"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Observations from Cooperstown: DeRosa, Aceves, and The Classic

When a team plays well for an extended stretch of games, the intensity of the rumor mill tends to lessen. That’s certainly been the case for the Yankees, who have played well for the last month in taking a share of the top spot in the American League East. The only prominent name that I’ve heard linked to the Yankees in recent weeks is Cleveland’s Mark DeRosa, a player that the Cubs foolishly traded over the winter for three middle-of-the-road pitching prospects. Ravaged by injuries, the Indians are going nowhere in the AL Central. DeRosa is 34 years old and just a few months away from free agency; he is almost certain to be traded sometime between now and July 31.

So should the Yankees make a play for DeRosa? I’d say yes, but within reasonable limits. Let’s begin with DeRosa’s potential contribution. As well as the Yankees have played since Johnny Damon hit that three-run homer on a Sunday afternoon against the Orioles, their bench remains mediocre at best. Francisco Cervelli and Brett Gardner have been assets, but the Yankees have received precious little offense from their backup infielders and have virtually no power in reserve—at least until (or if) Xavier Nady returns. DeRosa would solve the latter two concerns. He can play third, second, or first, along with the outfield corners. He has above-average power, along with a team-first grittiness that would play well in New York.

Yet, the Yankees should be conservative in what they offer for DeRosa. After a career year for the Cubs in 2008, DeRosa brought back only three mid-level prospects on the trade market. In the midst of a mediocre campaign with the Indians, DeRosa’s value has decreased further. I might be willing to give up two young pitchers—pick two from a group that includes Anthony Claggett, Jonathan Albaladejo, Edwar Ramirez, and Christian Garcia—but no more. I’m not giving up Mark Melancon, or Alfredo Aceves, or even an injured Ian Kennedy. DeRosa would help, but he’s not currently worth a price tag involving any of those right-handers. If the Indians insist on any of the three, I’d suggest that Brian Cashman hang up the phone…

Alfredo Aceves is a throwback. In an age when almost every role on a pitching staff has become specialized, the Mexican League import brings a degree of versatility reminiscent of earlier eras. For younger fans, he’s the new Ramiro Mendoza. For fans of my generation, he’s the second coming of Dick Tidrow. If you go back a little further, he’s the 21st century version of Ralph Terry.

With a fastball that touches the low nineties and a full repertoire of complementary pitches that that includes a splitter, slider, and change-up, Aceves can fill any need that springs a leak on Joe Girardi’s pitching staff. If Brian Bruney’s elbow cannot stay pain free, Aceves could become the elusive eighth-inning solution. If Chien-Ming Wang continues to do a Doyle Alexander impersonation, Aceves could graduate to the rotation as the No. 5 starter.

Prior to Aceves’ arrival, the Yankees had not exactly forged a strong tradition of Mexican-born players. (Keep in mind that Lefty Gomez, though Mexican-American, was born in California.) Ruben Amaro was a light-hitting shortstop and utility infielder. Celerino Sanchez was a brilliant fielding third baseman, but he couldn’t hit as well as most modern day utility infielders. Aurelio Rodriguez had one productive season as a platoon player, but had long since seen his best days as a starting third baseman for the Tigers. Then there was Alfonso Pulido, whom George Steinbrenner briefly touted as the closer of the future in the 1980s. Of more recent vintage, Karim Garcia had a productive half-season in 2003, while Esteban Loiaza had a miserable half-season in 2004. At 27, Aceves might be on the verge of a breakthrough that would make him the best Yankee to come from south of the border…

The roster of names for the first-ever Hall of Fame Classic, scheduled for later this month here in Cooperstown, has been finalized. Former Yankee Kevin Maas, a one-year wonder in the Bronx, became one of the latest retired players to commit to the June 21st old-timers game here in Cooperstown. He will join other ex-Yankees Mike Pagliarulo, Phil Niekro, Jim Kaat, Dennis Rasmussen, and Lee Smith, who all made prior commitments to the game. Another former Yankee, outfielder Chad Curtis, had originally signed up to the play but had to cancel because of a scheduling conflict.

Most of the above group had only brief dalliances with New York, leaving Pagliarulo as the most popular name among Yankee fans. Pags made a positive impression on Cooperstown in April, when he served coffee and donuts to fans standing on line for tickets to the Hall of Fame Classic. Anyone who followed the Yankees in the 1980s won’t be surprised; Pagliarulo has always exuded a down-to-earth everyman quality that made him one of the most likeable Yankees of the decade.

In the sake of fairness, let’s mention that several retired Red Sox will also play at Doubleday Field, an eclectic group that includes Steve “Psycho” Lyons, Joe Lahoud, Ferguson Jenkins, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, and Mike Timlin. (Have Psycho and Spaceman ever been spotted together?) Only one prominent ex-Met has signed up for the game: George Foster, better known for his hitting exploits in Cincinnati.

Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times.


1 a.O   ~  Jun 5, 2009 12:32 pm

I really don't see any need (on the Yankees' part) for a guy like DaRosa. What the Yankees need is a set-up man.

I thought the best off-season move was by the Mets: Getting a second closer. That really makes the games short, or at least it would if it were a team besides the Mets.

The 7th & 8th inning is a huge weakness for the Yankees' staff. They have no active player who can fill the role, except one guy who's a starter. It's a critical need. And I would make Wang, Molina, Nady, Ramirez, Veras, and Coke available to get a shut-down guy in front of Mo.

2 mehmattski   ~  Jun 5, 2009 12:46 pm

You brought him up, so it must be asked.

Who is Karim Garcia?

3 monkeypants   ~  Jun 5, 2009 1:00 pm

RiverAveBlues floated the idea of picking up Betemit, now released by the WSox. This might cause someone like MattPat's head to explode, which is reason enough on its own, but I might actually get behind such a move if it meant the elimination of Angel Berroa from the roster.

[1] I have always wondered how teams managed for 100 years with an EIGHTH INNING GUY.

4 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 5, 2009 1:06 pm

The release of Betemit only underscore what a great trade Cashman made for Swisher. For all his streakiness, Swish is top-35 in OPS in all of baseball. You can nitpick at Cashman for not having a bench, but the contribution of a Swisher dwarfs what you would normally get from those riding the pine.

5 monkeypants   ~  Jun 5, 2009 1:10 pm

[4] Yep. The Sox essentially traded Swisher for...no one. And streaky or not, he has proven very valuable to Yankees this year. When was the last time the Yanks had such a player: competent and more with the bat and fairly versatile in the field? Velarde? Leyritz?

6 OldYanksFan   ~  Jun 5, 2009 1:26 pm

I know DeRosa has much more pop then Pena, but considering defense, and probable limited ABs, how much of an upgrade is DeRosa over Pena? Or do you feel we need a UIF in addition to Pena?

7 monkeypants   ~  Jun 5, 2009 1:32 pm

[6] I'd rather they carry another OF, but the team has made it clear they prefer to have two BUIF. That means Berroa and Pena. In my view, DeRosa (or whomever) is worth getting if it displaces (ideally) Berroa.

8 Bum Rush   ~  Jun 5, 2009 1:34 pm

Cashman hasn't had a decent bench in the last five years. Why would he start now?

On the trade, it also helped that Cashman picked up all of Swisher's remaining salary. no one else in baseball was going to do that after his 2008. To assume it was just Betemit for Swisher is missing (no surprise there William "The Yankees aren't making any money" NYY23) the real point - it was a salary dump. Dave Justice this was not. More like Bobby Abreu. The Yankee GM made a trade that no one else in baseball could afford.

And remember coming into the Swisher was the 4th OF...making $20 million over the next three years.

DeRosa was available this off-season for a few crappy pitching prospects. Instead the Yankees had Cody "90 inch vertical" Ransom and Angel "I only look 50" Berroa. Great work Cashman!

9 ms october   ~  Jun 5, 2009 1:41 pm

[6] it's because derosa can player the corner of that he has more value than just a uif. he is close to an ideal utility player. i don't think we get much from nady this year so he esstentially replaces what swisher was supposed to be to start the year plus berroa. if the price tag is as bruce suggests i am for it.

10 thelarmis   ~  Jun 5, 2009 2:04 pm

[2] beat me to it, matt!!!!


Who's Karim Garcia?!?!

Bama...you there, bro?!

11 Raf   ~  Jun 5, 2009 2:27 pm

And remember coming into the Swisher was the 4th OF…making $20 million over the next three years.

Swisher was either going to be the starting RF or 1b at the time the trade was made.

12 ChrisS   ~  Jun 5, 2009 2:31 pm

DeRosa is also 34 years old, I'd hesitate parting with anything of value for a 34-year old bench guy. It's like spending millions on a 30-something reliever with relievers at AA & AAA bursting at the seams. Oh wait.

13 RIYank   ~  Jun 5, 2009 2:40 pm

OT, but did anyone see the SI (Verducci) article about Bryce Harper? The article is called "Basebal's Lebron", which frankly isn't a very good title. He's basically Roy Hobbs at 15. He hit a 500 ft HR at the Trop, for example.
The Yankees might consider throwing the rest of their games, because Harper is planning to declare for the draft next year.

