With the trade deadline just hours away, general managers are tirelessly working to get deals done. The stressful rush of the trade deadline impacts many teams and their many reasons for dealing. Some are sellers - the teams that know they aren't going anywhere. Some are buyers - the teams trying to strengthen their already-winning rosters. Brian Cashman is quite familiar with deadline-related stress. He and the others behind the scenes have been on the phones in order to add key players to the Yankees's championship-caliber roster. One player that caught their eyes is Lance Berkman of the Houston Astros. And by 4 pm today, it will all be over.
When the Yankees played the Astros back in mid-June, rumors already began to develop about Lance Berkman joining the Yankees - and now it is so close to becoming reality. I have a feeling that Andy Pettitte may have influenced Berkman's decision to join the Yankees. The Big Puma had a no-trade clause in his contract, much like Roy Oswalt, but waived it in hope of being traded to a contending team. And most likely, by the end of the day, his wish will have come true.
In order to acquire Berkman, the Yankees are trading reliever Mark Melancon, who has had a few stints in the Bigs with the Yankees, and infield prospect Jimmy Paredes. The Astros will be paying part of Berkman's salary, much like they did with Oswalt in the Phillies trade.
I think this is a good trade for both sides. The Yankees really don't need infield prospects, since their infield is gong to be locked up with superstars Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez for many years to come. And Mark Melancon is a nice pitcher, but he isn't one of those extremely valuable prospects. He still needs to develop more, and I think it is good for him if he gets to develop in the Major Leagues with the Astros instead of the Yankees Minors.
On paper, Lance Berkman is having an off-year. He is .245 with 13 home runs and 49 RBI. The switch-hitter has battled some injury issues this season, but appears to be healthy. He will most likely slide into the designated hitter role for the Yanks, since Nick Johnson is showing no signs of returning. With the addition of Berkman, the Yankees will have four quality switch-hitters in their starting lineup in Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada, and the Big Puma himself. Berkman will provide solid protection for Robinson Cano or whoever he hits behind, even if he is having an off-year. But I am confident that Yankee Stadium will bring out the best in him.
This is not the only move the Yankees made at the deadline. Yesterday they acquired outfielder Austin Kearns in a trade with the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named later. Kearns is having a solid season, hitting .272 with 8 homers and 42 RBI. He will probably be a bench player for the Yanks, much like Jerry Hairston, Jr. was last season. Last year, the addition of Hairston slid under the radar, but he turned out to be a key player in the final stretch and the postseason. I wouldn't be surprised if Austin Kearns has similar success.
The trade deadline is at 4 pm today. I wonder if the Yankees are up to anything else...
by Virginia Califano
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