It seemed all but inevitable, all so probable and all so Yankee-like. Like it or not, this is simply the Yankee's way of life and running their business. To the Yankees it is a business, one that is run on the year ahead rather than the years ahead. Not that this is right or wrong, it is just the Yankee way. In this world, there are no cornerstones but only quick fixes and patches to fill the holes created by the mistakes of the past or simply the longing for another proven star. History does repeat itself, this time at the expense of two fine, young players with the potential for stardom. The Yankees may be building a 2005 All-Star squad but will this hurt them in the future?
In a pending deal that the Yankees landed their favorite toy that they have longed for through the Arizona Diamondbacks store window, Randy Johnson, the Yankees traded Eric Duncan and Dioner Navarro along with Javier Vazquez to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers would send pitchers Brad Penny and Yhency Brazoban and outfielder/first baseman Shawn Green to Arizona to complete the deal. While everyone looks at the big names being tossed around, how about the impact on the Yankee Farm System and the players involved? While the Yankees got their early Christmas present, they may have lost two gifts that could keep on giving for them for years to come.
Dioner Navarro, the Yankees #1 prospect entering the 2004 season. Even after an up and down 2004 season, Navarro was still able to make his way up to AAA Columbus and hold his own. With some help from veteran, Sal Fasano, the switch hitting 20 year backstop matured and became more and more of a pitcher's catcher. Another one of Navarro's close friend's Pito Santos had some advice for Dioner in his future. "I'd tell him to never give up. If he's not hitting, to do well on his defense. He's a good guy. He should never give up on his defense. That's what I would tell him." Pitchers came to appreciate his efforts behind the plate as he earned himself quite a reputation. "He really was raw when he first got to Columbus but he worked his tail off and got better and better every game," Colter Bean told PinstripesPlus.com. "I had no problem throwing to him what so ever. Sal Fasano really helped him out too." If Navarro can bounce back strong in 2005, the Los Angeles Dodgers may have themselves a solid, young catching prospect on their hands.
Just when it looked like the Yankees may have a stud rising in the ranks, just when it looked like the next true Yankee great was on his way, the prospect of obtaining Randy Johnson reared its head. The Big Unit, one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game, while valuable to the success of the 2005 Yankees, may not be able to match the value that Eric Duncan, the Yankees current #1 prospect, could have had with the future of the Yankee franchise. With the personality of the consummate pro and the businesslike performance on the field, Duncan looked to be right out of the Derek Jeter mold. But, the reality was simple. When you are a prospect in the Yankee Farm System, being traded is only part of the deal. "It's tough," Duncan's teammate and close fiend, Steve White told PinstripesPlus.com. "Dunc" called me up last week and was like, "I guess we're not going to see each other again until we reach the Bigs". I guess it's just one of those things that's understood that while being in the Yankees' organization is great, chances are we're going to be traded. In fact, sometimes guys are jealous when another player is traded to another organization because you feel that guy is going to get his shot sooner than you. We all want to make it to the Majors with the Yankees but we all realize there's a better than average chance we're going to have to make it someplace else." However, this still doesn't make it easy for players or managers to see a player like Duncan go. "Duncan's a great ballplayer," says his former teammate, John Urick. "He has a really bright future ahead of him. I've never seen a kid his age handle himself so well on and off the field. He's willing to take his walks and singles. He'll do anything to get on base. He has tremendous opposite field power and that's so rare for a guy that young."
Andy Stankiewicz knows the 19 year old third baseman as well as anyone, working with him in his first two pro seasons on his defense at third base. Ironically, his hard work to stay at third base, may have helped this trade to materialize instead of Duncan being made into a full time first baseman. "You can't slow down a hard worker," says Stankiewicz. "This kid works his tail off and he has really come up big in developing his defensive skills. To me, that just looks like a sign of good things to come. He is a kid that works so hard and has all the tools to back it up." But, it appears now that the sweet swinging, lefty hitting third baseman will be doing his hard work for another organization, who will enjoy his work ethic as well, the L.A. Dodgers.
For close followers, coaches and members of the organization, losing two promising young players is never easy. But, has anyone ever thought of how it impacts the player's themselves, especially two guys who are no older than 20 years of age. Duncan and Dioner Navarro have always been advocates of remaining in the Yankee organization and truly would want nothing less for their baseball careers. Either way, you wouldn't get any less of a drive from either of them. "Stuff happens so quickly between rumors and things actually happening, you can't think about it, Duncan told PinstripesPlus.com. "I just think about what I have to do in the next game." Dioner Navarro, a promising switch hitting catcher, takes a similar stance. "They're trading me to get Randy Johnson and that is how they do things," an emotional Navarro says. "Nothing is final yet, but wherever I go, I'll always give 100%. I would love to be with the Yankees, but I love the game and I'll always play hard. It has been great but this is the way it is."
The two players spoken of, not only have bright futures ahead of them on the baseball diamond, but have also shown to be wise well beyond their years. While the Yankees tend not to build with their farm system, the organization does breed character. Nothing less can be said for Eric Duncan and Dioner Navarro. With the pending deal for Randy Johnson, it appears that both of their days in pinstripes are all but over. However, they will be welcomed with open arms into the Dodger organization. It looks like farewell to potential future stars, but only the beginning for these two fine young ballplayers.