Less than two weeks into this baseball season, many Yankee fans have not only given up on our new shortstop Didi Gregorius, but have decided the trade that brought Didi to New York (and sent rookie pitcher Shane Greene to Detroit) is the worst trade Brian Cashman has ever made.
But is it really that simple? Losing Greene will forever be connected to acquiring Didi, but that particular deal aside, I think there is a bigger picture most fans are failing to see.
Honestly, I hated to see Shane Greene go. He was one of my favorite Yankees from the 2014 season, and as a Cleveland native and Indians fan, I really hated to see him go to the Detroit Tigers. But, baseball is a business, and he was useful in a trade.
Trading Greene, allowing Brandon McCarthy (another one of my 2014 favorites) to sign with the Dodgers, and Hiroki Kuroda’s return to Japan left three openings in the Yankees’ starting rotation. Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda would be the only returning starters in 2015 (baring any injuries). In a separate trade, hard-throwing Nathan Eovaldi joined the rotation, CC Sabathia returned from injury, and still one spot remained in the rotation – which eventually went to Chris Capuano.
The two are not directly related so it’s a little like comparing apples and oranges, but comparing the two starters, I would rather have Greene on my team. Not only is he 12 years younger (25 this season, Capuano will turn 37 in August), but he also pitched better last season. In his rookie season, Greene posted a 5-4 record, 3.78 ERA with 81 K and 29 BB in 78.2 innings. In 2014 Capuano finished with a 3-4 record, 84 K, 34 BB in 96.4 innings, and has a career ERA of 4.28. I wouldn’t say Capuano’s numbers are bad, but Greene has much more potential. Since joining the Tigers, Greene is doing exactly what I expected him to do – pitch very well with a 2-0 record and 0.00 ERA. I’m happy for him…I just wish he was doing this in a Yankees uniform. Especially since Chris Capuano went down in his first spring training start and began the season on the DL. In addition, Greene costs a fraction of the price. This season, Greene will be making $515,000 while Capuano will make $5 million (up from the $2.25 million he made in 2014) on a one-year deal with the Yankees. For any team, let alone one who is supposed to be focusing on bringing down their payroll, that’s a big difference. (Also, Greene likely won’t become a free agent until after the 2020 season.)
Pitching aside, the Yankees still had a giant hole to fill at shortstop. Losing Greene meant bringing 25 year old Didi Gregorius in to fill a position Derek Jeter had manned for the better part of two decades. Didi has the potential to be a strong defensive shortstop – I’ve never expected him to be a power hitter – so of course seeing his early mental errors fielding and base-running, along with a pitiful batting average below .200 – is concerning to fans (myself included). But without Didi, who would be the shortstop? The only viable option within the organization would be Brendan Ryan. It’s easy to say if the Yankees were going to sign Stephen Drew anyway, why not let him play shortstop? In that case, he wouldn’t have to learn a new position (which he attempted to do so poorly last year). Either option – Drew or Ryan – give a decent defensive shortstop and a very weak bat, but considering both are over 30, I’m fairly confident neither will develop to be much more than they are currently. (Drew is 31 with a .256 career average; Ryan is 33 with a .234 career average.) The scary thought comparing the two is that Stephen Drew – Yankee fans’ favorite punching bag – might actually be the better option at shortstop. And Brendan Ryan is also starting the season on the DL. All things considered, if I’m the GM, I would take a chance with the 25 year old (career .240 average) – which is exactly what Brian Cashman and the Yankees did.
Also, without Stephen Drew trying his hand at secondbase again (and I think he’s doing a better job this season – so far), there is another hole in the defense with Jose Pirela also on the DL. Whether fans want to believe it or not, top prospect Rob Refsnyder is not ready for the major league yet: he’s actually had more fielding errors at second this season than Drew has. Signing Gregorio Petit was a crap move – but one that was necessary without Brendan Ryan to back up shortstop – and I expect him to be dropped when Jose Pirela returns.
All things considered, we are still less than two weeks into the season. Fans are excited by strong starts like those from Stephen Drew(!) and Alex Rodriguez – but tomorrow either (or both) of them could find themselves in a major slump. The same is true for Shane Greene. Again, I expected him to pitch well and I’m glad to see he is so far into the season, but it’s only April. He’s had two starts. Last year’s Cy Young winners finished the season with ERAs of 2.44 (Corey Kluber) and 1.77 (Clayton Kershaw). As much as I like Greene, I just don’t think he’s going to post that kind of ERA this season. (Sidenote: Kershaw’s 2015 ERA is currently 5.84(!) which is higher ERA than Eovaldi, Pineda and Sabathia. Small sample sizes make for some crazy stats early in the season!)
Losing Shane Greene sucked – especially considering Chris Capuano ended up in the rotation (as you can probably tell, I’m not a big fan of his). Gregorius isn’t necessarily a bad player, although he’s certainly having a tough start. He had a promising spring, and I can’t help but think that playing in New York, in the very spot a legend last stood, is intimidating. Let’s give him some time to settle in and then see where he is. If both Greene and Gregorius continue their seasons as they’ve started (and I highly doubt that happens), then it might be time to declare Detroit “won the trade.” Bottom line: two weeks is simply not enough time to judge anyone’s season.