The action at this season's trade deadline was intriguing to say the least. With numerous teams still in contention for the playoffs and every club facing the financial difficulties presented by the depression, this year's maneuvering was especially strategic and impactful.
The White Sox and Phillies both added former Cy Young Award winners, the Tigers added a former World Series Champion (and much needed lefty) pitcher to their fragile, inconsistent rotation, and the Red Sox added a high profile bat — in the form of Victor Martinez — to their offensively challenged lineup. Even the Twins tossed their hat into the Central Division arms race by adding shortstop Orlando Cabrera with his very hot bat and wealth of quality defensive ability. And yet through it all, the Yankees stood pat, making only a minor move by adding super-utility man Jerry Hairston, Jr. to shore up their depth at a variety of positions. Otherwise, the headlines were shockingly Yankee-free.
It didn't take long for the team to feel the repercussions of their inactivity. Declining to make a move on a fifth starter, the Yankees ran default option Sergio Mitre out to the mound against the White Sox only a few hours after the trade deadline had passed. The results were stark to say the least.
Lasting only three innings on Friday, Sergio was hammered for five runs on seven hits, all earned. Mitre is now the proud owner of a 7.90 ERA in 2009, having surrendered 13 runs on 24 hits in only 13.2 innings, making it glaringly evident that if the Yankees continue this charade based on some worthless AAA stats they might easily find themselves out of playoff contention very quickly.
While at one time it seemed that the Wild Card coming out of the East was a sure bet, with the improvements of the top three teams in the Central and Boston's own upgrades offensively, the entire American League power structure has been potentially altered. Every game will be critical for the Yankees down the stretch. Getting blown out 10-5 by the White Sox because an inept starter who shouldn't even be pitching at the Major League level got rocked is inexcusable given the overall talent of this teams.
The Yankees letting Washburn and Lee slide to the Tigers and the Phillies respectively was a huge mistake, especially if they had no designs on making a play for Roy Halladay. It is understandable if the price was too high on the Blue Jays' ace — as it was for every other team in the MLB — but for New York to not utilize its vast resources to find a serviceable upgrade over Sergio Mitre is negligent at best and plainly stupid in the most crass analysis, especially given the team's outstanding play at the time (which has thus ended after two crushing defeats to the South-siders).
The Yankees are in a bad position and their manager knows it. After Friday's brutalization at the hands of the White Sox, Girardi stated the unfortunate but obvious truth, "I’m not sure that we have a lot of options at this point, (Mitre) has got to get it done for us."
Because Brian Cashman maintained silence throughout the "Empire" at the deadline, the Yankees will now continue with the uncertainty that has plagued their rotation all season. In constrast, their enemies have grown stronger, more stable, and more capable of preventing the Yankees from achieving their annual ultimate goal.
It is great that Cashman is savvy enough to steal players like A-Rod and Mark Teixeira from the Red Sox in the offseason, but the mark of a truly great GM is the understanding of when a value player like Jarrod Washburn can put your team over-the-top, adding either essential talent, depth, or both, and strengthening weaknesses that materialize over the season. Instead, the Yankees will roll through the stretch run of the season demanding constant production from their offense and always teetering on the edge of total breakdown, one torn rotator cuff away from an unthinkable second consecutive season out of the playoffs. It's unfortunate that Brian Cashman's inactivity may ultimately cost the manager he hired his job.