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?