By Jim Callis
July 28, 2005
Baseball’s first $200 million-plus payroll still couldn’t give the Yankees any rotation depth. With injuries striking an aging staff, New York recently has added past-his-prime Al Leiter and journeyman Aaron Small to its starting corps, and signed fading Hideo Nomo to a Triple-A contract. The Yankees weren’t sure who they would start on Saturday until they pulled off a trade Thursday, acquiring Shawn Chacon from the Rockies for Double-A righthanders Eduardo Sierra and Ramon Ramirez.
New York had been inquiring about the 27-year-old Chacon for a few weeks, resisting Colorado’s request for the likes of big league righty Scott Proctor and Triple-A lefty Sean Henn. After leading the Rockies with 35 saves despite a 7.11 ERA in 2004, Chacon has returned to the rotation this year and has the lowest ERA (4.09) of his big league career. His record was just 1-7 in 13 games (12 starts) for the hapless Rockies. In 73 innings, he had a 39-36 strikeout-walk ratio while opponents were hitting .260 with seven homers. Chacon has good stuff, as his fastball and curveball can be above-average pitches, but he doesn’t locate them particularly well or miss many bats. He’s making $2.35 million this year and will be eligible for arbitration again during the offseason. Chacon has gone 24-45, 5.20 with 35 saves in 150 career games.
Sierra, 23, came to the Yankees from the Athletics in a December 2003 deal for Chris Hammond. Sierra throws hard, reaching the mid-90s with ease and topping out at 98 mph with his fastball. He also has an 81-86 mph slider and an 87-91 mph splitter, but he lacks consistency with those pitches as well as with his control. Projected as a setup man, he has gone 3-1, 3.28 with two saves in 33 games at Double-A Trenton. He has a 50-38 K-BB ratio in 58 innings, and opponents had batted just .187 with four homers against him.
Ramirez, 23, first signed with the Rangers as an outfielder in 1996, then spent four years out of baseball before pitching briefly in Japan in 2002. The Yankees paid $350,000 to the Hiroshima Carp for his rights and gave him a $175,000 bonus in March 2003, but Ramirez has done little to justify that investment. He has been shelled in stints at Triple-A Columbus in 2004 and 2005, and has gone 7-8, 4.19 in 21 starts between Columbus and Trenton this year. In 116 innings, he has a 108-44 K-BB ratio and has allowed opponents a .252 average and 13 homers. Ramirez has a 90-92 mph fastball and a hard slider, but he needs to continue to refine his changeup and do a better job of keeping the ball down in the strike zone.