Sunday’s acquisition of Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle for Matt Smith and three non-prospects filled the Yankees’ two primary needs in one move for minimal cost. In fact, the move was such masterstroke that yesterday’s follow-up trade of Shawn Chacon for the Pirates’ Craig Wilson almost seemed like showing off.
To begin with, not only had Chacon been removed from the rotation after a disaster start in Cleveland on July 4, but with the acquisition of Lidle on Sunday, he had become a burden, a player occupying a spot on the 25-man roster who had no role to play and was unable to contribute to a winning effort when given an opportunity.
In exchange for this player, the Yankees obtained Wilson, a right handed first-baseman and outfielder with both patience and power at the plate who also has experience behind it. A career .268/.360/.486 hitter, Wilson is exactly the hitter I had hoped Andy Phillips would be at the plate given a proper opportunity. Unfortunately, Phillips hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, hitting just .239/.272/.401 in 235 plate appearances. Enter Wilson, who is just four months Phillips’ senior and has put up those numbers over 2,133 career major league plate appearances.
Yup, the Yankees have a new starting first baseman, or at least a player who can start every day and bounce between first, DH and the corner outfielders per the needs of the regulars in those other positions. If there’s any down side to Wilson it’s that he’s a subpar defensive first baseman, but according to Baseball Prospectus’s Rate stats, Andy Phillips has been just as bad this year despite what has looked to the naked eye like some excellent play around the first base bag. Of course, both are significantly better than Giambi (the exact numbers are a 93 Rate for Wilson and Phillips and an 83 Rate for Giambi). My theory on Phillips’ figure is that he just might be the defensive equivalent of Derek Jeter at first base, a solid player who makes some spectacular-looking plays within a deceptively small range.
So, Wilson holds the line on defense and greatly increases the Yankees production on offense. Not a bad trick. The result is a line-up that could look like this upon the return of Robinson Cano:
L – Johnny Damon (CF)
R – Derek Jeter (SS)
L – Bobby Abreu (RF)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L – Jason Giambi (DH)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
R – Craig Wilson (1B)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
S – Melky Cabrera (LF)
And that’s without getting Matsui or Sheffield back.