14 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 5, 2009 2:41 pm

[11] Don't bother with facts...they get in the way of a good rant. Regardless, if other GMs didn't recognize that Swisher was a good deal at a net of $19mn (you should probably subtract the Betemit salary) over three years, that's their problem. Thankfully, Cashman wasn't scared away by a subpar 2008 and decided instead to consider his 2005-2007 seasons (during which fangraphs estimates his value was $33.8mn). As a result, the Yankees are already enjoying $5.8mn worth of value on a 2009 annual investment of about $6.3mn.

Yep, that Cashman doesn't know what he is doing.

15 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 5, 2009 2:43 pm

[13] Whether he is allowed to declare may still be up in the air, but while he is blazing a trail, wouldn't it be nice if he sued MLB for the right to sign with his team of choice?

16 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jun 5, 2009 2:48 pm

I see that William can stick up for himself (no surprise!) and for Cashman. I am still in my 'bite your tongue, count to ten' mode.

I read the Bryce Harper piece. Matt Wieters is now SO yesterday. Sigh.

17 Start Spreading the News   ~  Jun 5, 2009 2:51 pm

I like this kid already:
"When asked about his goals as a ballplayer, he replies, "Be in the Hall of Fame, definitely. Play in Yankee Stadium. Play in the pinstripes. Be considered the greatest baseball player who ever lived. I can't wait.""

He scores from 2nd on wild pitches??? He catches and he pitches??? He's no Bugs Bunny but that's pretty impressive!

18 RIYank   ~  Jun 5, 2009 2:56 pm

[15] Yeah, I know what you're referring to:

When asked about his goals as a ballplayer, he replies, "Be in the Hall of Fame, definitely. Play in Yankee Stadium. Play in the pinstripes. Be considered the greatest baseball player who ever lived. I can't wait."

19 RIYank   ~  Jun 5, 2009 2:56 pm

Oh, hey, cut that out, SStheN.

20 monkeypants   ~  Jun 5, 2009 3:01 pm

[14] Yep. And we need to remember the chronology of the Swisher signing. He was not brought in as a back-up; he was signed before Teix fell into the Yankees' lap, so he projected as the tentative starting 1B--but one who had the potential to play in the OF. It was a brilliant deal that brought a solid and roster-flexible player to the team at great price. Moreover, Cashman still had money leftover to...sign Teix and make Nady/Swisher a bench player (the strongest bench player in years).

Cashman has made some poor moves to be sure, and the AJ signing still has me scratching my head, but he deserves major kudos (at least so far) for seeing the value in Swisher.

21 ChrisS   ~  Jun 5, 2009 3:08 pm

The Natural by Peter Gammons.

22 The Hawk   ~  Jun 5, 2009 3:09 pm

Cashman has made some good deals, and I don't see the point in knocking him because at times they were deals only Yankee money could make happen.

Last year, it seemed as though the season was going to be saved when he got Nady, Marte and Pudge, all without giving much up. It ended up not helping, mainly cause Pudge stunk up the joint, but those were very good trades.

His problem more often than not has been trading for pitching.

23 Bama Yankee   ~  Jun 5, 2009 3:23 pm

[10] Yeah, I'm here (been doing more lurking than posting lately, with work getting busy and having a new baby around the house). Before I even got to the comments I knew that you or mehmattski wouldn't let that one sit on the tee for too long before you smashed it into the second deck... ;-)

24 ChrisS   ~  Jun 5, 2009 3:36 pm

No one said trading Betemit for Swisher wasn't a good move, but having the deepest pockets in the major leagues certainly helped move that trade forward quickly and few teams other than Yankees can gamble $20 mill on a guy. The Red Sox should have done that, but they were gambling on a 3-4 of Ortiz and Teixeira.

Kenny Williams can't be that dumb ... I can imagine that Cashman was the first GM that called up and said he'd eat the whole contract ... and then he fleeced him.

25 Raf   ~  Jun 5, 2009 3:43 pm

Kenny Williams can’t be that dumb … I can imagine that Cashman was the first GM that called up and said he’d eat the whole contract … and then he fleeced him.

Doesn't make Williams a dumb GM, doesn't make Cashman a smart GM. Maybe Williams saw something, maybe Ozzie got in his ear and said he didn't want Swisher around anymore...

26 RIYank   ~  Jun 5, 2009 4:00 pm

Cliff? Out there? Put up the preview! I want to see your take on Price.

27 ms october   ~  Jun 5, 2009 4:29 pm

[26] according to petey game postponed - no makeup date yet

28 RIYank   ~  Jun 5, 2009 4:30 pm

Yeah, just read that. Damn.
Guess I'll go to the movies or something. See you (et al.) tomorrow afternoon...

29 PJ   ~  Jun 5, 2009 6:45 pm


You've been listening to Ken Rosenthal again, haven't you?

: )

30 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 5, 2009 7:55 pm

man, i hate afternoons without yankees baseball.

i was really excited to see CC vs Price tonite.

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