|With Xavier Nady sidelined for the season with an elbow injury, the Yankees—trailing the Red Sox by three in the loss column even with a five-game winning streak—added some needed depth to their bench. They acquired Eric Hinske from the Pirates, who continue to churn through players under second-year general manager Neal Huntington. In return, the Pirates receive righthander Casey Erickson and outfielder Eric Fryer.
Hinske, whom the Pirates signed as a free agent in the offseason, fills a need for the Yanks. He can still play the corner infield spots as well as the corner outfield positions. He’s also a lefthanded bat and accustomed to a part-time fill-in role on a contender, having done the same for the Red Sox in 2007 and Rays in 2008. He had one of his best seasons last year with Tampa, hitting 20 home runs for the first time since his 2002 Rookie of the Year campaign with Toronto while batting .247/.333/.465 in 381 at-bats. He wasn’t hitting for the same kind of power this year with the Pirates, batting .255/.373/.368.
|Erickson, 23, is the nephew of ex-big leaguer Roger Erickson, and was a 10th-round pick of the Yankees in 2006. He had not advanced past low Class A Charleston yet, and was pitching there mostly in relief this season. In 21 games (three starts), he was 3-3, 2.25 with 37 strikeouts and 13 walks in 44 innings pitched. Never overpowering, Erickson is at his best when his 86-90 mph two-seam fastball is sinking and stays low in the strike zone. His best secondary pitch is a groundball-inducing slider. He has an impressive groundout-airout ratio of 3.23 this season and has not allowed a home run.
Fryer, 23, was at high Class A Tampa this season and batting .250/.333/.344 at the time of the trade, with two home runs and 11 stolen bases in 16 tries. A catcher at Ohio State, he’s primarily a left fielder now, though he has played three games behind the plate this season at Tampa. The Brewers drafted him in the 10th round in 2007 and traded him to the Yankees in February to acquire lefthander Chase Wright, who had been designated for assignment.
|The Yankees moved shrewdly in a deal with the Pirates, whom they also dealt with last year when they acquired Nady and Damaso Marte for a trio of righthanders in Ross Ohlendorf, Daniel McCutchen and Jeff Karstens. Karstens and Ohlendorf comprise two-fifths of the Pirates’ rotation while Nady and Marte didn’t help the Yankees reach the playoffs last season. This is obviously a much smaller deal, but Hinske’s familiarity with the tough American League East means the Yankees are dealing with a known, safe commodity to help their bench. They gave up very little to get him, so this deal should be a winner.
For the Pirates, Erickson’s sinker and Fryer’s potential ability as an reserve who can play catcher will be the only tangible rewards. They even threw in $400,000 to the Yankees to seal the deal.