A great trade for the Yankees? Absolutely.
A gut-punch for many Yankees fans? Definitely.
Like the old adage goes, when making an important trade each team should feel some pain once the deal is done. This one was no different.
Though the original reported trade was incorrect, the the actual deal announced today is as follows:
Yankees get: LHP Damaso Marte and OF Xavier Nady
Pirates get: OF Jose Tabata, RHP Ross Ohlendorf, RHP Dan McCutchen and RHP Jeff Karstens
While I am no scout by any means, I was fortunate enough to see every one of the six mentioned Yankees prospects in person. It hurts to lose a kid as talented and projectable as a teenage Tabata because the Yankees really sold low on him. However, having control of Nady until after the 09 season and more importantly, having Austin Jackson [who leapfrogged Tabata as a prospect this year] marginalizes the hit.
I still believe McCutchen could be a mid-rotation starter or [through his versatility] could come out of the bullpen in the late innings to help a ballclub. And I love his make-up and bulldog persona; they don't call him "Danimal" for nothing. He has thrown a couple of complete games at AAA, shows an ability to consistently throw strikes [evidenced by his low walk rates] and is not afraid of anything on the mound.
However, trading guys like McCutchen, Ohlendorf and Karstens [all RHP's] is dealing from a position of absurd strength for the Yankees. Consider this, the Yankees still have guys like Melancon, Horne, Betances, Brackman, [soon Cole], McAllister, Heredia, Cox, Patterson, Sanchez, Marquez and a host of other righties in their system. With the lack of lefthanded pitching in the system, it's encouraging that a currently surging Coke - the only legitimate upper level lefty prospect in the system - will remain a Yankee. Though, with the Jarrod Washburn talks still ongoing, it is uncertain if that will remain true.
Though Keith Law's take on the trade is generally agreeable - the ESPN writer says it's win-win for both teams - I feel he truly undersells Kontos and particularly Coke in saying they would "never" contribute to the Yankees' big club anyhow. Law states that Kontos throws 90-92 and that Coke utilizes a fringe-average fastball.
When I saw Kontos, he touched 96 mph with his fastball and, though I agree with Law that his command is at times shaky, the Northwestern product possesses a big league slider, decent curve and serviceable change. In my mind, Kontos could have a lot of value if/when he moves to a bullpen role in that his fastball which is characteristically 91-93 may jump up to the mid-90's to compliment a consistently hard slider.
Coke, who has come from out of nowhere to lead the Eastern League starters with a 2.60 ERA, struck out 109 [over 114 innings] to just 38 walks and has been absolutely dominant. Furthermore, the southpaw has seen a jump in velocity of late and is now throwing 91-93 mph and touching 94. For an already cerebral lefty, that type of power fastball is extremely impressive considering his original billing as a crafty southpaw type. If nothing else, Coke offers the Yankees a starting option from the lefthand side or a future LOOGY should one become necessary behind Marte.
To say the Yankees were given Nady and Marte for nothing is an absolute joke. Tabata, until this season, had hit .300 or better at every level and more often than not was the youngest hitter at each respective stage of his development. His power element could at any time reveal itself, especially once his wrist injury is fully healed following offseason hamate surgery and he learns to pull the ball to left. Tabata's off-field problems could return or he may never reach his full potential, but make no mistake, the kid is a legit top prospect who's had a terrible season [again, at age 19] on and off the diamond.
Considering the Yankees' need for an impact bat with the uncertainty surrounding Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui and even Johnny Damon, and due to the fact that the team has zero lefthanded relievers in the already excellent bullpen, the trade made sense. Now, the team can more effectively absorb losing Posada for the season and will offer a versatile setup man to bridge Mariano Rivera in the ninth.
However, the Pirates did not hurt themselves either, picking up a blue chip positional prospect to compliment future star outfielder Andrew McCutchen as well as two young versatile right handed pitchers in Cutch/Ohlie who can provide power in the rotation or out of the pen.
Though it'd be tough to see Tabby eventually turn into Man-Ram lite, the Yankees have undeniably pushed their chips into the center of the table and can now chuckle at the clueless sportswriters decreeing this a transitional year in which the Yankees would not chase a postseason berth.