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January 6, 2005

The Trade
by Sean McNally

News broke today that the Yankees and DBacks finally completed (pending physicals) the long awaited exiling of Javier Vazquez to the desert... oh, and Randy Johnson's a Yankee now too.

I've held my tongue about this deal until it was done but here are some gut reactions.

1 - I liked Home Run Javy. I still think he was, or possibly still is, injured. Even with the slumping finish to the 2004 regular season, if Damon hooks that pitch foul in Game Seven, I think Vazquez is still a Yankee.

2 - Johnson is an all-world talent, one of the all-time greats, and he's certainly a short-term upgrade and Vazquez, Navarro and Halsey.

3 - The whiners should now come out of the woodwork that the Yankees are ruining baseball, yada yada yada... But consider this: For the 2005-2007 seasons, Javy is due $34.5 million ($10.5, $11.5M and $12.5M respectively). With the new extension, Johnson is getting $48.5 million for the same period of time - in $16 million chunks. Because of the way Arizona structured the deal, he only gets $10.5 this season, with $6 million deferred. That's a total difference of $14.5 million - or $4.83 million per season. Now I dunno about you, but adding roughly $5 million to the payroll doesn't seem like a big deal to me (unless you're paying to Tony Woe-mack over two seasons).

4 - Regardless of this move, the offseason will be a failure if Carlos Beltran isn't in Pinstripes for the new season. Trading Lofton and keeping Bernie with no discernible successor or replacement set New York up sign Beltran to fill a need. Without him the Yanks are left with few options in replacing a legend who's lost a step. I suppose Torre could have the Stengel conversation with Matsui, and tell him to "get everything you can, because the old man can't run like he used to," but that certainly doesn't do much as a long-term solution. Without Beltran, overpriced as he might be, the Yankees strong core of Posada, Jeter and Williams is, well, frighteningly weak. Unless ....

5 - All the no Beltran posturing is a prelude to something that many Yankee fans have advocated for quite some time - the Yountification of St. Derek. Moving Jeter to center plays to his strengths as a shortstop: namely, his plus-arm and his ability to catch flyballs on the move. This allows ARod to slot back in his natural shortstop and opens a hole at third-base that could be filled temporarily with any number of short-term plugs. Currently, Tony Batista, Mark DeRosa and Eric Munson are available, probably for a song. In addition, SJ's love child, Andy Phillips is lurking as a AAAA answer. With Eric Duncan perhaps merely one season away, a hole could be closed long-term quickly. In addition, several teams appear to be souring on their current hot-corner tenders - among them Toronto (Eric Hinske), Houston (Morgan Ensberg) and Chicago (Joe Crede) - any one of them is capable of hitting eighth and not playing embarassing defense (Think Aaron Boone).

All that being said - I still expect Johnson and Beltran to be in the clubhouse in February, picking out new numbers because 15 and 51 are spoken for.