14 January 2003

Piracy of the Yankees' Roster

My friend, we'll call him "Tim", asked me if I knew anything about some wishful-thinking rumours he read about Raul Mondesi being traded to "Tim's" favorite team. We'll call them "the Pirates". ESPN's Insider echoes the rumour, but Boy of Summer brings it to you for free!

The rumour has it that Mondesi would go to the Pirates for a minor leaguer or two and that the Yankees would assume about $6 mil of his salary for next year, which would mean that three different teams would issue paychecks for Mondesi at some point next year, assuming that the Pirates don't flip him onto someone else at the trading deadline. Believe it or not, this is not a record, as Ruben Sierra was at one time paid by five different teams (Oakland, Yankees, Detroit, Reds, and Toronto) in 1997! And I have it on good authority that Bob Uecker was once paid by twenty teams. To retire.

Despite Mondesi's off-year, his .740 OPS would have placed him behind only Brian Giles, Rob Mackowiak, and Craig Wilson on the list of Pirates regulars last year, and only Giles actually qualified for the batting title, among those. Adam Hyzdu was better too, but only in 59 games. Mondesi also ties for the team lead in stolen bases, with 15 (Giles and Kendall). These are both bad things. When your speediest player, and second-best hitter (by a WIDE margin) is Raul Mondesi, you're in trouble. If Mondesi comes back to producing around his career averages, which he may, since he's only 31, the Pirates will have made themselves a good deal, and the Yankees will have made the only deal they could. If not, well, they're only out about one-third of what they once squandered on Derek Bell. Or Terry Mulholland. Or Mike Benjamin. Or Pat Meares. Oh, sorry, about 1/4 of what they spent on Meares annually.

The problem with this acquisition is, in case you haven't already noticed, that the Pirates who are comparable to or better than Mondesi are all outfielders. And last time I checked (...yep!) the National League still only allows you to play three guys out there. So now the Pirates will have the same problem as the Yankees, except with cheaper, generally less-talented players. Wilson can play some 1B, and Mackowiak can play 3B, but the Pirates already have Randall Simon/Kevin Young and Aramis Ramirez in those positions, respectively. This presumably gives them a decent bench, and enough OFs to keep Jason Kendall at catcher, where he belongs, but they still have the likes of Pokey Reese, Mike Benjamin, Jack Wilson and Abraham Nunez manning the middle infield spots. Yuk.

I also understand that young prospect Tony Alvarez is on his way, after hitting .318 at Altoona last season, but looking at his minor league numbers, 27 walks in 507 at-bats in AA ball does not usually translate into a lot of patience in the majors. Alvarez needs at least another year to prove that he can lay off a pitch once in a while, and to decide whether or not he really wants to be a base stealer, as he was successful in just over 60% of his 47 attempts. Of course, Sports-Wired's minor league numbers also indicate that he pitched about 25 innings over 15 games in the baltimore farm system in 1988. When he was nine. So maybe the numbers aren't everything, and he won't turn into thesecond coming of Jose Guillen. But I doubt it.

Bottom line: Team is going nowhere, with or without Raul Mondesi. Not this year, anyway.

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