Saturday, July 31, 2010

Kearns & Berkman: Yay Or Nay?

So the Yankees made a couple of unexpected moves yesterday while they were busy wasting a good outing by Phil Hughes.  By the end of the day today, they should officially have OF Austin Kearns and DH/1B Lance Berkman in the fold.

Neither of these guys solve the bullpen problem, but both will add some much needed depth to the bench, something that was the other major priority at the deadline.  And all indications are the Yankees were able to make both deals without giving up any significant pieces.

First let's take a look at Kearns.  Once a former highly-touted prospect with Cincinnatti, Kearns has settled into a 3rd or 4th outfielder role for the majority of his career.  The right-handed batter is currently hitting .272/.354/.419  with 8 homers and 42 RBIs and will slide right into the 4th outfielder spot for the Yankees, an area that has been a revolving door for most of the season.  His presence will allow the Yankees the option of sliding Brett Gardner to center and sitting Curtis Granderson against lefties, despite Granderson's recent hot hitting.  While he's certainly not expected to produce in the middle of the order like he was in Cleveland, Kearns does provide an upgrade over the Colin Curtises and Kevin Russos of the world with his Major League experience, and as long as the "player to be named later" that the Yankees had to give up to get him isn't Austin Romine, Slade Heathcott, or Dellin Betances, this is definitely a good deal for the Yanks.

Now for Berkman.  Once one of the most feared switch hitters in the game, Berkman, now 34, has regressed greatly as a hitter, as indicated by his .245/.372/.436 tripleslash this season, well below his career averages of .296/.410/.549.  But there is still some power left in his bat and Berkman can still get on base with the best of them, and he should fill the gap left by Nick Johnson as the full-time Yankee DH.  His .874 OPS and 12 HRs and 45 RBIs as a left-handed hitter should translate well to hitting at Yankee Stadium and he also provides the Yankees with another viable option as a first baseman should Teix need a day off.

The Yankees had to give up Mark Melancon and someone named Jimmy Paredes to get Berkman.  Melancon has seemingly been on the verge of breaking through as a major contributor in the Yankee 'pen for years now, but took a step back in Triple-A this season.  With a bunch of younger arms in the system that could project as solid relief pitchers down the road, Melancon did become a bit expendable, especially in this case where the Yankees were filling a need to build bench depth.

Berkman's presence may cause a bit of a logjam at DH, especially with Jorge Posada's ever-changing health, and it will be interesting to see how Joe manages that rotation to keep Jorge and his other older players healthy without sacrificing putting his best lineup on the field.  But that's a problem I would much rather deal with than the problem of having Frankie Cervelli and Ramiro Pena get regular at-bats at the bottom of the lineup.  My guess is Juan Miranda and Colin Curtis will get the boot back to Triple-A, which I can live with.

So far, so good for the Yanks at the deadline.  I give both of these trades 2 thumbs up and if they can make a move to add another bullpen arm, it could turn out to be another successful deadline season for the Bombers.