|The Yankees signed Nick Johnson last December with the intention of using him as primary DH. But Johnson got hurt after 24 games and was relegated to the sidelines. So when veteran Astros slugger Lance Berkman became available, the Yankees pounced, sending Triple-A reliever Mark Melancon and low Class A second baseman Jimmy Paredes to Houston. The Astros included approximately $4 million in the transaction to help offset Berkman’s salary and to obtain higher-caliber prospects.
Two days prior to trading Berkman, the Astros shipped another franchise icon, Roy Oswalt, to the Phillies, setting in motion an overdue dismantling of an aging roster. The trades help restock Houston’s farm system while formally cutting ties with the franchise’s 2005 pennant winner. The only holdovers from that season: lefty Wandy Rodriguez and catcher Humberto Quintero.
|Jimmy Paredes, 2b
Age: 21. Position: 2B (71 G), SS (16 G), 3B (7 G).
Born: Nov. 25, 1988 in Haina, Dominican Republic.
Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 178. Bats: B. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Yankees, July 2, 2006.
While Melancon has the big league time and big draft signing bonus, Paredes is the better prospect. The 21-year-old switch-hitter has played mostly second base this season, while playing about 25 percent of the time at shortstop or third base. He had shoulder surgery in his past, which has made him more of a second baseman to this point in his career. His arm remains fringe-average, and he had committed 36 errors this season already. Scouts agree he’s unlikely to remain in the infield and profiles better in center field.
However, Paredes has tools offensively and can be a dynamic player. He ranked 14th among New York-Penn League prospects last season thanks mostly to his solid line-drive stroke from both sides of the plate and above-average speed. Some scouts also expect Paredes to develop power as he gets stronger, takes advantage of the leverage in his swing and learns the strike zone. He’s been over-aggressive this season, as evidenced by his .312 on-base percentage and 36 stolen bases in 46 attempts.
|Mark Melancon, rhp
Born: March 28, 1985 in Wheat Ridge, Colo.
Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 215. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Selected by Yankees in ninth round of 2006 draft; signed Aug. 9, 2006.
Melancon is still “a guy” but hasn’t had as much success, either in the minors of late or in the major leagues, as his stuff would indicate. In two stints in the Bronx, he’s yielded 10 walks and 20 hits in 20 innings for the Yankees and has a 4.87 ERA. He missed the 2007 season after having Tommy John surgery but has been healthy since then. In his second full season and third trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year, he had walked five batters per nine innings and had allowed a .285 opponent average.
Melancon has a good, hard fastball that sits 92-94 mph and touches 95 at times. His curveball has regressed since his college days and is a fringe-average pitch, and he doesn’t throw it for strikes consistently. Righthanded hitters (.817 OPS) have had more success with him than lefthanded hitters (.750 OPS). His changeup, like his fastball, has some sink, and he had induced 12 double plays this season with a 2.55 groundout-to-flyout ratio.
|Lance Berkman, 1b
Age: 34. Bats: B. Remaining Commitment: Prorated portion of $14.5 million salary (approximately $7.1 million), plus $15 million mutual option for ’11 ($2 million buyout). Astros send $4 million.
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.