Yankeees.Unless I am missing some top prospects-

        • Neither Hughes, Bucholz, or Kennedy are prospects. So they have Bowden while we have Brackman or Betances, so they have better probability there. Anderson has been rated a better prospect than Jackson, same for some reason with Bard and Melancon. They also have hitters like Josh Reddick in the middle of their top 10 that we just dont have. They are a bit better at the top and have a bit more depth.

          • I did nit know about reddick but Bowden has been awful this spring and I guess I dont see they are much better at all-and another thing and I dont know if you agree where are they so much younger aside from ss if they go with lowrie and closer. I compared the ages and maybe the sox are an average of a year younger at best?

          • Yeah, that’s a bit of myth. They are not that much younger, although I bet if you only averaged core players, the gap would get larger.

  2. Where were the Yankees going to get a better deal at the time? None of the three was touted as a sure thing; there were real question marks about all of them. At this point, it is still possible all three will spend time in the majors. For a player who had outworn his usefulness and his welcome, the return was quite good.

  3. I don’t disagree at all. My point is just that they got question marks, and they have not worked out, and you would typically hope for one of your question marks to work out when you trade a Gary Sheffield.

  4. Whatever, it was a sign and trade. They had no plans on keeping him anyways. And if you remember at the time Gary made it very difficult to trade him basically saying I won’t play for anyone except Jim Leyland. The fact they got anything for him was amazing to me at the time. If none of them work out I can’t see how that’s such a bad thing.

    • Not such a bad thing. Just a trade that did not work out as hoped- you got three assets, two of whom had question marks, and both questions were answered in the negative.

  5. While the Yankees didn’t actually “win” the trade, the Tigers clearly “lost”. They traded three players, who were valuable trade chips at the time and got almost nothing in return. As others have stated, Sheff didn’t have a future with the Yankees anyway, so getting something was a bonus. Even if the three pitchers don’t amount to anything, trading Sheff was still the right decision at the time.

  6. At a minimum we have three pitchers that may yet be a help, one way or another. Sheff was on the skids anyhow so, getting something for nothing makes sense to me.
    All three of those guys are still young yet (at pitching), in a few years we may be saying what a great trade that was! Command and control are two of the hardest things to conquer in pitching, for someone with limited experience as Claggett and Whelan. Believe it or not, C&C is something that one works at and works at and then…one day it is there.
    As stated above; Claggett is showing better stuff this year, maybe the others will soon follow suit…I hope.
    I still think it was a well done deal, if nothing else…everyone is looking for young hard throwers and we have a plethora of them.

  7. Cashman blew this trade — again! He didn’t have to pick those three prospects. Sanchez had a bum elbow and everyone knew it — he went to the elbow dcotor repeatedly since July 2006. Also, Jair Jurrjens was available, among others.

  8. “Also, Jair Jurrjens was available, among others?

    Was he? I don’t recall hearing his name up for trade discussion at that time. Also who are these “others” you speak of? Detroit’s system is pretty bare, has been for awhile too.