By Jim Callis
July 31, 2003
Third base has been a weak spot for the Yankees, as 36-year-old Robin Ventura has slumped and once-hyped phenom Drew Henson never developed as expected. New York addressed the hot corner and its desire to add a quality bat on Thursday, sending its top pitching prospect, Brandon Claussen, a second minor league lefty in Charlie Manning and $1 million to the Reds for Aaron Boone.
Boone is the third player in three days to be traded by the Reds, who fired general manager Jim Bowden and manager Bob Boone (Aaron’s father) on Monday. He follows Scott Williamson and Jose Guillen out of Cincinnati. The Yankees had been rumored to be sending Claussen and $3.5 million to the Reds for Boone and Gabe White, but Major League Baseball reportedly objected to the amount of cash involved. It’s possible that White could go to the Yankees for more cash, essentially splitting the original proposal into two transactions, in a later deal.
Boone, 30, has emerged as a consistent offensive producer. He hit .241-26-87 with 32 steals in 162 games for the Reds last year, and has batted .273-18-65 with 15 swipes in 106 contests in 2003. Boone has good power for his position and hits for a solid average, though he could draw a few more walks. For his career, he has hit .271-86-362 with 83 steals, a .334 on-base percentage and .450 slugging percentage in 668 games. He’s also solid defensively and has seen time at second base and shortstop over the last two seasons. Boone, who’s making $3.7 million in 2003, is eligible for arbitration after this season and can become a free agent after 2004.
Claussen, a 24-year-old lefthander, has made a rapid recovery from Tommy John surgery in June 2002. Drafted in the 34th round in 1998 out of Howard (Texas) JC, he signed a year later as a draft-and-follow. He led the minors with 220 strikeouts in 2001, and has regained his 90-92 mph fastball and nasty slider. After four tuneup starts at high Class A Tampa, he has gone 2-1, 2.75 in 11 starts for Triple-A Columbus. In 69 innings, he has a 39-18 strikeout-walk ratio (evidence that he’s not yet overmatching hitters like he did two years ago) and opponents are hitting .213 off him. Claussen made his major league debut on June 28, beating the Mets by going 6 1/3 innings with eight hits, one walk, one run and five strikeouts.
Manning, 24, was a 2001 ninth-round pick out of the University of Tampa. He usually works in the high 80s with his fastball, and he also throws a late-breaking curveball, a slider and a changeup. He pitched well in the Double-A Eastern League in 11 starts at the end of 2002, but got rocked there as a starter in April and May and was sent to the bullpen. That didn’t completely straighten him out, so the Yankees demoted him to high Class A Tampa, where he has returned to the rotation and pitched better. Between the two stops, he has gone 2-6, 5.12 in 29 games (12 starts), with a 59-50 K-BB ratio and a .275 opponent average in 77 innings.
With Boone on hand, the Yankees are expected to trade Robin Ventura to the Dodgers in the near future.