How Bad Was the 2009-10 Offseason?

Let’s start with the big one ; the Yankees trading Austin Jackson, Ian Kennedy and Phil Coke for Curtis Granderson. How does this one rate on the value scale? Well for a long time, with Granderson struggling mightily and Austin Jackson looking like a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year as he played an excellent centerfield and somehow managed to sustain an outrageous BABiP, this looked like a clear failure. Ultimately though, the players were nearly identical in worth; Jackson posting a 3.7 fWAR and Granderson 3.6. Looking a little deeper though, Jackson was the same player he’d been in the minors. His average and OBP were heavily reliant on a whopping .393 BABiP, and he struck out 170 times while only slugging .400. In other words, while the two were close in value, Granderson is probably the safer bet to remain a good offensive player, and he has much more power than Jackson, which makes him a better fit for the bottom of the Yankees lineup.

But what about the other two players? Coke was worth 1.1 fWAR in the Tigers bullpen, while Kennedy was worth 2.4 fWAR starting for Arizona. But while this makes it look like the Yankees got a bad deal, these two were mostly immaterial to the Yankees. Kennedy wouldn’t have made the big league rotation out of spring training, and while he might have gotten a chance to start with Pettitte hurt, and Burnett and Vazquez pitching awfully, that was a worst case scenario that couldn’t have been planned for at the time. He probably also wouldn’t have pitched quite as well in the A.L. East as he did in the N.L. West. So on the whole, the Yankees more or less broke even in value this year on the Granderson trade, and there’s a good chance they’ll still come out ahead in the long run.

What about alternatives? Well obviously there was Jackson, but the Yankees clearly weren’t willing to have an offense including both Jackson and Gardner as starters. The big free agents were Matt Holliday and Jason Bay. The former played well this year, but also commanded a long-term, 9 figure contract. Would the marginal upgrade really have been worth the extra commitment, especially considering the Yankees had the best offense in baseball anyway? All in all, I’d say that there weren’t any particularly good alternatives to Granderson, and the value was pretty good as well. I’d say that, even after the first year, this was a pretty good acquisition.

Next, Cashman signed free agent Nick Johnson. The thinking here was pretty straight-forward; Johnson gets on base an absurd amount of the time he’s playing, and by moving to DH he might have a better chance of staying healthy. It didn’t work out that way, and while he posted an OBP of .388, he only got 98 plate appearances. So the value obviously was not there.

What about the alternatives? Well, there are always a number of DH possibilities. Last year, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Vlad Guerrero, and Jim Thome all could have served as great alternatives to Johnson. Matsui and Guerrero signed quickly, and Damon was asking for an unreasonable amount. Still, I think Cashman moved far too quickly to sign Johnson, and a part of me wonders if he wasn’t simply trying to put pressure on Damon. Ultimately, Thome signed much later than Johnson for a lot less money, and then had a great season for Minnesota. Simply for the haste with which Cashman signed Johnson, and for the amount of money committed, I’ll call this one a bad move.

Then, another big trade. This one sent Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn, and pitching prospect Aroyds Vizcaino for Boone Logan and (dum dum dum) Javier Vazquez. Let’s switch up and look for alternatives here first. The Yankees obviously wanted another starting pitcher for this year, and ultimately settled on Vazquez. They also clearly covet Cliff Lee, so a long-term commitment wouldn’t have made much sense. Were there other pitchers the Yankees could have acquired besides Vazquez? Of course. Would any of them be coming off of the year Vazquez had in 2009 and require just a one year commitment? Not that I can see. So I think it’s beyond fair to say there weren’t any real alternatives to Vazquez considering the Yankees overall plan.

As for value, believe it or not the Yankees actually did better on this trade this year, and the most valuable player acquired by either team was…Boone Logan! Logan’s 0.4 WAR offset Vazquez’s -0.2 figure, leaving the Yankees with a total 0.2 WAR in the trade. The real drawback for Atlanta was Melky, who was just awful this year, ultimately wracking up -1.2 fWAR! If the Yankees hadn’t traded Melky, he probably would have ridden the bench through the first 2 months of the season and then been DFA’d. Dunn was worth just 0.1 fWAR, coming nowhere close to making up for how awful Melky was in Atlanta, who have since released him.

Of course, the real prize here for Atlanta was Vizcaino, a reasonably touted 19 year old lefty with a live arm. In retrospect the Yankees would probably prefer not to have done this deal simply because of him, but he has yet to pitch above A-ball and suffered an arm injury this year. In other words, he may well pan out as a big league starter, but he’s a long way off. The Yankees still have 3 pitchers in their system who are both better prospects than Vizcaino and closer to being major league ready. On the whole, it’s really hard to call this a bad trade for the Yankees, though it may be one of the ugliest dual-sided trades in major league history.

