Monday, May 23, 2011

The Yankees Should Wave Their Magic Wandy

The New York Yankees went into this season with major question marks concerning their pitching rotation. With four spots filled with the question marks of A. J. Burnett, Ivan Nova and the two old men, Bartolo Colon and Freddie Garcia, it seemed a reasonable concern. Thus far, the rotation has not been a problem as all of those pitchers have had their nice moments. But does anyone think that the Yankees will play that hand all season long? Hardly. It's still too big of a risk. Plus, the rotation lacks one huge item since Andy Pettitte retired: a lefty starter to compliment Sabathia. The answer? Wandy Rodriguez.

The Houston Astros need to rebuild and they are not going anywhere for a while. Their two biggest current needs are at the catching and closer positions. Plus, they need prospects who could fill those needs for years to come. At the major league level, the Astros' two catchers, J. R. Towles and Humberto Quintero are journeymen at best. And we all know of their problems closing out games this season. Add to the mix that Wandy Rodriguez makes $7 million this season and that number jumps to $10 million next year and $13 million the year after that and you have the perfect situation and chip to trade for longer term stability.

Here's the deal the Yankees should offer the Astros: Wandy Rodriguez for Austin Romine, David Phelps and Kevin Whelan. The Astros kick in a few million to help with Wandy's contract. Here is some reasoning behind the deal.

First, Phelps has several pitchers ahead of him on the prospect side for the Yankees. There's Brackman, Betances and Banuelos. While the Yankees could be tempted to put Banuelos into that lefty rotation spot, he is on an innings count and thus can't be counted on for a stretch run. David Phelps is a solid prospect, who at 24, is close to being major league ready. He'll never get that chance with the Yankees. That's the view here. Phelps throws strikes, has a pretty good strikeout rate and could help a team like the Astros.

Kevin Whelan has been the closer at the Yankees' Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team. And he's been effective in that role. With 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings and only 2.7 walks per nine, he could step into the Astros closing role. Whelan's way is totally blocked in the Yankees' bullpen as that bullpen is stacked with closer prospects should anything ever happen to Mariano Rivera, God forbid.

The Astros would probably want to pry Jesus Montero away from the Yankees, but the Yankees wouldn't make that trade unless it was for a younger pitcher that could help them longer than the 32 year old Wandy Rodriguez. Plus, with Romine, the Astros would get the better defensive catcher who still has an upside with the bat. Romine is the odd man out for the Yankees and with Russell Martin establishing himself more and more each day, he could be blocking the way for any catching prospect for the Yankees. The Yankees also have another stud catching prospect in the lower minors. Romine could step right into the starting catcher position for the Astros today.

The Yankees would get a proven left-handed pitcher who has only missed six starts in the last six years. He has a few more years in his arm at 32 and as a lefty in the rotation, would match up well against the Red Sox against Crawford, Gonzalez, Ortiz and Drew. He would also match up well against the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that struggles against left-handed pitching. He has post-season and World Series experience. Wandy's velocity is down a tick this season and thus is his strikeout rate. But he's as solid as they come and he's still effective at inducing batters to chase out of the strike zone regularly.

This would be a deal that would strengthen both teams as the Yankees have some spare prospect parts that could help Houston, which is a bit barren in the prospect category. The Yankees would get a proven starting pitcher that can help them get where they want to go. It's a deal that makes sense to this observer.

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