Grading The Yankees Trade

Dealing Jackson doesn't hurt as much as some think

The Yankees acquired outfielder Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers in a three-way deal that cost them Ian Kennedy, Phil Coke, and Austin Jackson. Rather than analyzing the impact of Granderson, we'll grade the trade and take a look at how it impacts the farm system.

Most of the time when a team trades away three 40-man roster players in exchange for one, usually that hurts an organization's depth and its effects are felt throughout the farm system. Tuesday's deal for Curtis Granderson might be one of the few exceptions.

Ian Kennedy, a four-pitch hurler with plus command, had yet to establish himself in the big leagues nor had he come even close to matching his minor league production.

He had posted a 6.03 ERA in 14 big league games and saw his minor league walk rate double on the big stage, a far cry from his 1.96 career minor league ERA and better than 3.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Battling an injury and enduring his big league lumps aside, however, Kennedy wasn't really dealt because of ineffectiveness. Rather, despite his absence for the majority of the 2009 season, the organization didn't miss a beat at the upper levels and the ascensions of the likes of Ivan Nova and Zach McAllister at the upper minor league levels rendered him quite expendable.

While Nova hasn't exactly mastered the Triple-A level, posting a 5.10 ERA in twelve starts, he was very good at Double-A, going 5-4 with a 2.36 ERA. McAllister was simply dominant as one of the youngest pitchers at the Double-A level, posting an Eastern League leading 2.23 ERA and holding opposing batters to a .220 average.

Outside of those two starting pitchers at the higher levels, both of whom have posted career walk ratios right in line with that of Kennedy, the Yankees have two other starting pitchers on the mend at the higher levels who offer upsides equal or better than that of Kennedy too.

George Kontos, a four-pitch hurler himself, had posted a combined 3.15 ERA between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton before going down with Tommy John surgery, and Christian Garcia arguably has the highest upside of any pitcher in the farm system and his 0.71 ERA in five starts before season-ending surgery this past season did little to disprove that theory.

So even with Ian Kennedy on his way to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Tuesday's trade, the Yankees are still left with four starting pitching prospects with just as much upside, who have had upper minor league level success, and all of whom need to be protected on the 40-man roster next offseason still left in the cupboard.

And that's not even banking on the likes of Hector Noesi and David Phelps, both of whom had breakout seasons at the High-A level in 2009 and both of whom will pitch at the Double-A level in 2010, nor is it counting first round pick Jeremy Bleich having a bounceback season in Double-A next year.

The effects of trading Ian Kennedy on Tuesday will hardly be felt from an organizational depth standpoint. The same could be said when they included left-handed reliever Phil Coke in the deal.

Coke made a big name for himself in 2008 when his stuff saw an unexpected meteoric rise in less than one calendar year. He went from being basically an average fastball-changeup pitcher to one with a plus fastball, plus slider, and average changeup in two shorts months that year.

He has gone 5-3 with a 3.74 ERA in 84 career big league appearances and that can't be discounted. However, fellow 40-man roster lefty Mike Dunn was nipping on his heels anyway with a better slider and a harder fastball. The command hasn't been nearly the same, but that's more of a fixable approach issue than a mechanical problem.

The presence of Wilkins De La Rosa, another hard-throwing southpaw right behind Dunn, gave the Yankees four hard-throwing lefties on the 40-man roster and that was a bit superfluous.

And should the big league rotation not have any openings by 2011, the Yankees always have the option of putting the aforementioned Bleich and his plus curveball in the bullpen a year from now and stuff-wise, there isn't much of a drop-off from Coke.

The Yankees obviously dealt from a position of great strength in the first two components of Tuesday's deal. But while the Yankees have earned their reputation for their pitching depth, they haven't been as widely regarded for their positional prospect depth and that's where the trade begins to the hurt a little bit.

But while the adage goes 'you've got to give something to get something', an expanded view of the entire organization makes it clear the dealing away of Austin Jackson might not be as huge a loss as widely perceived.

Jackson, an athletic outfielder, has above average tools across the board and he was not only on the cusp of making it to the big leagues, he was recently added to the 40-man roster.

However, while he hit an even .300 as one of the youngest players in Triple-A, he did hit just four home runs in 2009 after hitting just nine in Double-A the year before, so the power is still developing.

While nobody can discount his potential upside, the fact of the matter is that his placement on the 40-man roster put his development within the Yankees organization at a crossroads.

With many scouts believing Jackson would benefit from another full year in Triple-A in 2010 to give him more time for his power to develop, the Yankees had to make a decision if it was worth their while to give him that extra time.

Considering Jackson's production ceiling was that of Curtis Granderson anyway in the view of most scouts, and recognizing the fact that the Yankees have other centerfield prospects at the lower levels with similar-if-not-better-ceilings with the likes of Abraham Almonte, Slade Heathcott, Eduardo Sosa, and Kelvin Duran to name a few, the loss of Jackson might only be felt at the upper levels for one short year.

That's not even taking into consideration the likelihood of having Austin Jackson in the minors for one more year meant the Yankees were on a collision course of most likely having to break in two rookie position prospects at roughly the same time since Jesus Montero doesn't appear to need more than one more year of development time.

Breaking in two rookies simultaneously - something the Yankees unsuccessfully did in 2008 with Phil Hughes and the now traded Ian Kennedy - isn't a plan they wanted to duplicate.

The bottom line of the trade is not only did the Yankees deal from a position of strength with the players they dealt, the timing of the deal was impeccable and the overall depth of the farm system has not been affected much at all. So from that standpoint, the Yankees get an A+ in the Curtis Granderson deal.

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