|The Yankees cycled through Randy Winn (.595 OPS) and rookie Chad Huffman (.452) this season as they auditioned righthanded-hitting corner outfielders, but neither player fit the bill. Veteran Marcus Thames had supplied the bat but not the glove for everyday play. So as the July 31 deadline neared, New York went the trade route and found a workable solution in Indians corner outfielder Austin Kearns, a 30-year-old veteran in the midst of a bounceback season after two miserable ones. In exchange, Cleveland received a player to be named, who on Aug. 20 turned out to be Triple-A righthander Zach McAllister.
Kearns’ power had dipped dramatically since his prime seasons with the Reds in the early-to-mid-2000s, but he still offers a solid on-base option with occasional pop, particularly versus lefty pitchers. He’s still a solid defensive corner outfielder with a strong arm. Kearns’ acquisition allows the Yankees to shift Brett Gardner to center field and Curtis Granderson to the bench against lefthanded starters.
The Indians’ trade of Kearns, who signed a minor league deal in January and played his way on to the 40-man roster, recalls the Carl Pavano trade the organization made last August. In that deal, Cleveland sent Pavano to the Twins for Triple-A righty Yohan Pino, like McAllister a low-ceiling pitcher with experience in the high minors. Another parallel: Pavano had signed an incentive-heavy, $1.5 million contract with the Indians in January ’09. So in both the case of Kearns and Pavano, the Indians identified veterans coming off poor seasons who stood primed to rebound, which coupled with their low salaries, made them attractive trade targets for contenders.
The acquisitions of McAllister and Pino, though, are just part of a larger picture in Cleveland, where the organization has in the past two years furiously traded away veterans for young players, often pitchers. In dismantling the core of the ’07 AL Championship Series squad, the Indians have brought on pitchers Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price (for Victor Martinez); Carlos Carrasco and Jason Knapp (for Cliff Lee); Scott Barnes (for Ryan Garko); Connor Graham (for Rafael Betancourt); Mitch Talbot (for Kelly Shoppach); Giovanni Soto (for Jhonny Peralta); and Corey Kluber (for Jake Westbrook). They even turned Mark DeRosa into young righthanded relievers Chris Perez and Jess Todd in a trade with the Cardinals.
Cleveland did not focus so intently on pitching in its ’08 trades, acquiring Rob Bryson and Zach Jackson (for C.C. Sabathia) and John Meloan (for Casey Blake). At the crux of those trades, of course, sat catcher Carlos Santana, first baseman Matt LaPorta and outfielder Michael Brantley.
|Zach McAllister, rhp
Born: Dec. 8, 1987 in Chillicothe, Ill.
Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 230. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Illinois Valley Central HS, Chillicothe, Ill.
Career Transactions: Selected by Yankees in third round of 2006 draft; signed June 16, 2006.
McAllister won the Double-A Eastern League ERA title in 2008, going 7-5, 2.23 in 22 starts for Trenton while notching 7.1 strikeouts and 2.5 walks per nine innings. His control has remained an asset this season with the jump to Triple-A, but everything else has gone backward. In fact, his 11.2 hits and 1.4 home runs allowed per nine indicate that, if anything, he’s around the plate too much. McAllister commands an 88-92 mph sinker and mixes in a fringy low-80s slider and changeup. Because he’s physical and because he throws strikes, he’ll likely continue to work as a starter in the minors, but his best path to the sustained big league service may be in a relief role. As a starter, he’s more of a No. 5 type. As a practical matter, McAllister will not miss out on the International League playoffs with the trade. He leaves the Northern Division-leading Scranton Yankees to join Columbus, which is embroiled in a battle for the Western Division with Louisville. The loser likely will win the wild card.
|Austin Kearns, lf/rf
Age: 30. Bats: R. Remaining Commitment: Approximately $247,500 (signed 1-year, $750,000 deal with Indians in January).
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.