Other than those 3 acquisitions, the only thing Cashman did at the major league level was sign Marcus Thames and Randy Winn for the bench. Thames, of course, worked out splendidly, providing an excellent bat off of the bench and ultimately a platoon DH, easily earning every bit of his $900,000 salary. Winn, on the other hand, was downright terrible, but the commitment was small enough that he was easy to DFA when it was clear he wasn’t worth a roster spot. Those happen to just about every team over the course of the season.

So there, the 2009-10 offseason consisted of one seemingly bad trade that ultimately didn’t return much value to either team, one bad signing that won’t have any long-term impact on the team, a couple of hit-or-miss bench signings (with the hit being more consequential than the miss), and one major trade that was basically a break-even deal this year, but could still be “won” by the Yankees. It wasn’t the 2008-09 offseason by any means, but considering the relative lack of alternatives to all of the moves they made within their long-term organizational plan (read, signing Cliff Lee) it was about the best you could reasonably have expected any GM to do.

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

11 thoughts on “How Bad Was the 2009-10 Offseason?

  1. The best way to look at the lineup acquisitions is as a whole. I agree that Nick Johnson was probably signed too quickly, but in the context of Thames and Winn, the odds of one of them panning out wasn't too bad. The total commitment was, as you said, quite reasonable.

    • Basically falls into the same category as Winn; didn't work out, but was such a small commitment to a minor role player that he was easy to cut lose and forget.

      • Ooops. Yup, I read the entire article, yet I'd already forgotten CHP until David reminded me.

        Too bad – I wanted that one to work – to my eyes, it looked to have more upside than signing the walking DL DH. And actually, CHP did stick around longer.

  2. Remember Cashman's biggest move for 2010 was signing Teix in 2009. That was allowed by the Steinbrenners under the condition that Cash would not be able to make a big acquiition in 2010. Without that, Cash surely could have signed Holliday or Bay or whomever. FWIW I think he made the right choice.

  3. You grade the Granderson deal too generously. Grandy is a decent player but not worth the 3 players the Yankees gave up, especially Phil Coke who was a valuable lefty in the bullpen. Kennedy would have been an upgrade over Gaudin and Mitre as the 5th starter. Jackson probably would have been in the minors but would be a valuable trade piece right now with the Yankees looking for pitching.

  4. Cashman has complained that the reason it is hard to acquire a bench is because players want to play everyday. Kind of hard to play when a star player has your position. His other excuse of not doing much was this year's free agent market is better. Let's hope that we have a productive off season. We need to address the pitching rotation and bullpen. If you have good pitching than you don't need an offense to score a lot of runs to win. We need to shorten the game for the starters too. Especially the veterans. That means we need a solid 7th and 8th inning guy to get to Mo. I don't think anyone wants to see Mitre or Gaudin again. We need another lefty too. I have little faith in Logan. I think Roberston is fixable. When he throws strikes, he is very good. So we have the 7th inning…we need the 8th now…would have been nice to still have Wood. I think Cashman can get it done. He did it in 2009. He signed CC and that lured AJ and Tex. Maybe he signs Lee and the same can happen. Lure some big free agents to help fill the holes.

  5. Granderson's contract balloons up; but still I side with Cash on the trade.

    CG is the man, they LOVED him in Det. and I'm sure he will become a fan fave next season.

    AJax is good, but I just don't see the upside on a righty, sort of fast, decent fielding line-drive hitter who strikes out all the time playing in Yankee stadium.

    Grandy at least is a left handed, very fast, fly-ball hitting, excellent center fielder even though he strikes out even more.

    One fits in Yankee stadium the other does not, plain and simple.

    Same with Tabata. Let them showcase their skills in the minors, talk them up and then dump them so no-one realizes the Yanks don't trust rookie righty-hitters to produce in the stadium (save Jeter).

    Going with that, do the yanks deal Montero? Maybe take on Grenkie's socially-phobic $27mil over the next 2 years?

  6. Personally, Granderson will do better in the future, or at least satisfy our needs better. In my opinion, Jackson is just a less spectacular, cheaper, righty version of Granderson. Since we are talking about the Yankees and Yankee Stadium here, cross the "cheaper" and "righty" off the list.

    P.S. Some sources do claim that not everyone confided in Jeter when he was a rookie. For example sources say Boss wanted to trade for a SS.