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July 16, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Wow, this is usually about when I go to bed. Boy, I hate my job.

I just wanted to comment on this.
The Mets and Yankees were close to completing a deal last night that would send Benitez to the Yankees for three minor-league prospects, with the Yankees prepared to pay almost all of the $2.7 million remaining on Benitez's contract, according to an official with one of the teams.


The team official, who asked not to be identified, said the sides had agreed on the basic structure of the deal but were still haggling over how much money the Yankees would contribute to Benitez's salary, as well as the name of the final minor-leaguer, who is not expected to be a top prospect.

If the deal is completed in its current form, the Yankees will send the Mets 24-year-old left-handed relief pitcher Jason Anderson, who pitched in 22 games for the Yankees this season, and 22-year-old right-hander Anderson Garcia of the Battle Creek Yankees in the Class-A Midwest League.
My initial reaction to the Yankees bringing in Benitez was a cross between nausea and rage. Of course, that’s my reaction to pretty much everything.

After carefully thinking about it, though, I decided that maybe it’s not such an awful deal. Let me explain.

When you think of Armando Benitez, you think of the meltdowns. You think of the 1997 ALCS, the 2000 World Series, and every single game he ever pitched against the Braves. He’s not a good closer. But then, the Yankees don’t need a closer, they need a setup man, someone who can pitch the 8th inning. Benitez could be that man.

And this has nothing to do with mental attitude or any of that bullshit, it has to do with the way a closer is used in the modern game. A closer is the last man in the bullpen, and managers almost always leave them in the game no matter how poorly they’re pitching. Benitez’s problem isn’t that he’s a bad pitcher--he’s quite dominant at times--his problem is that sometimes he just doesn’t have it, and he’s not going to get out of the jam. As a closer, that’s a problem. When you can bring in Mariano Rivera to bail him out, it’s not as big a problem.

And the Yankees wouldn’t be giving up a tremendous amount in this deal. Jason Anderson is, IMO, the only player worth much here, and while he could be very good in middle relief this year, and exceptional in the late innings in the future, the Yankees really should be looking towards winning this year, and Benitez will help them win this year more than Anderson will (and that’s before you consider Torre’s poor utilization of Anderson). And there’s also the possibility of getting some draft pick compensation for Benitez in the offseason, as well. If they do get a pick, and use it wisely, the Yankees might actually end up with a better player than Anderson when all is said and done, anyway.

So, after further review, I’m okay with this deal. It’s not the best move they could have made, and it’s not going to solve their bullpen problems, but it should help. Okay, off to work.